SEO Meta Data
Meta data is information about information. Meta tags are pieces of computer code that contain meta data. Simply put, meta tags contain descriptive data about your sites pages. Meta Data is used by search engines to help determine what a webpage is about, and how to list it in search results. Meta Data is not visible to your sites visitors, but is essential for SEO purposes.
Title and Description
There are many meta tags available for sites, but when someone mentions a site’s “meta tags” or “meta data” in a SEO context, they are typically talking about a pages Title and Meta Description.
The Title Tag
When it comes to on-page SEO tuning, the title tag is one of the most import things to focus on. Search Engines directly use the title tag in search engine result pages. The page title is the first thing about your site that users see on a search result page. Users can also see this text in their Bookmarks/Favorites menu after they save the page to their web browser’s bookmarks.
The title denotes what a page is about and is highly valued by search engines. Therefore, this is where you should place the most important keywords you are optimizing the page for. Here is where the art of SEO comes into practice. You need to truthfully describe what the page is about, but at the same time include the key phrases (keywords) that people would search for to find the page. To complicate things even further, it is recommended that you do this in 70 characters or less (and you thought twitter was restrictive!)
Uniqueness is also an important factor for titles. If your site contains several pages with the same title, Google may have a hard time listing them properly. In some cases, Google will only keep the most popular page of your site, and exclude all of the pages with duplicate titles, something that we definitely do not want.
The title tag should:
- Be 70 characters or less
- Describe the content of the page
- Contain descriptive keywords
- Be unique per page
The Description Meta Tag
The description meta tag is another important on-page item that search engines look at closely when ranking your site. The meta description is not seen by the users when they visit your site, however, search engines like Google display the meta description on search result pages. In Google’s case, the meta description is displayed below the title of the page.
Meta descriptions help search engines and users quickly understand what a page is about. The description is a brief explanation of what a user will find on that page and why it matters. This is where you sell the users on why they should click into your site.
Your description needs to be something compelling, truthful, unique, and contain the key phrases that people would use to find this page. You need to do this in 160 characters or less (only 20 more characters than a tweet). Do not worry; it is not as hard as it sounds once you get the hang of it!