Is Meta Data Still Important for SEO?

Written by Nick Stamoulis

HTML meta tag code on computer screen

In the past, the Meta data that you included in the code of our website played a large part in your search ranking. The search engine spiders used this information to determine what your website was about and then ranked your site accordingly. Search engines weren’t sophisticated like they are today. Back then they relied on the Meta data. Today, search engines are powered by sophisticated algorithms and don’t rely on Meta data any longer.

After a time, webmasters began to understand how important Meta information really was and they started to take advantage of it. One thing they used to do was stuff keywords into the Meta data and in some cases, they would include keywords that weren’t even related to the content but had a high search volume! This was all done to help increase visitors.

Because of this, the search engines had to get smarter. Over time, they gradually changed their algorithm to lessen the importance of Meta data. In fact, the algorithms are based almost entirely on content and Meta data doesn’t have the importance it once did. Should you still include Meta data when creating your website? Yes and no. Here’s information that will help you determine if including the Meta information is still worthwhile.

Title Tag

Including the title tag while creating your website is still considered “best practice” and shouldn’t be ignored. The title tag appears at the top of the browser window when looking at a page and is also the click-able link on a search engine results page. It’s indexed by the search engines and is the first thing that a spider sees.

Secure illustrated web search with blue background gridAlso, title tags are important for more than just SEO purposes. They qualify the visitor. The title tag is what persuades them to click on the page so it must grab their attention and include relevant keywords so that they know that your website will have the content that they are looking for. This is also important for social media because it encourages a higher rate of engagement with your content.

However, the rules for title tags have changed somewhat. In the past, they could be fairly long. Now, title tags should be no more than 75 characters, included spaces. However, Google has been testing the effectiveness of title tags that are around 55 characters, including spaces. To stay current, you might want to consider keeping your title tags to around 55 characters.

In the past, title tags could include keywords in them and still be considered effective. Now, this is considered spammy. Even though keywords are still important, the title tag needs to be descriptive and relate to the content. When keywords are included, they need to naturally flow with the description. Taking the time to write a descriptive title tag will increase the click-through rate.

Keyword Tag

Even if the keyword Meta tag isn’t used as a ranking factor with the search engines, it’s still a way to keep track of the keywords that you are targeting on each page for your own records. It serves as a reference when creating a link building campaign so you know what the anchor text links pointing to the page should be. It certainly won’t hurt your site to include 2-5 relevant keywords in the keywords Meta tag on each page. It’s almost completely obsolete so you may not even need it. Some site search tools do still use the keyword tag. However, there are plenty of site search tools that don’t use it.

Description Tag

SEO, search engine optimization

Google doesn’t use the description Meta tag in ranking, but it still shows up in search engine results. So, it’s important to include a description tag, even if it doesn’t affect rankings. Sometimes a person browsing the web wants a little more information that what the title provides. The Meta description allows for 150 characters of unique content per page that describes what is on that page. Basically, it supports the title tag and offers a one-page summary.

So, do you need Meta data or not? The answer is, it depends. Meta tags certainly won’t make or break an SEO campaign, but it fits in with everything else. Along with good high quality content, clean code, and a good URL structure, it’s SEO best practice to include Meta data. However, since the search engine algorithms are more sophisticated, it isn’t as important as it once was.

 

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