How Meta Tags Affect Your Search Engine Listings

Meta tags are snippets of information written into the HTML code of a website. Rather than being visible content for readers, meta tags are aimed directly at search engines. Meta tags provide a title for a website, a description of the site’s content, and instructions on how search engines like Google should display search results.

At one time, search engines relied on meta tags to locate and rank content. Webmasters who wanted to achieve a high search engine ranking would fill their title and description meta tags with many often-searched keywords, directing hits to the site. When Google took over as a popular search engine, however, it relied upon a different method of searching that scanned the actual content of the site for relevant keywords, rather than simply relying upon meta tags. Now more search engines are following the Google method of searching, and meta tags have lost popularity as a form of search engine optimization.

Meta tags still serve a valuable purpose for web developers, however. Meta tags are important in determining how Google and other search engines display your page within search results. The “title” meta tag determines what the site’s name is at the top of your browser, as well as the name displayed on the search results page. The “description” tags can be used to develop the site snippet that displays under your website’s name in search engine results.

While it may seem easy to ignore meta tags while designing your website, you should always take care to fill in the title and description fields with relevant content. In addition to providing a descriptive title and snippet about your site’s content, meta tags also allow you to use specific instructions that will instruct Google as to how your site can be displayed. For example, you can instruct Google not to use a snippet from your site, or to avoid displaying cached site content.

When you take the time to utilize meta tags for your site title and description, you ensure that you have complete quality control over the way your site is displayed in search engine results. Without a meta tag, Google may select snippet text from elsewhere on your website, and it may not be as relevant or engaging as you would like. If the site snippet displayed on the search engine results page is out of date or irrelevant to the search, people will pass over the link without clicking. By encouraging search engines to display well-crafted text, you have a better chance of attracting the attention of web users. After all, a high ranking on Google does not help your website if no one clicks your link.

Although search engines function differently than they did a few years ago, many of the old technologies have been adapted. Meta tags are one of many tools available to webmasters to provide the best quality content and attract the most readers to websites. By utilizing description and title meta tags, you can guarantee that you are always presenting the best possible image to potential readers.