The difference between the two tag types – meta tags and tags – is arbitrary. The syntax for an HTML meta tag contains the word “meta” while “meta tag” doesn’t necessarily have to have the word “meta” in it.
The important part to remember is that they both serve the same purpose.
They are used to provide search engines with information about a web page
Header tags are NOT meta tags, and they describe just one element of a page, not the contents of a page as a whole. However, ensuring you’re optimizing your header tags will help users and search engines understand what your content is about.
The Tag “Hreflang”
The Hreflang isn’t technically a tag, it’s an important attribute. An attribute that can help tell Google which language you’re content is using on a webpage. It’s used to show the language of the page and the territory that you serve with the page.
An example code snippet targeting a webpage toward English language users in Canada:
Another very important tag is the canonical tag. Set it up incorrectly and risk losing visibility in the SERPs. Used correctly and it’s a great way of telling search engines that a webpage URL is the defacto version. It’s the best way to avoid duplicate content issues on your site, caused by search engines crawling multiple URLs that contain the same or close to identical content on them.
In general, if a search engine finds multiple URLs with identical content, it’ll have a harder job determining which is the original and which is the duplicate. This leads to lower rankings for both pages of content, or worse, the important page won’t rank.
An example code snippet for canonical tag use:
Content type tag
The content type tag is used for defining the page content type and the character set it uses. Using this helps your browser understand and decode a page.
An example code snippet for content type tag use:
One most recognizable tags for anyone carrying out SEO work is the title tag which is used to specify what the web page is about, and importantly is used by search engines to generate the results in the SERPs.
From an SEO perspective, optimizing your title tag to contain topics/keywords information about the contents on the page can help to improve your rankings for those topics/keywords. Currently you can expect Google to display between 50-60 characters of your title before it’s truncated, so keep an eye on length when writing these.
An example code snippet for the title tag, which sits within the head tag at the top of your webpage:
Meta description tag
Similar to the title tag, the meta description tag is well known and provides you with an opportunity to tell search engines and users in the SERPs what your webpage content is about. While not a direct ranking factor, you should optimize your meta description to provide a compelling succinct account of your web pages content.
If Google doesn’t think you’ve done a good enough job, they may choose to replace your meta description tag with their own interpretation, often using content from the opening few paragraphs of your site.
An example code snippet for meta description tag:
The viewport tag is a useful tag for helping browsers understand and control the dimensions of your web page.
In the past, there was no need for this tag as everyone viewed webpages on desktop on similar sized displays, but with the rise of mobile and tablet usage, many of which have different dimensions, it’s now more important to ensure that you’re telling the browser this information.
Correct implementation of the viewport tag will ensure that users experience your site in the correct way.
An example code snippet for the viewport meta tag:
Robots meta tags
There’s a large number of robot meta tags you can use, all of which will help search engine crawlers do their job of crawling and indexing web pages across the internet. Not all search engines will follow all commands, but here are a few examples of robot meta tags and what they are asking the crawlers to do:
Nofollow Tells crawlers not to follow any of the links listed on that page, and also not to pass any equity to linked page
Noindex Tells crawlers not to index that page
Noimageindex Tells crawlers not to index images from that page
Noarchive Tells crawlers not to include a cached version
An example code snippet for the robot meta tag:
Open graph (OG) meta tags for social
The OG meta tags for social. While less a direct focus for SEO, ensuring you have correctly implemented OG meta tags for social can help ensure your content looks great when it’s shared, which helps to improve engagement with posts and increase traffic.
There are a range of other tags you can use on your website. Thanks in part to Search Engine Watch for reminding me of the importance of meta tags and tags.
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