A simple guide to SEO meta tags

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Optimizing the searchability of your website isn't just about writing pieces of content. Yes that's arguably the biggest part, if you don't have content it's pretty near impossible to find you, but there are more things you should be aware of.

Things like seo meta tags. Wait what's SEO? If you're asking that question read our intro to SEO first and come back here to lear how to optimize your site pages.

For the folks in the room who aren't web developers - don't worry we're going to try to keep this as simple as possible. Meta tags are just specific tags in the HTML of your page. This sounds pretty complex but really it's not that hard: for instance this text is inside a paragraph tag, the headings are inside header tags, and the links are inside link tags.

So when we talk about html tags we're talking about elements on the page, meta tags aren't visible like the header or paragraph tags but they're still super important.

Meta tags to focus on

Meta content type – This tag sets the character set for your website to be rendered in. It's a helpful thing for Google in deciding the content your website contains and makes it easy for your website to load in the browser.

Your web developer will know best, though here are some common options:

<meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=utf-8" />
<meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=ISO-8859-1">

Title – This is a super important tag as it sets the title for your page, it tells Google what to call the page in question and sets the tone for the content of your page. In most content management systems there is a title field when creating a page/blog post which automatically sets the title tag for you.

Meta description – This nifty tag is used for one major purpose: to describe the page to searchers as they read through search engine results. This tag doesn't influence ranking, but it's very important regardless. It's the ad copy that will determine if users click on your result. Keep it within 160 characters, and write it to catch the user's attention. Most content management systems allow you to edit this, if you are using Wordpress we recommend downloading the Yoast Plugin which makes setting this dead simple.

Viewport – In this mobile world, you should be specifying the viewport. If you don’t, you run the risk of having a poor mobile experience — the Google PageSpeed Insights Tool will tell you more about it. The standard tag is:

<meta name=viewport content="width=device-width, initial-scale=1">

How to implement these tags

Now these tags are all well and good, but how can you ensure that you're using them correctly on your website to get the full benefit? Before we dive into the specifics, if you're using Wordpress they have a guide here on setting your seo meta tags, and here is one for SquareSpace.

It varies from content platform but fortunately most, if not all, take a similar approach so this section should be pretty universal. Since we use Wordpress we'll take a Wordpress-focused approach though we encourage you to work with your web developer or website manager to ensure you're set up correctly.

Editing the Meta Content-Type & Viewport

Wordpress allows you to directly access the head html of your website in the theme editor section, namely you'll want to edit the head.php file:

We strongly recommend working with your web developer on this one, Wordpress can be finicky when editing the core files of your site and you risk crashing everything if something ends up being incorrectly formatted.

Editing the Meta Title

This one is fortunately pretty easy given most, if not all, content management systems offer the ability to set a title for your web pages and blog posts.

We're going to get a bit meta here (we couldn't resist) and show what setting this looks like in Wordpress:

Seriously, it's that easy. The title you enter for a page or post automatically get set as the meta title for the page.

Editing the Meta Description

This is a bit trickier as it's not always readily available, though fortunately with some helpful plugins it can be a breeze. As mentioned we use the Yoast SEO plugin which makes editing the meta description simple:

Simple as that!

Going forward

SEO meta tags don't have to be complicated or intimidating. Really it's a matter of knowing what tools you have built into your content management system, what you should add, and what your web developer should be left to do (this one fortunately doesn't require much!).

Thanks to this, your focus can be on creating quality content that gets you in front of your prospects as they take to Google in search of answers to questions in your industry.

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