Technical SEO Basics | How to Set & Optimize Meta Tags

Chapter 4

Technical SEO Basics – Course Overview

Using a computer is easy these days, but how exactly are websites accessed? And why is this important for SEO? In this lesson, we’ll be covering the basics on how the web works.

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Search engines are always evolving, serving as an answer machine that tries to provide the best results to users. Understanding how search engines like Google work will provide a deeper level of knowledge that helps break down technical SEO issues you will come across.

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Meta tags are tags that describe metadata within an HTML document. Learn about the important meta tags and the ones you can ignore.

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After learning about the different types of meta tags and directives, you’ll want to know how to set and optimize them.

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Understanding the different parts of the anatomy of a URL is an important part of digital marketing and technical SEO. Learn about the basics of HTTP, HTTPS, and HTTP/2 and how they can help to enhance your online search presence.

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Table of Contents

Now that you have a good hold on what meta tags are and the different ones that exist, next is knowing how to set and optimize these on your site.

How to Set Meta Tags

Setting meta tags will depend on the content management system (CMS), or platform that your website is built on. In some platforms, changing the meta title and meta description is extremely simple.

For example, in WordPress, you’ll likely need a plugin like Yoast to provide the module to adjust meta tags for specific pages. Luckily, Yoast will allow you to update your title tag, meta description, and meta robots on each page towards the bottom.

Other platforms like Wix, Shopify, and many others that are essentially out of the box, will allow you to update title tag and meta description information under their designated SEO sections.

For the meta robots, it may not be as straightforward in some instances. In Shopify, you have to update the theme page with the robots meta tag.

If you are on a popular platform and not on a custom built tech stack, there should be plenty of resources both official documentation and supplementary blog posts that can point you in the right direction.

Viewing Meta Tags

To view the different meta tags that may be set on a page, check the source code of the page you are on. To do that in Chrome, right click on the page, then select “View Page Source”. 

Use the find feature to find specific meta tags. The shortcut will be Control+F on Windows and Command+F on Mac.

How to Optimize Important Meta Tags

Once you figure out how to set meta tags on your website, more importantly, you’ll want to know how to properly optimize these tags so the right information is presented.

Title Tag

Optimizing your title tag is a core SEO concept that you’ve probably come across. 

The title tag length that will display without being truncated or cutoff on Google is 50-60 characters. If you keep your title tag under 60 characters, there is a good chance that it will be displayed correctly. You can use a title tag length checker to determine if you’ve crafted a title tag that is the right size. You can check a few of these out below.

One of the first things you will want to do when creating a title tag is to solidify your primary keyword. Then from there combining that keyword with the unique offering of the page to draw in users to click. If you have a free resource or printable that competitors don’t have, you can shout that out in your title tag (if it fits of course).

Toy around with brackets, dates, numbers, and more to improve your CTR. Test these changes by monitoring your CTR for a few months.

For more information on optimizing your title tags, check out the resource links below.

Meta Description

Next is the meta description. Optimizing the meta description can have an impact on clicks in many instances, despite it not providing any direct SEO benefit. 

When writing your meta descriptions, keep the length under 155 characters. Google did change to a longer meta description at one point, but reverted that change shortly after. If your meta description is under 155 characters, it won’t truncate if Google decides to display it in the search results.

Most importantly, think of your meta description as your ad copy other than your title tag. Make the description actionable, concise, and relevant, with a compelling CTA. Let searchers know why your online resource is worth clicking through compared to competitors.

Meta Robots

Setting meta robots tags is not something you will need to do for a majority of content on your site (for most businesses), but understanding when to implement them can help you decide which pages should have a noindex or nofollow. These directives will let search crawlers know how to process pages on your site.

Today, we’ll just focus on noindex and nofollow, since the other meta robots directives are not as commonly used.

The first directive to be mindful of is the noindex tag. Setting a noindex will tell search engines not to include the specific web page on search results. Pages that may fall into this bucket are thank you pages, admin pages, admin login pages, among other things. If you don’t want someone to be able to find a page, a noindex should be set.

The second directive to keep in mind is the nofollow tag. Setting a nofollow will tell search engines not to follow any links on a certain page. There are going to be very little reasons for a nofollow to be set on an entire page. An example of a page that may be nofollowed is a page with an extreme amount of sponsored links. 

When it comes to nofollow, use it from a link per link basis and nofollow sponsored links and paid links. 

Key Takeaways

Getting comfortable with the platform of the website you are looking to optimize is important. Kick your resourcefulness skills into gear and find out how to adjust the meta tags and directives. Then from there optimize these items to present your web pages appropriately on the SERPs.

Additional Resources

https://www.portent.com/serp-preview-tool/

https://ahrefs.com/blog/title-tag-seo/

https://yoast.com/meta-descriptions/

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