Should you be using meta tags on your site?
The answer is yes.. and no.
Some meta tags are essential for your search ranking, and others can be harmful, specifically keyword tags.
The most essential tags for SEO are:
Meta title: .. shown in search results
As Google explains:
“Titles are critical to giving users a quick insight into the content of a result and why it’s relevant to their query. It’s often the primary piece of information used to decide which result to click on, so it’s important to use high-quality titles on your web pages.”
If you are using Yoast, there is a place to insert the title.
Otherwise, paste this in your page <head> section and edit accordingly… <title>This is the title of the page.</title>
Meta description: .. summarising the page content and used for the search snippet
As Google explains :
“A meta description tag should generally inform and interest users with a short, relevant summary of what a particular page is about. They are like a pitch that convinces the user that the page is exactly what they’re looking for.”
and.. “Snippets are automatically created from page content. Snippets are designed to emphasize and preview the page content that best relates to a user’s specific search: this means that a page might show different snippets for different searches.”
and.. “Site owners have two main ways to suggest content for the snippets that we create: rich results and meta description tags.
- Rich results: Add structured data to your site to help Google understand the page: for example, a review, recipe, business, or event. Learn more about how rich results can improve your site’s listing in Search results.
- Meta description tags: Google sometimes uses <meta> tag content to generate snippets, if we think they give users a more accurate description than can be taken directly from the page content.”
Again, Yoast has a section for you to edit the desciption.
Otherwise use <meta name=”description” content=”Place the meta description text here.”>
Meta robots: .. tells search engines if and how they should crawl your web pages.
The robots meta is often understood and if used incorrectly, can screw up your search ranking completely.
The syntax of the robot text is:
<meta name=”robots” content=“option 1, option 2”>
You need to replace ‘option 1’ with either:
index – tells bots to index your site
noindex – tells bots not to index your site.
If you use no index, your page will not show in search results!
And replace ‘option 2’ with:
follow – tells bots to follow the links on your page, and that you endorse them.
nofollow – tells bots not to follow links on your page, and that you do not necessarily endorse them.
A valid meta robots text would look something like: <meta name=”robots” content=“index, nofollow”>
For Yoast users, there is a radio button on each page or post that asks if links should be followed or not, and another option for you to set indexing or no indexing.
Others, paste your robots meta into your page <head>
Finally, what about keyword meta?
Google hasn’t used keyword meta for over 10 years. Back in the day, spammers stuffed irrelevant keywords into their keyword meta tags, leadings g to dubious or useless search results. Google got wise to this and decided to draw keywords from your page content rather than the keyword meta.
There is nothing to stop you adding keyword meta into your page header, but it could be counterproductive, because search engines may use it as a signal that the site is actually ‘spammy’.
For SEO purposes, it’s therefore safer NOT to use keyword meta.