Meta elements are tags used in both HTML and XHTML documents to provide structured metadata about a web page.
You’ll find them in your pages as part of the <head> section, and in essence, they provide data to both search engines and site visitors.
Vital to SEO, they tell search engines such as Google and Bing what your content is about.
Why meta tags matter to SMEs
Offering as much useful and easy to understand information to search engines is key, which is why meta tags are especially helpful to highlight an individual page’s most important features.
This will help you stand out in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs), as it is the intention of every search engine to make things both easy and as useful as possible for users.
Meta tags help by making sure that the information someone is search for is displayed in the appropriate places for both users and search engine.
If someone is searching for a service or product that your company provides for instance, then they will quickly be able to ascertain whether they have found what they need with the help of meta information.
Different types of meta tags that SMEs need to pay attention to
There are different kinds of meta tags, all of which have different roles on a page. Some might provide information on the structure of the page, while others will inform search engines about which parts of the content that they will need to focus on or overlook.
A title tag will be the first thing that a user will see in the SERPs, and it reflects the title of your page, which will give a small preview about what your page is about.
This means that title tags should be well-written and descriptive, but should not exceed 60 characters.
Google also reads keywords within title tags, so it’s important to have at least one relevant keyword in a page, usually near the beginning of the title so that the page’s meaning is easily understood.
A meta description appears just below the meta title and it is very important so that users understand what a page is about.
Allowing up to 160 characters, the description should be an accurate summary of what is within the page it represents and should compel users to click onto your site.
For example, if you are selling men’s jackets, a meta description might read:
“Take a look at our wide range of men’s jackets, from leather biker jackets through to formal dinner jackets, we have great online offers for UK customers.”
Robots meta tag
Slightly more technical than the above two examples, a robots meta tag tells search engines which pages should be indexed.
Serving a similar purpose to robots.txt, the robots meta tag is mostly used to prevent a search engine from indexing individual pages.
It will generally be written like this if it instructs a search engine crawler not to index a page or follow any links:
<meta name=”robots” content=”noindex, nofollow” />
There are many reasons why a company might not want a page to be indexed, such as if the page is a “thank you” page, or if the content is particularly thin.
You can learn more about the robots meta tag in this developers reference article published by Google.