In the early days of search engine optimization (SEO), meta tags meant a great deal. They were an effective way to tell a search engine what your website was called, what it was about, and even which keywords you felt your website should rank for.
Not surprisingly, meta tags were easily manipulated and abused, and are now no longer as essential a factor in your search engine rankings as they were.
However, meta tags can still have a great impact on your website’s search presence, and your website traffic. So what are these meta tags that are still in use, and how can you use them?
The meta description tag
Your meta description tag provides a search engine with a descriptive piece of copy that it can display along with your webpage’s title in search results. This way, you can choose what you want to appear in the listings for each page on your site. For example, you could use this space to share your practice’s phone number or address.
Why is it still important? A good meta description increases the likelihood that your listing will be clicked on over a competitor’s, which boosts your clickthrough rate and increases the amount of traffic you receive from search engines. Your meta descriptions are your ad copy—and good ad copy means more business.
How can you build a good meta description strategy?
- Keep the description to 155 characters or less. This ensures that the entire description will display on a search engine’s results page. Longer descriptions won’t be the end of the world, but the search engine will cut it off. Keeping it short means that searchers can see all of the information, which can help entice them to your page.
- Keep the content relevant. Remember that meta descriptions don’t affect your search rankings, and the most important thing is to make sure it accurately describes your page’s content so pet owners will want to click.
- Don’t sink too much time into it. Sometimes it just isn’t realistic to have a unique meta description for each page, and that’s okay. You aren’t going to be penalized for it. The important ones to have unique descriptions for are your homepage, each of your services pages, your contact and team pages, and any other page that you consider to be an important or core part of your website.
The meta keywords tag
The meta keywords tag used to be useful, but no longer has a role on websites. In fact, the meta keyword tag can have a negative impact on your website’s performance, because it provides your competitors with an opportunity to see which keywords you wish to rank for. In general, this is not a tag you want to add to any page.
The meta robots tag
The meta robots tag tells a search engine which pages you do and do not wish to appear in its indexes. For the most part, you will not need to restrict a search engine from crawling and indexing your content, if you do have material that you wish to be hidden from the greater web, this is the tag to use.
For example, if you have a WebDVM website, this tag will display as a drop-down menu. A selection of “index, follow” means that the page will be open to crawling and indexing by a search engine. A selection of “no index, no follow” will prevent a search engine from indexing any page with that tag.
While not strictly a meta tag, your page’s title tags play a key role both to search engines and your website’s users. Your title tag is the headline that appears in your search engine listings. It should be unique for each page where possible, and it should specify your targeted keyword.
The title tag’s content is also what appears at the top of your web browser’s tabs, making it an important feature to identify your website when users are flipping through tabs in their web browser.
How can you make a good title tag?
- If you are trying to target a keyword with this page, be sure to include it in the page title, ideally at the beginning.
- Keep your page title at 60 characters or fewer. This way, search engines will generally display the entire title in results. Longer titles won’t be detrimental to your search ranking, but they will be truncated in search results, which may affect the number of visitors to your site.
- Remember, this is the headline for your page in search engine results. It should be an accurate description of the page’s content, and compelling to a potential visitor.
Want more tips for helping out your veterinary website? Check out the SEO section on our veterinary marketing blog!