Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is an evolving beast and what used to be good SEO practice is no longer relevant – at least not in the way that most people think.
Specifically, the importance of meta tags (text that describes what the page is about) has changed. Meta tags were once used by Google and other search engines to determine what the page was about. But like any technology, people started abusing the system and soon Google stopped using the meta tags in the way they used to use them.
In this article we will show you how meta tags are used by Google to rank and list your web pages.
But before we discuss Google’s current position on meta tags for SEO purposes, here is how the meta tags appear on a Google search. I searched for Web Design Canberra and one of the listings that came up was our website (Your Web Design Shop).
As you can see, what we put in the title tag, appeared as the heading of the Google search listing and the description appeared as the snippet describing that search listing.
Title tag: Does affect Google ranking
<title>Do meta tags affect your site’s ranking on Google</title>
Google does care whether you have a title tag added to your web page and what the contents of the title tag are. The title tag is displayed as the heading of the Google search listing.
Good news is that if you are using a good content management system (CMS) like WordPress with a good theme like Divi or Genesis, the system automatically takes your page’s main heading (Post Title) and sets that as the meta title. No work is required from you unless you want the meta title to be different to your visible page title, which is rarely the case but you might do so if your web page title is too long.
Keywords meta tag: Does not affect Google ranking
<meta name=”keywords” content=”SEO, Google Ranking, Meta Keywords in SEO”/>
This meta keywords tag is no longer used by Google. Due to people abusing the keyword tag and stuffing it with irrelevant terms that the page visitor would not see, Google stopped using the keywords meta tag a few years ago. See an excerpt from the Google Web Master Central Blog below.
Q: Why doesn’t Google use the keywords meta tag?
A: About a decade ago, search engines judged pages only on the content of web pages, not any so-called “off-page” factors such as the links pointing to a web page. In those days, keyword meta tags quickly became an area where someone could stuff often-irrelevant keywords without typical visitors ever seeing those keywords. Because the keywords meta tag was so often abused, many years ago Google began disregarding the keywords meta tag.
Conclusion: do not worry about populating the keywords tag for SEO.
Description meta tag: Does not affect Google ranking but matters for another reason
<meta name=”description” content=”Learn how Google does and does not use meta tags (title, keywords & description) to rank and display your web page in Google search results” />
Despite what many people say, Google does not use the description meta tag to rank your web page.
Even though we sometimes use the description meta tag for the snippets we show, we still don’t use the description meta tag in our ranking.
But being ranked is only part of your objective; getting the user to click on your Google search result is important too.
This is where the description tag can help. It can be used to create a custom description that is displayed as the snippet preview of the page. Otherwise, Google will auto-generate a description based on the page text. Often it will take the starting text of the page, which may or may not be enticing to the user.
So if you have the time, do add an enticing meta description to maximise your chances of being clicked on the Google search results.
Title: if you are using the relevant keywords in your web page headline, you do not need to add a custom page title tag. Your CMS should automatically, add the heading text in the title tag.
Keywords: do not waste your time populating the keywords tag.
Description: this is more to help you get clicked than to help you get ranked. If you have the time, do add a custom description to entice the Google search user to click on your search listing. Otherwise Google will auto-generate one.