SEO

September 2, 2022

Meagan Voulo

Meagan is a full-time data analyst and a freelance writer. She hosts Forever Fantasy Readers for her fiction pieces.

Metadata and HTML Tags for SEO

As you may have seen in our previous post -  What is Search Engine Optimization? - SEO includes more than just writing. The technical side covers everything from page speed to tagging and security. Even within SEO content writing, it’s important to know about some of the technical aspects to have a holistic view of your website. 

Two important assets as a copywriter include knowledge of metadata and ability to write basic HTML. This post aims to guide copywriters through the fundamentals of metadata and other HTML tags that can impact a website’s ranking on major search engines. 

What is metadata?

For those who are new to SEO or at least new to some of the technical components, let’s introduce metadata. According to Semrush’s guide to meta tags for SEO, metadata is the unseen data on a webpage that allow search engines to read it. 

Three common metatags include:

  • Meta Title - This is the text displayed on the SERP to identify your page
  • Meta Description - The description is the short snippet that describes your page, also appearing on the SERP. One thing to note is that according to Google, meta descriptions and meta keywords do not have a direct impact on the ranking algorithm.
  • Meta Robots - Although you can’t see the meta robots tag, this is essentially the reason that your website is (or is NOT) on Google.
  • Index/Noindex: If your page includes the “Index” parameter, the web crawler know to list it on the search engine. However, the “Noindex” value means the page won’t show up in the SERP. 
  • Follow/Nofollow: The “Follow” parameter tells the web crawler to go through all the links on the website that point to outside sources. However, including “Nofollow” lets the bots know not to follow all the links on site as part of the crawl.

Why is metadata important for SEO?

The meta tags that we introduced above (title, description, and Robots) provide web crawlers the information they end up using to determine a page’s rank. 

Therefore, if your marketing team’s goal is to rank on page one of Google, then understanding how to write effective metadata is crucial. The next section covers some SEO best practices related to metadata. 

SEO Metadata Best Practices

There are a few SEO metadata best practices you need to understand.

Unique Titles and Descriptions 

Each page should have a unique meta title and unique meta description. If multiple pages on a site have the duplicate titles or descriptions, this can cause problems when indexing the pages on the SERP. 

For instance, if a large healthcare website has two pages dedicated to heart health (with the same title/description), it’s possible that the web crawler won’t know which page is supposed to rank for specific terms. 

Typically, duplicate title tags and descriptions are called out as warnings when running a site audit, and should be fixed as soon as they are identified.

Character Limits 

Keep titles under 60 characters and descriptions under 160. If your page’s title tag goes over 60 characters, there is a chance it will get cut off in the SERP, like the one seen below:

Sentence case vs. Title case

Meta titles can use either sentence case or title case but descriptions should only use sentence case. This means that titles should also avoid using all caps, which can negatively impact CTR.

Additional HTML Tags for SEO

In addition to title tags and description tags, HTML includes header tags (H1, H2, H3…). These allow you to organize the information on a page and can also contribute to a page’s ranking on the SERP.

W3 school has some great resources for header tags, including a popout that allows you to test the HTML yourself

Header Tag Best Practices

When choosing your header tags for a webpage, there are certain guidelines to follow. 

One common belief for a while was that multiple H1 tags on a page negatively impacted its ranking with the search engine algorithm. However, Google’s John Mueller, previously released a statement explaining that there is no limit to the number of H1 tags on a page. This was surprising to many SEO and marketing experts, suggesting that there is still misunderstanding around the “rules” of HTML tagging for SEO.

 Below, we include some of the established best practices for writing header tags, though it’s clear that these can change at any time given Google algorithm updates.:

  • Do NOT duplicate H1 tags across pages - Much like the title tag, each page on your site should have a unique H1 tag.
  • H1 and Meta Title can be different - That being said, those who want to target a few different keywords for a page might find that having an H1 that is different from the title tag is beneficial.
  • Avoid keyword stuffing - Yes, keywords are important, but stuffing too many into the tags where they aren’t relevant can also hurt your site. Use the keywords where they make the most sense.

Hire a Writer to Optimize Your Meta Data

Now that we’ve gone over the basics of metadata and HTML tagging for SEO, what’s next? The answer is simple - find a copywriter well-versed in both writing and technical SEO to optimize your site. Contact Hire a Writer today to connect with a team of experts in on-page SEO.

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