A complete introduction to all the meta tags a webmaster may need when creating or optimising a webpage for SEO.
Everything will be covered here, including: Title Tag, Meta Description, Alt-Text for images, Canonical Tag, Noindex, Nofollow, H1 – H6 tags, Robots Meta Tag and the various tags involved in Google News.
But first, let’s answer the question…
What are meta tags?
Meta tags are HTML elements that provide information about a web page for search engines and website visitors.
These elements must be placed as tags in the section of a HTML document so therefore need to be coded in your CMS.
Some are easier to implement than others, especially if you have WordPress or any other ‘out-of-box’ CMS, where things like merely writing a headline creates your H1 tag and there are specific sections to add your own canonical links or meta descriptions.
None of them are as complicated as they sound though, so let’s define each one in alphabetical order.
Alt-Text for images
As we stated in our guide to image optimisation for SEO , Google can’t ‘see’ your images, but it can ‘read’ them and what it reads is what you write in the alt-attribute.
Alt-text should be clear, descriptive, concise and not stuffed with keywords. Alt-text is also what’s used by screen reader software to describe images to people with visual impairments.
The alt-text also shows up in the text box that appears when you hover over an image.
If there are two identical pieces of content that exist on the internet (normally if you’ve syndicated another website’s content ) you must include a Canonical Tag which contains the original published article’s URL.
This will pass all of the PageRank and other Google ranking signals back to the original webpage, informing the search engine that this is the page that should appear in search results.
The Canonical Tag will look like this in the link HTML:
Or often there’ll be a section in your article’s CMS where you can simply copy and paste the original URL: