Sometimes, after working in marketing for so long, we forget that there are some things that are “common knowledge” for us, but not necessarily as well known for others. We realize that we should probably provide some more background on some of the tools that we see and use every day.
On the backend of a website, especially a wordpress website, you’ll probably see three sections:
- Meta Title
- Meta Description
- Meta Keywords
These are referred to as “meta tags.” Before we get into what these are, we want to note something important that many other SEO companies lie about or overstate:
Despite what other SEO companies tell you, you actually never have to fill these out. They have practically no real effect on SEO.
There is a belief, even among some SEO companies, that meta tags have an effect on your placement in search engines. This is not true. Meta tags are 100% optional for the vast majority of websites with a few exceptions that we’ll note later, and if you want to ignore these you absolutely can. In fact, here’s another fact that many SEO companies pretend is more important than it is:
Meta Keywords are 100% useless.
Now that you know those two facts, let’s get into more about these backend components.
So what are meta tags?
Meta tags are your way of telling Google the text you want to display in its search results. So, for example, let’s say you titled a post “How to Market Your Website or Social Media Accounts as a Chiropractor” but you want Google to display “How to Market as a Chiropractor.” You fill out the Meta Title, and Google will use the meta title in its search results instead of the actual title.
Of course, most people don’t mind using their actual title, so these only need to be filled out when there is something you dislike about the current title of the piece.
The meta description is usually a bit more important and useful. Google’s automated algorithm takes a random bit of text from your post (called a “snippet) based on what it thinks search users want to see, and uses that as your description in its search results. But sometimes that snippet can be wrong, or not that useful. You can edit the meta description” to be more relevant to what you expect people to search for so that it gets more clicks.
Keep in mind, however, that if your content is both long and well written, the snippet may actually be more relevant to their search than your manually entered description, because Google can change the snippet based on the search term but will be less likely to do that if you’ve entered a specific description for it to show instead. (Google can also ignore meta tags if it thinks a snippet would be more relevant, but it is less likely to do that.
Which brings us back to our original bold/italicized text above.
- Meta keywords do now show up in any search result, and thus they are useless. You can always leave it blank with no repercussions. The only reason to ever enter meta keywords is if you have thousands of pages and you want a place to put the keywords you’re focusing on so that you can remember them. Think of it like a note to yourself.
- The existence of meta descriptions has no effect on SEO. But we may still recommend them for SEO. Why? Because even though the descriptions themselves do not affect your rank, Google may improve your rank if you’re getting more clicks when your page shows up in results. If the new descriptions get you more clicks than the snippets, that could theoretically help your ranking. The effect is small though and it’s not clear if it works.
So hopefully that provides a lengthy, long winded explanation of meta tags and search engines. Of course, if you’d like more help with content writing, SEO, and online marketing in general, contact Great Leap Studios at any time.