There are quite a few terms to know in the SEO industry, but probably some of the most confusing are all of the different types of tags. Not only are there lots of different tags to understand and then be able to put into practice, but for beginners even the definition of “tag” can be confusing. In the past meta tags were used frequently for indexing web pages, but after a while too many websites starting keyword spamming and using meta tags incorrectly. This led to Google saying that meta tags don’t matter for ranking purposes, which caused a lot of confusion, which is probably why the matter is so complicated in 2015.
So What is a Meta Tag Exactly?
The first thing to understand is that meta tags are still very important for SEO because they help make sure your webpages are clear to both search engine bots and readers. They may not be a direct ranking factor anymore, but they should still be used. You will have a higher CTR if people understand what a search engine result is all about, which is a huge reason meta tags are so important. Check out this video from former Head of Webspam Matt Cutts that talks about this is more detail.
According to the official Wordstream definition, Meta tags are “snippets of text that describe a page’s content; the meta tags don’t appear on the page itself, but only in the page’s code.” For WordPress users, plugins like SEO All in One Pack or SEO Yoast make it easy to include these tags. Unfortunately many Webmasters fill in this information without ever really thinking about what the tags mean so they are not optimized, which is why these terms are so important.
Different SEO Tag Terms
Below are all of the most popular tags you should know how to implement and what they mean for your website and your SEO. The tags are listed in order of how you may want to add them to make things easy:
This is what will show up in the URL in your browser as well as the hyperlink that someone will see when they’re visiting a Google SERP. No surprise here, but it tells Google and readers the actual title of a webpage. Usually Google recommends you keep your Title Tag between 50-60 characters long so that it is concise and will display properly.
The H1 tag serves a very similar purpose as the title tag—containing the title of your webpage—but the different is where they appear. While a title tag is shown on a SERP and within a browser, the H1 tag will show up on your actual webpage as the title (usually in the largest font). This means that your H1 tag and your title tag can be different if you’d like even though they are both considered titles for your page. Still, the h1 tag should be between 50-60 characters.
Just as with the title tag, you only want to use the h1 tag once on your webpage. This then brings us into the next set of important tags.
Heading (H2, H3, H4, etc.) Tags.
The best way to think about heading tags is to think about different sections of an article. They are used for organization, both for the bots and for readers, and are used like the heading of a chapter, then the heading of a section, then a subsection. You can use as many heading tags as you see fit for a given webpage.
As a reference, the title of this page is the H1 tag, the first two subheadings I set as H2 tags, and I put an H3 tag on all of the names of the different tags here in this article.
Meta Description Tag.
This is a small description, usually 160 characters, that lets the Google bots know what your article or webpage is about, and therefore this is the place that Webmasters use keywords. This is also the small descriptive text that readers will see under a search engine result.
Alt/ Image Tag.
An alt tag is usually used with the IMG tag, or your image. You include the alt tag to make sure that search engines can read your image since the bots can’t actually look at and analyze a photo. Readers also benefit from you using an alt tag because it can oftentimes add context to the image and provide a text alternative.
This tag looks exactly like it would if you were looking at an internal or external link, except instead of taking you to a different webpage it will take you to a different section of the same webpage. This tag is really only used by companies that publish very long and detailed guides. Wikipedia is a great example of how to use a anchor tag.
For an even more advanced look at tags, visit this article from MetaTagSEO.com.