If you have a website of your own and want to draw global traffic into it, one of the important things to take care of is to optimize it for web searches. Several factors impact the SEO of your website. One of the factors includes webpage metadata. Today, we’ll be looking into website metadata and its importance in SEO. We will also explore how to add relevant meta information to webpages for better SEO.
Webpage Metadata (Meta tags)
Metadata is the additional information that you embed within your web page that helps you to describe the contents of your page. This data is used by search engines to display your content on the results page. Usually, we insert metadata in a web page using the <meta> tag within the <head> section. The meta tag can have several attributes, some are predefined while others are custom.
Meta tags for SEO
Whenever a particular webpage is indexed by any search bot (Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc), your page becomes eligible to be listed in the search results. The metadata helps to determine how the webpage is displayed in the results page. Using the right meta tags at the right places can help you to gain more visitors from search engines over time. Eventually, it will have a positive impact on SEO. Following are some of the important meta tags that impact your webpage is listed in the search results.
Meta title determines what title will be displayed on the search results page for a particular indexed webpage of your website. It also corresponds to the text that you see on the browser’s title bar when you open the webpage from the search results. The meta title should be able to convey the subject of your article and contain possible search keywords so that users will be able to find your page when they search for any topic related to your article.
The title in the search results listing is followed by a text containing not more than 160 characters. The text can be used for giving a short description of your post. The meta-description tag is used to define it. It is one of the key elements of a search result listing that determines how many users will click through to read your post. You need to use your own creative skills to write a suitable description that matches users’ search query and also intuitive enough to let them select your page over others from the search engine results page. If your post is able to draw more visitors, it will eventually have a good impact on SEO.
This is an optional meta tag containing a list of potential keywords. The keywords are not visible to users but it helps search robots to match them with the keywords entered in the search queries. In the earlier SEO days, web developers used to put a lot of keywords in order to gain positive SEO. Things have changed nowadays. Google doesn’t look for the keywords tag in a page any more; and other search engines give them little or no importance to them. So, you wouldn’t want to spend a lot of time looking for the right keywords and putting them in the keywords meta tag. Meta title and description are considered more important.
If you post news related articles in your blog, you can use the news meta tag to specify relevant keywords to search bots. This helps Google to classify your webpages and determines how your articles are listed in the search results for specific news related queries. The news meta tag is specific to Google.
This tag can also be used to convey further information about the subject of your articles more specifically. This helps Google to list your page for relevant search queries and avoid any disambiguation caused due to similar news events.
Read the Official Announcement.
The robots meta tag is used to give instructions to the search engine robots on how to crawl a particular web page. This meta tag has a lot of attributes to define the search engine’s crawling behavior The attributes may be specified in a single meta tag separated with commas, or in separate robots tags. You can also use specific names to provide crawling instructions to specific search engines. For example, you can use <META NAME=”GOOGLEBOT”> to define instructions specifically to Google search robots. The CONTENT value defines the various attributes. Some of the attributes of the “Robots”meta tag are as follows:
NOINDEX: The NOINDEX attribute instructs search bots not to index particular webpages. You can use this value to disable indexing for webpages that do not contain information useful for organic visitors.
NOFOLLOW: This attribute prevents search bots to follow through into any other link present in a particular webpage. Search robots won’t be able to crawl beyond such pages.
NOARCHIVE: A page having the NOARCHIVE attribute in the robots meta tag prevents a cached copy of the page from being available in the search results.
NOSNIPPET: This attribute hides the description of the particular page and also prevents caching.
NOODP: Prevents the Open Directory Project description from being shown in the description part of the search results.
NONE: Disables crawling for the web page; equivalent to NOINDEX, NOFOLLOW.
The amount of useful information available on your website also affects SEO. Your website should provide clear, information rich content that is helpful for the users.
If search queries return webpages with less useful information, it will have a negative impact on SEO. The robots meta tag with the no-index attribute instructs search engine crawlers not to index particular pages of your website. The tag can be added to webpages which provide less valuable information and prevent them to appear on the results page. But also take care that you don’t add this tag to a web page that contains important information and links, because crawlers won’t be able to navigate to any of the webpages present linked with these pages.
Adding Meta information in your WordPress site
Since WordPress is a dynamic web platform, you can easily edit what metadata you might want to include for your website. You can add meta tags in individual posts or define meta tags for all the posts. This can be done in two ways.
By editing theme files
WordPress lets you add metadata information like title, description and keywords to your webpages by editing the header.php of your template. This ensures that the meta information is available across all the pages of your website. You can include variable fields like post-title in your meta tag attributes. You can edit your WordPress theme files by going to Dashboard >> Appearance >> Editor. Some WordPress themes have features to automatically generate meta tags. You can read more about adding metadata to your WordPress site here.
By adding Custom Fields
Some metadata may not be required across all the pages of your website. A good example of it is the robots meta tag. You can use this tag to disable indexing in specific webpages, and you may not need it to be there in all the pages. In such situations, you can add custom meta fields in specific webpages of your choice.
In the post editing page, scroll down until you find the Custom Fields section. If you don’t see it, go to Screen Options on the top of the screen and unhide it.
Adding Meta Tags via Custom Fields
* Enter the name of the meta tag (for example, “robots”) in the field called “Name”.
* Assign a value to the field (for example, “no-index”) by entering it in the “Value” field.
* Click on Add Custom Field button to save the information.
* The custom metadata is now added for the particular post.
Another way to insert meta tags in your webpages is to use plugins. Plugins let you to automatically generating meta title and description tags from the post title and an excerpt of your post content; or provide options to manually enter what meta tags to include. These plugins make use of the Custom Fields for inserting meta tags. It is better to manage meta tags manually via Custom Fields rather than using plugins for the same purpose. This is because plugins are considered bulky and may contain security issues.
Automatically generating meta information for your web pages may save your time, but for better optimization, you should manually edit meta title and description tags for each post. This ensures that your meta title and description can be tuned for making search results look more attractive and drive more organic traffic into your site. In the following articles in the series, we will explore more SEO concerns and how to tackle them. Stay tuned for more on Web Development.