Introduction

Being successful with SEO involves more than just optimizing the text your website displays on the computer screen. The displayed text your user reads is important of course, however, there's more to it than meets the eye when it comes to ranking high in the search engines. Metadata (data about data) is one of those things we can use to tell the search engines more about our page so they can use our content more effectively. This guide will provide you with the list of most important meta tags, some that you may find relevant depending on your content, and some tags that aren't really that useful anymore and you may want to remove to cut down on your code. Let's get cracking!

The five meta tags that should be on every page.

Tons of tags are available for practically every situation you may find on the web; however, the most important ones you'll need in most cases boil down to only a handful that should be on every page.

  • Title

    <title>Page Title</title>

    The page title tag is used by Google to determine the title of your listing in the search results as well as your position.

  • Meta description

    <meta name="description" content="page description" >

    The meta description is used to create the description of your listing in the SERP. Although it's not used as a direct factor in determining keyword relevance in Google, it is important for persuading users to click on your listing in the SERP which makes you more relevant in Googles eyes.

  • Meta content

    <meta http-equiv="content-type" content="text/html; charset=UTF-8" >

    The meta content tag is essential for properly rendering your page in some browsers, and should be present on every page.

  • Viewport

    <meta name="description" content="width=device-width, initial-scale=1.0" >

    Having a good mobile presence in this day and age is essential. The viewport meta is important for creating that experience.

  • alt-text

    <img src="image path" alt="image description" >

    Images on your website can't be "seeing" by Google, however, using the alt-attribute on your images lets Google know what they represent. They're also important for people with visual impairments that use screen readers to read the page.

The less important meta tags.

  • Robots

    <meta name="robots" content="index,follow,noodp" >

    Sometimes we don't want the search engines to index a page, or follow the links. The meta robots tag allows us to control the indexing of our website.

  • Language

    <html lang="en" > ... </html>

    In some cases, a website will be primarily used in a specific country. The language attribute tells Google the primary language used on the page.

  • Geo

    <meta name="geo.position" content="latitude; longitude" > <meta name="geo.placename" content="Name" > <meta name="geo.region" content="Country subdivision code" >

    For local businesses, some search engines allow us to specify a location with latitude, longitude, country subdivision and place name.

  • Canonicals

    <link rel="canonical" href="path of original url" >

    Often, as a website gets bigger and content gets harder to manage there will be duplicate content in Google's index. This could be the result of ab testing or numerous other factors. The canonical meta tag tells the search engines which page should be referred to as the original source so they don't see it as duplicate content.

  • keywords

    <meta name="keywords" content="keyword, keyword" >

    I considered leaving this off the list, but there may be a small chance some search engines still use the keyword meta tag in determining rank. If you're building a new website it should be safe to leave it out, however.

  • site verification

    <meta name="google-site-verification" content="verification code" >

    Getting your site verified with Google is often required to use some of the tools they provide.

  • open graph

    <meta property="og:title" content="Site title" > <meta property="og:image" content="Path to image" > <meta property="og:description" content="Site description" >

    The open graph protocol allows us to communicate with Facebook about what the image, title, description, and URL should be on the post when someone shares our website with their friends.

The meta tags that have become irrelevant.

These are some of the tags that you don't need to use anymore. If you already have any of them in your code it won't give you negative points, but you still may want to remove them to declutter your code.

  • copyright

  • abstract

  • rating

  • author

  • revisit

  • Metadata

  • generator

  • cache control

  • resource type

  • expiration date

Summary

There you have it! Using this list will hopefully help you with your SEO success! If you're further interested in learning about SEO ranking factors and how to get your content to rank in Google, you can check out my other article on SEO optimization tips!