SEO Guide for Developers – Header Meta Tags

The first part of our SEO Guide for developers is about meta tags. There is a lot of talk about the meta tags and their usage. Whatever you heard/read about this – forget it. There are tons of articles how they have no impact or they are important, a lot of old articles talking about things that are virtually dead. I’ll cite Matt Cutts – don’t spend too much time on these, perfecting them over and over again! Just do them right one time and that’s it. Personally i love meta tags – not because they are the Grail of SEO, but because they are important for the user experience. Yes – they are important – but do them once! So… let’s start!

TITLE TAG

<title></title>

The title tag is one of the most important tags in the on-site SEO. There are two roles of the title tag – the text inside it is the text displayed in the browsers bar (and tabs) and most important – this is the text displayed in the Search Engine Results:
Title and description in Google
When creating new website there are few points that must be considered:

THE TITLE TAG MUST BE KEYWORD RICH RELEVANT WITH THE PAGE

The title tags are still factor in the SERP’s (Search Engine Ranking Position), so it’s good to have keywords on it. However it’s not good to be stuffed with same keywords over and over again. The best practice is to include your main keyword for the page twice, or to include 2 different keywords.

Never start title tag with “Welcome” or with the brand name!

ALL TITLE TAGS FOR EVERY PAGE SHOULD BE DIFFERENT

The title’s main role is heading explaining in one sentence what that page is for. Don’t use the same title for 2 different pages, it leave the sense of duplicated content in the SE Crawler’s eyes. Even one different symbol is considered as unique. The best practice is to make the title as relevant as possible, for example:

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THE TITLE TAG MUST BE READABLE FOR THE HUMAN EYE. IT SHOULD MAKE SENSE.

The title tag is the first expression of every potential visitor found the website in any Search Engine. If it’s unreadable, irrelevant or keyword stuffed there is chance nobody will click even if it’s the first result. For example – nobody would like to click to title like “Working holiday visa, visa for Australia, Australian visa, work in OZ…” or on title without keywords at all, like “Welcome to our official website”.

Too many keywords in the Title tag could be considered as keyword stuffing and could harm the website’s SERP!

For large websites it’s good to be implemented automated title creation system. There are many opinions how much should be the length of the title tags. Anyhow there is no doubt on the number of symbols which are displayed in the SERP results.

Depending of the used symbols Google display 70-75 characters in the results (the number is not fixed, for example the character “W” takes more space while the “I” takes less).

Keep the title length under 75 symbols for best results!

Don’t forget – the Title tag is displayed in the Search Engine Results, it is the first thing that the user see, and it’s the most important factor which user consider when deciding to click on this result or not.

DESCRIPTION TAG

<meta name="description" content="" />

Nowadays the description tag is irrelevant to direct SEO. Anyhow many underestimate its true power. Just like the Title tag – the description tag is used in the search engine results. It is the small text snippet just underneath the Title tag. It had little to no impact on the SEO but a good description tag could improve the CTR (click trought rate) of the results – if a user see that the description is relevant to his search query the chance of clicking is higher. Also the description tag is used as text snippet when someone is sharing the page in Social media (Facebook, Google+, etc.). Bad description tag could push away the potential visitor. So there are several rules for the good description meta tags:

  • All Description tags should be different, exactly like the title tags.
  • The description tag should be short description of the page. It should be readable by human. Stuffed keywords could harm the CTR and they won’t help the SEO!
  • It’s better to leave the description tag empty than filling it with the same content or making it user un-friendly. When the description meta tag is missing Google displays the first found text snippet from the page containing the searched query.
  • For small websites it’s best to fill them manually than using automated system.
  • The description tag should be ideally under 250 symbols, this is the maximum symbols that are displayed by Google.

KEYWORD TAG

<meta name="keywords" content="" />

The keyword tag is depreciated for several years. The search engines don’t use it as ranking factor at all, but in other hand competitors could spy on this tag to check which your keywords are. The best option is not to use it at all.

CANONICAL TAG

<link rel="canonical" />

Implementing proper canonical tags is vital for the SEO for any website. The canonical tag is tag showing the original URL addresses of given pages. Its main purpose is to deal with duplicate pages on the website.
There are several types of duplicates which you must consider and deal with when making a new website:

Homepage duplicates
No matter of what website you build (CMS, static, etc…) this type of duplicates is always existing. For example you can have a www.example.com, www.example.com/home.html, example.com, https://www.example.com. All these pages are the same page with different URL address, so it’s good to choose your preferable version and put canonicals to all pages with href attribute pointing to your preferable version.

IP duplicates
If you have dedicated IP for your website than you probably have also IP duplicates. Nowadays Google consider the access to your website trough IP address as yet another duplicate (both http:// and https:// are considered as separate duplicates). To clear this you should consider using 301 redirect from your IP to your preferable URL address.

Parameter duplicates
Sometimes it is possible your website to have parameters which had no impact on the content (it remains the same). If this is your case you must put canonicals on every page with parameter pointing to the original page.

Regular duplicates
Sometimes there is just bunch of duplicate pages depending of the CMS system in use and the structure on the website. Make sure you deal with these pages and add proper canonicals for them.

Important: Duplicate pages could kill your SEO. Always implement canonical tags in your website. It is important to deal with them!

There are some cases where it’s not good to use canonical tag because they violate Google Webmaster Guideline or confuse the search robots:

  • Never put canonical tags pointing to page with different content;
  • Never put canonical to non-existent page or 404 page;
  • Never put canonical pointing to page with “noindex” in the robots tag!
  • Never put canonical on pages with “noindex” pointing to another page.

The usage of canonical tags important “must know how” technique, so I’ll cover that topic wider in some other articles.

ROBOTS TAG

<meta name="robots" content="" />

The Robots tag has several functions – to show a search robot if this page should be indexed and to show if the links on that page should be followed. If the website contains pages that are not accessible by regular visitors these pages must be de-indexed from the Google search results. To do it just add a content=”noindex” to all pages you don’t want indexed by the search robots.

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epetkov

Founder at FortSEO
SEO Specialist, Web Marketer, part-time WP Design Freelancer. Otherwise regular guy who loves beer.

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