Stephen Ostermiller's Blog

Myth: SEO is all about implementing meta tags

There is a large amount of meta data that can be added to pages. Some of it can have some small impact on search engine rankings. However most meta data doesn't improve SEO, and implementing correct meta data is only a small part of SEO.

  • Page title - Accurately titling the page using a searched for keyword is very important for SEO. Google and other search engines put a lot of weight on the <title> tags in the <head> section. Of all the meta data this is the only one that I consider a must have for SEO, and it isn't technically meta data at all. The title of the page shows up to users in the browser title bar and browser tabs.
  • Meta description - The meta description can sometimes power the text in search results that appears below the title of the page. Writing a good meta description has historically been very important for SEO. However, nowdays Google is using meta descriptions only a small percent of the time. Google usually prefers to highlight a sentence from the text of the page these days. I no longer consider including a meta description as needed for SEO.
  • Meta keywords - Google doesn't even use meta keywords. They are not important at all for SEO.
  • Canonical tags - Canonical tags can help tell search engines which URLs to prefer when you have duplicate content. They are often agood idea, but they are not required for SEO.
  • Open graph tags - Social media sites require meta tags with information to show when users link to your site. You can implement these tags to improve your social media presence, but they have no effect on search engines.
  • Structured data - Google shows a handful of rich snippets in the search results based on structured data. Most sites don't have a rich snippet that would apply and there is no ranking boost for structured data. You should implement structured data only if there is a relevant rich snippet for your site's data.

Rather than spending lots of time on meta tags, spend your time with bigger ticket SEO tasks:

  • Create great content
  • Ensure your site is crawlable
  • Make it easy to link to your site and ask for relevant links
  • Improve usability
  • Improve performance

This article was written as part of a series about SEO myths.

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