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SEO Basics: A Guide to Meta Tags

(Updated: 3rd October 2017)

Meta tags are small pieces of code in each page of a website, with various functions. For our Digital Marketing clients we are often working to optimise these tags for their important key-phrases, and sometimes clients who don’t yet have an SEO package with us will ask how to fill in their meta tags to improve their appearances in the Search Engines. For those clients and also for clients who have SEO packages with us but want to learn more and contribute to their site optimisation, I wanted to write a guide to the basics of writing your meta tags.

The three we’re going to look at are the title, keyword and description tags, which are helpful for optimising your site for the Search Engines. Originally, the keyword and description tags (the keyword tag particularly) was brought in to give Search Engines specific instructions on what the page should be listed for. Nowadays too many people are trying to manipulate the listings, and so the Search Engines don’t pay much (if any) attention to the keywords tag any more. It is still a solid basic part of SEO however, so let’s go through each tag separately.

Title Tags

These display in two visible places – at the top of your browser window or tab, and as the title of your listing in the Google results.

So both for visitors and for the Search Engines your title tag needs to be relevant and unique to the page.

Google only shows 60 characters, so ensure your Title tag doesn’t exceed this. Equally, if your Title tag ends up being quite a bit shorter, don’t include words simply to take it to the limit – you want it to be informative but concise. You also need to consider that the title will be seen above your website in the Search Engine listings, so you will want to ensure that your title encourages people to click on your listing and brings in traffic:

If you run an eCommerce website for example, and have a page selling a pair of boots, your Title tag might show as follows:

Fly London Stig Women’s Boots – Green – Wide Fit | Boot Shop

So that Title includes the boot brand, model, colour and a specific fitting that people might need to know or be searching for. There is also then a seperation bar (you can use a dash or whatever you fancy) and the name of the shop. This Title is actually 61 characters long, so I would need to trim it. I might remove the shop name as this is not crucial information.

Description Tags

This should be a short one or two sentence description of the specific page the description is on – Google normally only shows 160 characters of this so write no more than that. Occasionally Google will choose to show an extended description, but you can’t control when this happens so you’re best to stick to this limit. The only place this description may be displayed is in the Search Engine listings, underneath your title. So you need to write it to attract potential customers.

Ideally, it should include basic information, specific information and something of value. So for an online shop, the description for a specific product page would include a reference to the shop’s general range, the specific product on the page, and something such as free delivery or free returns or something to attract those seeing the listing in the Search Engine results.

The content of the description tag doesn’t directly influence your rankings, but influences Click Through Rate on your result and this increased traffic in turn can assist with rankings and visitors number of course.

Keyword Tags

This is a trickier one, as there are a few things to be aware of. Firstly, it’s bad practice to put a keyword or phrase into your keyword tag if it’s not already somewhere else on the page. So if the word or phrase is not in the content or either of the two other tags, you can’t put it in the keyword tag.

Essentially this tag is for highlighting your important text to the Search Engines. So for a web design company we’d be highlighting phrases like “web design” and “website build” and “search engine optimisation” as these are phrases specifically important for finding us and relevant to what we do.

Phrases and keywords are separated by commas, and as a rule of thumb try to perhaps include no more than 14. If you have done your keyword research and found the most efficient phrases for listing in the Search Engines and bringing in traffic, your keyword tags will be focused towards these.

As I mentioned at the start of this article, keyword tags are really not looked at much any more, so although it’s good practice to fill them in you can leave them blank if you’re short on time. It’s better to spend the time making sure your Title and Description tags are written well, and in just a few years I think we will be recommending people ignore Keywords tags altogether.

To Summarise

On a very basic level, you need to write your tags to be unique for every page – a succinct summary of the content, giving both people and Search Engines a good idea of what the page and site is about, and also encouraging people to click through and read more.

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Camilla Todd
Camilla Todd is Head of Digital Marketing at WNW Digital and manages Search Engine Optimisation, PPC, Social Media campaigns and Brand Awareness for WNW Digital SEO clients. You can follow her on Twitter @camilla_wnw, email her at or phone on 01392 349580

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