Everybody knows that SEO is a complex puzzle with a lot of moving parts.
Suppose you’re a beginner who recently started learning about SEO online. Chances are, you were intimidated by the sheer number of terms and concepts you had to remember — from link building to the various SEO metrics that affect search engine rankings.
In this post, we will discuss the importance of meta tag keywords and how to optimize them to ramp up your search engine rankings. But first, a little introduction.
What are Meta Tags?
People who have had some form of paid digital marketing training may recognize meta tags as one of the most basic lessons in SEO.
For those who rely mostly on free learning resources, however, the term is often diluted among keyword optimization tips — usually as one of the on-page elements that must include your keyword.
To use them effectively in your SEO campaign, you need to have a firm understanding of what meta tags really are.
In simple terms, meta tags are bits of text found in the <head> section of a website’s HTML code.
Their sole purpose is to provide search engines and organic traffic more information about your site.
Since search engine crawlers use meta tags in the indexing process, it makes sense as to why they should be keyword-optimized. However, you should know that there are different types of meta tags that can affect your SEO results in many ways — starting, of course, with meta keywords.
What are Meta Keywords Used For?
Meta keywords are one of the many types of meta tags that marketers use to improve a website’s search engine rankings.
In the early days of SEO, it was common practice to use as many high-volume meta keywords as possible on websites to reach Google’s page one. But since it can be abused easily, meta keywords are already devalued as a ranking signal by major search engines such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo.
To be clear, meta keywords are not the ones you insert into your content. Meta keywords, just like other meta tags, are added via code — visible only to search engine crawlers.
If, for some reason, you still want to add meta keywords to your website, all you need to do is access its HTML document and add the following line within the header section:
<meta name=”keywords” content=”keyword 1, keyword 2, keyword 3, keyword 4” />
Just remember that Matt Cutts of Google himself declared that the search engine no longer uses the meta tag keywords at all when determining search engine rankings. Despite Matt’s announcement, however, some marketers still believe that meta keywords can help when it comes to establishing the relevance of your website in your specific niche.
As a rule of thumb, try to avoid going overboard when optimizing your meta keywords tag. If you are to include your focus keywords, be sure they are absolutely relevant to your content.
The good news is that there are still a number of meta tags that can provide your website with measurable SEO benefits:
Although the title tag is not technically a meta tag, marketers view it as such since it’s in the header and does have an impact on SEO.
Whenever a user looks for information through search engines, the title tag is the first piece of data they see. It’s basically the clickable headline that appears in search engine results pages or SERPs. Although keyword-optimized title tags no longer affect rankings the way they used to in the past, they can help skyrocket your website’s traffic by improving your click-through rate on SERPs.
If you use a content management system or CMS, like WordPress, you can directly modify the title tag of your post or page on the default content editor.
The same can be done with other site-building and blog publishing platforms. Otherwise, you can manually edit the title tag by editing the following code in your website’s HTML document:
Optimizing Your Title Tag
Below is the usual format marketers use when using meta keywords for title tags:
Primary Keyword – Secondary Keyword | Brand Name
Of course, this is just a guideline and not a mandatory rule.
The worst thing you can do is to forcefully stuff your keywords into your content’s title. What you need to do is write something compelling and readable for your audience first, and the search engines next.
It’s also important to watch the length of your titles to make sure it shows correctly in search engine results.
Remember, search engines like Google will automatically hide the rest of your title if it exceeds 600 pixels in width. To avoid this, use a tool like the Title Tag Preview Tool by Moz to check whether or not your titles need trimming.
Apart from the title tag, the meta description is another meta tag that can help you get more clicks.
As the name suggests, it’s the paragraph that describes what your content is about in SERPs. For WordPress users, the easiest way to modify meta descriptions is to use a plugin like Yoast SEO. Once activated, you can directly write a new meta description by expanding the “Edit Snippet” section below the content editor.
Alternatively, you can edit your website’s HTML code and add the following to your header section: Here are a few tips you should remember when writing meta descriptions for your content:
- Keep it within 155 characters to make sure it is displayed properly in SERPs
- Include your focus keyword at least once — preferably near the beginning
- It should accurately describe what users should expect from your content
- Add a call-to-action or CTA to encourage more users to click
The viewport is one of the lesser-known meta tags, but it actually does an important job.
Keep in mind that, as of 2018, more than half of online traffic is now coming from mobile devices. Without the viewport meta tag, mobile users will only be served the desktop version of websites — squeezed to fit the smaller display of smartphones or tablets.
You don’t have to worry about the viewport meta tag if your website already has a responsive theme. If not, here is the standard viewport meta tag format you can add to your website’s HTML code:
<meta name=”viewport” content=”width=device-width, initial-scale=1″>
Lastly, the robots meta tag is useful if you want to control whether or not certain pages on your site — along with all in-line links — can be crawled by search engines.
By default, search engine crawlers are granted permission to index any page or link. If you’d like to prevent the search engines from crawling your page, you can use the meta tag below to disable indexing:
<meta name=”robots” content=”noindex, nofollow” />
The robots meta tag is incredibly useful if you have pages that are currently under construction. If you’d like to prevent crawlers from indexing your page, but would like them to discover your links, simply omit the “nofollow” value from the code:
<meta name=”robots” content=”noindex” />
Finally, if you’re using WordPress and would like to discourage crawlers from indexing everything, all you have to do is go to “Reading Settings” and select “Discourage search engines from indexing this site.”
Although meta keywords are pretty much phased out in today’s SEO landscape, other types of meta tags are still relevant and ought to be optimized.
To summarize, below are the key takeaways you shouldn’t forget:
- Google no longer uses meta keywords as a ranking signal.
- Add keywords to your title tag to boost click-throughs and rankings.
- Similar to the title tag, sprinkling keywords to meta descriptions can boost click-throughs.
- Use the viewport meta tag to improve the experience of mobile users.
- Manually control the indexability of individual pages with the robots meta tag.