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What are meta tags — and how to optimize them

Definition: Meta tags are a form of metadata that describes the content of a web page to search engines within its source code. Important meta tags for ecommerce websites include the meta title and meta description, which are both visible on Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) and impact organic rankings.

Meta Tags Location

The primary difference between the tags used in blog posts and meta tags is location. Meta tags always exist strictly within HTML tags, commonly toward the head of the page.

Meta Tags as They Appear in Source Code

An example of a meta tag as it appears in source code is the following:

Important meta tags for online businesses

To find out if any given webpage is making use of meta tags, right click the page. Select “View Page Source.” The head portion of the page shows if any meta tags are being used.

There are four main types:

  • The title tag represents the information people see at the top of the browser and in search engine results pages. Best practices for title tags include:

    • Target keyword included, preferably towards the first half of a title

    • Ends in brand name

    • Keywords separated by colon ":", dash "—" or pipe "|"

    • The title's length should not exceed 60-70 characters. Google's algorithm cuts off titles based on pixel size, which make it impossible to pinpoint an exact character limit due to the varying size of letters.

  • Meta description attribute is a short description of a page that appears under the title in SERPs. Though it doesn't impact rankings, meta descriptions can impact click through rate. Effective meta descriptions:

    • Naturally incorporates the target keyword and encourages users to click through.

    • Are not time-intensive on behalf of a merchant, since Google is not guaranteed to use a meta description in SERPs. The search engine sometimes algorithmically uses on-page text in place of a prewritten description. Write well-written descriptions that are relevant to the target queries to maximize the chance of Google using them in SERPs.

  • Meta robots attributes communicate courses of action for search engine crawlers (also known as "spiders"). The two primary values to know are:

    • "noindex" - Tells search engines not to index a page so it does not appear in organic search results. This is often done for pages that are in progress, contain duplicate content,

    • **"nofollow" -**These pages are indexed but do not page value, (colloquially referred to as "link juice") to the linked page. The nofollow attribute is used for affiliate campaigns, extensive internal linking, and any other type of paid link.

Anyone can create effective meta tags

Meta tags are often overseen by an SEO expert, but can be completed by anyone with a firm grasp of a website's best practices. Once a "template" is established — how the brand name is displayed and how to determine primary keywords — they can be completed by anyone working with an online business. Content Management Systems (CMS) and ecommerce platforms make it particularly simple to change meta tags, with input fields to set and standardize meta tags across an online store.

Learn more about optimizing meta tags and how to modify them in a Bigcommerce store from our Support experts:Using Page Titles and Meta Descriptions

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