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SEO meta tags – what are they and do we still need them?

Posted on 19th April, 2019 by Andrew Dutson

Search Engine Optimisation

Anyone that has ever taken the time to read about SEO will have come across SEO meta tags and they are often one of the first topics that are covered in any beginner’s guide to SEO. In this article, we’re going to take a look at what role SEO meta tags play in 2019 and which of these tags is important from an SEO point of view. As well as highlighting the good tags we’ll also make a note of the tags that you simply don’t need or shouldn’t be using.

The important tags

Want to know which tags should be on every page, then this is the list that you need. These are the tags that you actually need from an SEO and general website point of view.

Meta content type – One of the first tags on the page, the meta content type is used to declare your character set for the page and this will impact how your page renders in your website browser.

Title – Still the most important tag from an SEO point of view, the title tag should be unique for each page on your website and its job is to describe the content of that page. Ideally, you should keep your title tag to between 60 – 80 characters in length.

Meta description – Despite common misconceptions that the meta description affects rankings, it remains an important tag. It is best used to summarise the content on your page and to help entice people to click on your result. Meta descriptions should be kept to a maximum of 160 characters.

Viewport – This tag is used to control the width and scaling of your browser’s viewport which controls how your website is displayed on mobile, tablet and desktop devices. The standard viewport tag is:

<meta name=viewport content=”width=device-width, initial-scale=1″>

 

 

Additional tags

While the important tags should be used on all of your website pages the tags listed below are not generally needed on every page. Where necessary we’d recommend leaving these out as they will just add additional lines of code to your web pages.

Robots – This first one may seem like a necessity but if you want the search engines to index your website and follow your links then you really don’t need to specify this with a meta robots tag. The only time that you should be using the meta robots tag is where you want to noindex or nofollow a page.

Language – Unless you are making a big change to your website and changing to an international website then you don’t need to use the meta languages tag to declare the main language of your website.

Googlebot etc – The different search engines are really good at working things out on their own and if you really need to stop them from accessing a page you should be using the more general meta robots tag rather than specific tags for each search engine and bot.

Site verification – In order to verify your website for the search engines webmaster tools you sometimes need to add a meta tag to your homepage. In an ideal world, you should use the other verification methods but sometimes you don’t have a choice and will need to add this meta tag to your homepage.

Social meta tags – If you are sharing your content and pages on social media then you’ll probably want to include OpenGraph meta tags on your pages. These help you control what image, description and other information are displayed when your pages are shared on the different social media platforms.

Tags you can avoid

So now that we know what tags are essential and which ones are surplus to requirements lets take a look at the tags that really are just a waste of space and deserve to be cleared out of the <head> section of your website.

Meta refresh – You should never be using a meta refresh as a way to redirect a page as the search engines are not a fan of this way or redirection. A server-side temporary 302 or permanent 301 redirects should always be used.

Keywords – Hands up who remembers when the meta keywords actually had an impact on search engine rankings? These have been redundant for a long time now so if you still have meta keywords tags sticking around then it’s probably time to say goodbye to these.

Author – Used to declare the author of the page, this is another tag that is no longer needed.

Revisit after – None of the major search engines follows the revisit after directive so this really is pointless.

Copyright – Another example of a tag that you don’t need, especially as most web pages contain this in the footer.

Generator – Nobody wants to know or cares what program was used to create your web page, the search engines won’t magically start ranking your content higher based on the program you have used.

There are literally dozens of additional meta tags that can be added to your pages and we’d say that if they are outside of the important tags then you should really be considering whether you need them or not. Having additional tags won’t stop the search engines from ranking your content but they are a waste of space and bloat out your code more than it needs to be.

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