More high-quality traffic.
The holy grail of SEO, am I right?
We all want some, and I’m here to help you get it—just by using your meta tags.
Yes, I said meta tags.
This is a fundamental SEO technique that still works, and it doesn’t rely on spam or anything like that.
It’s quite simple, really:
If you master the do’s and don’ts of crafting persuasive, highly-clickable meta tags, you’ll get more high-quality traffic.
Which means traffic that’s more likely to convert.
So, let’s get started!
What Are Meta Tags?
Meta tags are bits of HTML code that help both Google and human users understand what your website is about.
At its most basic, “meta” is information about information.
Here’s an example of the meta tags for a past article I wrote for Monitor Backlinks, “SEO for Dummies: 13 Stupidly Easy Lessons for the Complete Beginner.” I’ve highlighted a few of the most common meta tags with red boxes in the screenshot below:
These snippets of code tell Google (and us) a few things about the page:
1. Description – This is one of the most important sections of the meta code. It appears in your SERP listing to give searchers more information about what your page is about and why they should click on it.
2. Title – This is another very important meta tag. The title displays together with the description in your SERP listing, like this:
It also shows up at the top of the browser window when searchers visit your page:
3. Type – This tag explains the content type of the page. In this example, you can see that it’s an “article.” This meta tag plays a small role but I consider it to be less significant because it’s aimed at search engines alone.
4. URL – This tag is another minor one for search engines only. It tells them the URL of the page (pretty self-explanatory).
In practice, different parts of the meta code are there for different audiences.
Some parts are aimed directly at search engines—for example, the canonical tag, which is helpful if your content is republished or distributed to multiple places, or the locale tag to customize the search experience based on the users’ location.
The other parts of the meta code are aimed at both human users and search engines. Taking advantage of these parts can help persuade searchers to click on your result in the SERPs, as well as have a better experience on your site.
Generally, you should always think of your human users (i.e. potential customers!) first, and prioritize what would give them a more helpful user experience. That’s what Google wants you to do anyhow, according to their search quality guidelines.
SEO Meta Tags: Do’s and Don’ts to Get More Clicks and Traffic
Now, how do you optimize your meta tags to attract more clicks and bring in high-quality traffic?
Here’s your checklist of do’s and don’ts.
Do: Include Meta Tags for Every Page
As you build a more extensive website, you never know which page will become a sudden hit in the search engines. That’s why I recommend including optimized meta tags for every page on your site that has the potential to rank.
For WordPress sites, the Yoast SEO plugin is an excellent way to make sure this happens. It allows you to fill in a unique meta description and title for every post, as well as optimize the URL (slug):
The only exception to the rule:
If there are pages on your site that you’ve excluded from search indexing in your robots.txt file, these don’t need meta tags.
Don’t: Reuse Meta Tags Over and Over
Using templates and software to create your webpages does save you time. However, it is possible to have too much of a good thing.
Specifically, I’ve seen some websites where the title tag is the same for multiple URLs. That’s not good for two reasons.
First, you’re making it harder for Google to differentiate between the different pages on your website.
And second, you’re losing out on the opportunity to earn a click when one of your webpages shows up on the SERPs.
Do: Use the Right Keywords in Your Meta Tags
Using some of your high-value keywords in your meta description and title is a good idea.
However, always emphasize readability and the user experience.
That means writing naturally rather than awkwardly trying to use keywords multiple times. You should only use one keyword per title, and no more than one or two in a meta description.
For pages on your site that aren’t targeting a specific keyword, it’s still a good idea to optimize the meta tags for other popular keywords that people use when they talk about you or link to your site (also known as “anchor text” keywords).
The quickest and easiest way to discover these words and phrases is with Monitor Backlinks.
(Don’t have a Monitor Backlinks account? Grab a free 30-day trial to get started right now—commitment-free!)
In the Reports section, you’ll see the “Top Anchor Text” report. This tells you all the different anchor texts people use to link to your site.
In this example, the anchor text report suggests a few good keyword themes to focus on: the brand name (CoSpot), affiliate marketing and reviews.
Don’t: Exceed Google’s Restrictions
Writing effective SEO meta tags means working with the rules that search engines impose.
Specifically, you want to keep meta titles to 55-60 characters and meta descriptions to 150-160 characters. If you exceed this length, Google may cut off your copy mid-sentence, which means you’re likely to confuse the user or turn them away, and less likely to earn the click.
If you’re using the Yoast SEO plugin, you can preview the meta title and description as you write. You can also use SEOmofo’s snippet optimization tool to get a similar preview, or Letter Count to find out how many characters are in a bit of text.
Do: Follow Copywriting Principles
A skill for copywriting is one of the keys to getting more conversions. While other SEO efforts like building backlinks will help you cement your place in the SERPs, it’s the meta tag copy that convinces users to click on your result instead of one of the others.
So, you need to use good copywriting principles. Make a promise and get the user curious and excited about what they can learn from your page—but make sure that you follow through on that promise.
Don’t: Mislead with Your Meta Tags
This follows on from the above point.
Sure, you can attract more clicks by using click-bait tactics, but that’s not a smart way to build a business or a brand.
Make sure your meta tags align with your content, and that the content delivers what the meta title and description say it does.
For example, if your meta tags talk about marathon running training tips but the actual page is a product page for running shoes, then you’ve deceived the user.
Don’t: Forget About Other On-page SEO Techniques
Optimizing your meta tags is just one part of on-page SEO.
I would also recommend reviewing your H1 tags on each page and optimizing your images. Many of the same do’s and don’ts apply to both of these areas.
Make sure you check out “The Definitive Onsite SEO Checklist for Publishing Optimized Content” for more tips regarding on-page SEO.
SEO Meta Tags Wrap-up
By optimizing your meta tags for SEO, you’re able to attract more quality traffic by winning more clicks in the SERPs.
And remember, if your website doesn’t show up till the bottom of Page 1 (or later), then optimizing your meta tags for persuasion is especially essential.
In that position, you have to fight for attention even harder.
Follow these do’s and don’ts to create ultra-clickable meta tags and win that fight!
Bruce Harpham runs Steam Press Media, a content marketing agency for B2B software companies.