Meta tags and the head section of a website (2022)

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This post was originally published on Aug. 26, 2015, and was updated on August 1, 2019 and April 5, 2021.

One key component of every web page — every well-optimized web page, that is — is the meta tags. These are the parts of the webpage that tell Google and other search engines what a site is called, what it’s about, whether search bots can index it, what the keywords are, how it should look, and even where it’s located.

Some meta tags are more important than others, and if you’re not careful, you can waste a lot of time and effort trying to fill out tags that really won’t do your website any good.

Related: Beginner’s guide to search engine optimization for small business websites

Quick-start guide to meta tags

This article, which reflects important changes in Google’s search algorithms, will tell you important things like:

  • Where can you find meta tags?
  • What do meta tags do?
  • What meta tags do you need?
    • Title tag
    • Meta description tag
    • Meta robots tag
    • Open Graph tags
    • Meta keyword tag
    • Other HTML meta tags
  • Conclusion and next steps.

Let’s get started.

Meta tags and the head section of a website (1)There are three basic parts to a website:

  1. the Head (or header)
  2. the Body
  3. the Footer

Think of your body as a website. Your head is clearly the header, the footer is your feet and your torso is, well, you get the picture.

The header and the footer of a website are pretty much the same on every single page.

Traditionally, you would put your company name and logo in the header, your operating hours, address, and phone number in the footer. The body section of each page will change depending on what you put in there, but the header and footer will always remain the same.

Editor’s note: Want to create a stunning logo for your business? Give our free logo maker a try today.

Look at the top of this page from GoDaddy. At the very top is the banner — GoDaddy, Help, How-To, etc. That’s the header. If you visit another page on the GoDaddy blog, that part will stay exactly the same.

Meta tags and the head section of a website (2)
Now scroll all the way to the bottom of that page. Did you see that blue banner down there, with all the text in it and below it? That’s the footer.

Meta tags and the head section of a website (3)

(Video) Learn HTML meta tags in 3 minutes 🏷️

If you visit another GoDaddy blog page, that banner and its information will stay exactly the same, too.

It’s the body text, the part that you’re reading, that will change with every new page you visit.

The purpose of the header and footer is to provide a template for each and every page on a website. This is so you don’t have to code a header and footer every single time you create a new page.

And since the header and footer are permanent, it makes sense that you stick important code like meta tags inside the header. You could put it in the footer, but that’s a bad idea.

That’s because the search engine bots will only crawl so much of a web page before they leave again. The only way to guarantee that the bots will see this important meta code is to put it at the very top where Google assumes it will be.

Think of a website as having a “crawl budget.” The search engine bots will crawl a portion of your website. If you have a lot of unnecessary code, or you put your important information down in the footer, your crawl budget may not cover the important stuff because the bots had to get through the unnecessary things.

(It’s like eating a salad when you’re going out for pizza. You don’t really want to waste valuable room on salad, do you? No, you want to save it all for pizza! That’s how a crawl budget works.)

So now that you know where the meta tags are kept, what do they do exactly?

Related: 10 ways to improve Google keyword ranking

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What do meta tags do?

Meta tags are a part of your search engine optimization (SEO).

SEO is where you teach the search engines what your website and all its individual pages and digital assets (e.g. images, videos, and documents) are about.

For example, Google, Bing, and Yahoo will all know that this page is about meta tags for websites and meta tags SEO, partly because of the headline and the keywords.

The job of the meta tags is to define an individual web page’s subject matter or the page’s target keyword.

Some meta tags are more important than others, but it is crucial they all align with the page’s target keyword.

For example, the meta description tag tells us what a particular page is about. It’s the brief blurb about the page’s content and what we can expect to find.

As recently as seven years ago, you could write a killer description that would persuade Google to rank your webpage higher than your competition’s. You had to do things like use your keywords in the very early part of the description — in the first four words, if you could swing it, no matter how bad it sounded to human readers — and make sure your keyword appeared in the title, URL and body text the right number of times.

If all those things matched, your web page could rank pretty high for that keyword.

Of course, we can never have nice things on the internet, and people started creating some pretty awful web pages that did what Google wanted, but people hated. It got so bad, the internet was filling up with all these terrible web pages that tricked Google, but were otherwise unreadable and unusable by humans.

So Google banned a bunch of common SEO tactics because these SEO spammers ruined it for everyone.

Today, the function of the meta description is to get people to read your page.

(Video) Meta Tags and The Head of HTML Documents #tryminim

When your web page shows up in a Google search result, the thing people are going to read about your page is your meta description. If you’ve written a good one, they’re more likely to read your page. If you’ve written a poor one or you didn’t write one at all and let Google try to make its own, people are less likely to read your page in the first place.

This means your meta description is still valuable, but only because it entices people to visit your website rather than tricking Google into thinking yours is the best.

The other meta tags have different functions, telling Google how to behave, what to show and what your site is/does/has, but you only need a few of them.

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Here are the most important meta tags, and a brief description of how they work. Some of these tags help the people visiting your site, others help Google and/or the web browsers decide how to behave.

Title tag

The title tag is part of the SEO trinity. This tag must align completely with the page’s URL and content, the other two legs of the stool. This is one of the strongest signals that inform the search engines that a page is about a particular topic, which directly impacts keyword ranking.

When the search engine bots visit a website, they look at all the pages’ titles in order to learn what each of them is about.

The title is different from a page’s headline. The headline is what people will see when your page pops up on a social network like Facebook. The title is what the search engine bots see. Just remember this simple mnemonic:

H is for headlines, which are read by humans, T is for titles which are read by — dammit! Never mind.

If you’re curious whether you should favor one over the other, the answer is no — they’re both equally important. People won’t click on a nonsensical or boring headline, bots won’t understand clever headlines that don’t include keywords. Go ahead and use the keyword in both.

Here are some basic best practices for creating an optimized title tag:

  • Use a maximum of 65 characters (including spaces).
  • The page’s target keyword should be at the beginning.
  • Each page must have one title tag.
  • Each title tag must be unique (never use the same title tag on other pages).
  • Branding always appears at the end of the title tag. That adds to your character count.
  • Separate the title from the branding with a hyphen or a | pipe (that’s the symbol above the \ key).
  • If there’s room, be sure to put your company name or your own name in the title tag. If there’s no room, leave it out. People will know where they are because you put the branding at the top of the page.

Meta tags and the head section of a website (4)A user sees the title tag on the search engine results page (SERP). The user will not see this content on the web page itself. It’s hidden so only the bots can see it.

Pro tip: If you use WordPress as your content management system, I strongly recommend you use the Yoast SEO plugin, although there are others available as well. It will help you automatically create your title tags, which you can adjust on your own. It also gives you a place to write your meta description tag. Speaking of which, let’s look at the …

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Meta description tag

The meta description tag indirectly impacts keyword ranking and greatly influences SERP click-through rate, but not for the reasons you might think.

Seven or eight years ago, your meta description tag could fool Google into ranking you higher if you were clever — and dishonest and underhanded — about how you wrote it.

But Google got smart, and they no longer consider meta descriptions in determining page rank. Where it does come into play is helping other people know what your page is about.

If you write a boring meta description, or you don’t use the keywords in your description, and someone sees it on a search engine results page, they will be less inclined to click through to your page. And Google actually does take click-through rates into account.

The more people click through to your page on their SERPs, the better your page will perform. The less they click, the worse it will perform.

So, if you have a bad meta description, your page will have a tougher time catching people’s attention. And if you don’t write one at all, Google will pick its own text from your page in what it hopes is a good enough description of the content. In fact, an article on the ahrefs blog said that Google rewrites meta descriptions 62.78% of the time. You can imagine how cold and un-artful those search bots can be. Do you really want to trust them to make this decision?

Here are some basic rules to follow when writing a meta description tag:

(Video) How to Add Custom Meta Tags To WordPress Head

  • Never exceed 150 characters, including spaces. If you use Yoast SEO to write your meta description, it will tell you whether you’ve gone over that limit.
  • Put the page’s target keyword near the beginning of this tag.
  • Each page must have one meta description tag.
  • Each meta description tag must be unique (never use the same description on other pages).
  • Use call-to-action language that will convince the user to click on your search result.

Meta tags and the head section of a website (5)Users will see this snippet on the SERP, although it will not be visible on your web page.

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Meta robots tag

Use meta robots tags with caution! You really need to know how to properly deploy this tag, and you need to clearly understand the various directives of this tag. If you don’t, leave it alone.

The meta robots tag tells search engine bots how to behave on your site — which areas they can visit and record, which pieces of content they can avoid or ignore, dress code, curfew, things like that.

But mostly, it’s the first two things: what to visit and record, what to avoid and ignore.

Some of the robots tag commands instruct the search engines to index and follow a page and some tell search engines to, well, not index and follow it. As you might have guessed, these are the NOINDEX and NOFOLLOW tags.

If you use either or both of these tags, you will receive zero organic search engine referrals. Those pages will be completely ignored and unseen by the search engine bots.

The three main robot tags are:

  • <META NAME=”ROBOTS” CONTENT=”NOINDEX, FOLLOW”>
  • <META NAME=”ROBOTS” CONTENT=”INDEX, NOFOLLOW”>
  • <META NAME=”ROBOTS” CONTENT=”NOINDEX, NOFOLLOW”>

The first line tells the engines to not include that page in their search index, but to follow all the hyperlinks on that page. (That is, follow a hyperlink to where it goes, whether it’s another page on that website, or a page on a whole different website.)

The second line tells the engines to index the page, but to not follow the links on the page that point to other pages. (In other words, ignore all the hyperlinks on the site.)

The final line of instructions tells the engines to ignore the page and all the links on the page. That effectively renders the page useless for organic referral traffic. You might use this on a page or a blog article that you need to keep on a website for historic purposes, but you don’t want the search engines to keep track of it or include it in search results.

You would use one of these lines on a particular page, not all three at the same time.

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Open Graph tags

Open Graph Tags (OG Tags)are used for crafting customized share messaging on some social network platforms.

Basically, if you want to share informationfrom a particular web page on a different social network like Facebook or Twitter, you need these tags.

They will tell those networks what information to display whenever you share a link from your site.

For example, if you have ever pasted a link from a news story in a Facebook or Twitter status update, and it populated the headline and a photo, that’s a social graph. And it’s the OG tags that told the network how to do that.

Here are the typical OG tags used on a website:

  • meta property=”og:title”
  • meta property=”og:description”
  • meta property=”og:type”
  • meta property=”og:url”
  • meta property=”og:image”
  • meta property=”og:site_name”

These tags do not impact ranking directly. However, studies have shown the top ranking pages for competitive keywords tend to have the most share totals from Twitter, Facebook and other networks. (If you’re still not sure what you need, ask your web designer.)

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Meta keyword tag

What can I say? Meta keyword tags really serve no constructive purpose for nearly every search engine around the world, including Bing (U.S.), Baidu (China), and Naver (South Korea). (There’s a possibility that Yandex, the Russian search engine, may use keyword tags, but they’re a very low weight.) Most search engine professionals ignore it too.

(Video) How to Add Meta Tags to WordPress Head

Google does not give this tag any weight, but if abused it can lead to a penalty.

People used to abuse this particular tag by stuffing it with keywords. You could see a couple dozen different variations on a single keyword — athletic shoes, women’s athletic shoes, men’s athletic shoes, children’s athletic shoes, etc. etc. etc. — in the hopes that someone somewhere might search for that one niche keyword — mismatched corrective orthopedic athletic shoes.

Those dirty rotten spammers ruined it for everyone, and, as a result, no one can benefit from meta keyword tags now.

I can think of one reason to keep track of your keywords, and that’s if you use an SEO plugin like Yoast, which I mentioned earlier. Yoast needs to know your main keywords in order to determine if you’re meeting their ranking criteria.

Another reason to keep track of your keywords is to make sure that you’re not blogging about the same thing over and over and over. Yoast will actually tell you if you’ve written about that keyword too many times before, which is another SEO spam tactic.

Related: How to use Bing Webmaster Tools to improve your site’s SEO

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Other HTML meta tags

There are dozens of other meta tagsthat can be used in the head section of a website. There are tags for the subject of the page, the geographic location of the page/your business, the owner, your email address, the date and so on.

However, you should avoid them completely.

Every line of code impacts page load speed, and you want your web pages to load as fast as possible.

A faster loading page is super important for improving your SEO.

Since those other tags don’t help with SEO and can negatively impact page load speed, it is best to avoid using them.

Also, remember what I said earlier about your crawl budget? You could waste your crawl budget on unnecessary meta tags, so the fewer meta tags you have in your header, the better for your crawl budget.

There is one exception, however: the Viewport tag. According to Moz:

“In this mobile world, you should be specifying the viewport. If you don’t, you run the risk of having a poor mobile experience.”

Over the last few years, Google has put a lot more time, energy, and resources into helping users to have a positive mobile experience. So much so that, even if you had a great desktop version of your website, if you have a poor mobile version, your desktop version will fall in the rankings. So don’t ignore your mobile experience.

The Google PageSpeed Insights Tool will tell you more about the viewport tag. The standard tag is: <meta name=viewport content=”width=device-width, initial-scale=1″>

If you’re doing your own SEO and you’re relying on Yoast SEO to write your description and title tag, that’s fine. But if you have no idea of what you’re doing, leave this tag to your designer or developer. Let them tell you what to do with it, or better yet, let them do it themselves.

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Conclusion and next steps

Meta tags are an important part of every website, but they don’t have the impact they did just a few short years ago. But that doesn’t mean you should ignore them. If used correctly, your SEO meta tags can still have an effect on your page’s search rankand online performance.

Do you want to know more about SEO and how to use the different meta tags? Or, do you want to leave the SEO and meta tags to the experts?

(Video) 27: Which HTML Meta Tags Are Required in A Website? | Learn HTML and CSS | HTML Tutorial | HTML SEO

If it’s the latter, reach out to the pros at GoDaddy SEO Services to get your site the attention it deserves. Learn how you can work less and rank higher. If it’s the former, I recommend reading everything you can on the Moz.com blog. They’re the leaders in search engine optimization, and are up on the latest Google practices and updates. Also, if you’re a WordPress user, get the Yoast plugin and read their blog; they also keep up with the latest SEO research and can help you use the Yoast blog to its fullest extent.

This article includes content originally published on the GoDaddy blog by Garth O’Brien.

FAQs

What are meta tags in head? ›

The <meta> tag defines metadata about an HTML document. Metadata is data (information) about data. <meta> tags always go inside the <head> element, and are typically used to specify character set, page description, keywords, author of the document, and viewport settings.

What is the head section of a website? ›

It contains information such as the page <title> , links to CSS (if you choose to style your HTML content with CSS), links to custom favicons, and other metadata (data about the HTML, such as the author, and important keywords that describe the document).

Do meta tags have to be in the head? ›

META tags are only allowed within HEAD (just like, say, TITLE) so by putting it into a BODY, you're essentially creating an invalid markup.

How do you add a meta tag to the head section in HTML? ›

To add meta tags to a web page, you need to edit the <head> section of the HTML file. There are two methods you can use to edit HTML files: If the file already exists on your website, you can download it using an FTP client and then edit it using your preferred text editor.

What is head section in HTML? ›

The <head> element is a container for metadata (data about data) and is placed between the <html> tag and the <body> tag. HTML metadata is data about the HTML document. Metadata is not displayed. Metadata typically define the document title, character set, styles, scripts, and other meta information.

What is meta tag example? ›

Search engines such as Google use metadata from meta tags to understand additional information about the webpage. They can use this information for ranking purposes, to display snippets in search results, and sometimes they can ignore meta tags. Example of meta tags include the <title> and <description> elements.

What is the difference between title and head tag? ›

The main difference between a page title and an h1 tag is that the page title is shown in the browser window and search results snippet while the h1 tag is only shown on the page itself. The page title is defined in the HTML <head> section while the H1 tag is part of the <body> of a page.

What meta tags are important for SEO? ›

The two most important meta tags:

Title tags: which specifies the title of a webpage. This is the page title that Google shows in the search results. Meta descriptions: which quite simply describe your page's content. Search engines often use it for the snippet in search results.

What is the difference between head and body tag in HTML? ›

(i) The HEAD tag defines the HTML document header. (ii) It contains the information such as page title. (i) The BODY tag defines the body of the document. (ii) It contains the entire contents that will appear in the web browser window.

Do meta tags affect SEO? ›

Meta tags are important for SEO because they make sure search engines know what your content is about. Based on these tags, search engines will be able to show the website in the appropriate results. This way, people can find you easily.

What is a meta description for a website? ›

A meta description tag generally informs and interests users with a short, relevant summary of what a particular page is about. They are like a pitch that convince the user that the page is exactly what they're looking for.

Does order of meta tags matter? ›

Yes, order matters. The browser procedurally processes HTML. If the meta tag is first, Internet Explorer knows to use Compatibility Mode almost as soon as it starts parsing the document. Otherwise, it's already started parsing and processed everything else - your CSS, JavaScript, not in Compatibility Mode.

How do I add a meta tag to my website? ›

Click SEO Basics.
  1. Click the Advanced SEO tab. Click Additional Tags. Click + Add New Tag.
  2. Add your meta tag code in the HTML Code field. Click Apply.
  3. Important: It's not possible to delete the default meta tags that Wix adds to your site. You can only delete additional meta tags.

What are website tags? ›

What is a web tag? For professionals working in the marketing or analytics space, a web tag or website tag is a tool used to either gather data from or add functionality to a website.

Why will you use meta tag in HTML? ›

They are just used to give additional information about the HTML document. The <meta> tags are added to our HTML document for the purpose of Search Engine Optimisation. They are added inside the <head> tag & are used by browsers, search engines & other web services.

What is meant by head section? ›

Section Head means a person appointed in charge of a section within a department of the laboratory and any employee substantially employed as one of the aforementioned who may from time to time use different titles. Sample 1Sample 2Sample 3. Based on 20 documents.

What is meant by head section in computer? ›

In an HTML file, the html head is the first section in the code containing information about a web page's properties and links to external related files. For example, in the HTML head, you can have the title of the page, meta tags, CSS code, Open Graph tags, and JavaScript code.

How do I write meta tags? ›

  1. Do stick to character counts— Title tag should be around 60 – 72 characters in length or about 5 – 10 words. Meta description should be no longer than 135 – 160 characters.
  2. Don't exceed counts—The search engines will simply cut off excess text, potentially causing your links and descriptions to be less readable.
18 Aug 2017

Is meta tag necessary? ›

Meta tags are important because they impact how your site appears in the SERPs and how many people will be inclined to click through to your website. They will therefore impact your traffic and engagement rates, which can impact your SEO and rankings. Meta tags are an important part of a solid SEO strategy.

How many meta tags should I use? ›

As a general rule, don't use more than about 10 meta keywords for a single page.

› watch ›

In this video I show you what's in the HTML Head Tag Section of your web page.Thea head tag in HTML is primarily for the web browser and search engines and ...
The tag contains technical information about the web page, referred to as metada. Tag description, attributes and using examples.
This tag links External style sheets. External stylesheets are the CSS files(Cascading Style Sheets) which style your HTML document. In laymen terms, CSS makes ...

What meta tags are important for SEO? ›

The two most important meta tags:

Title tags: which specifies the title of a webpage. This is the page title that Google shows in the search results. Meta descriptions: which quite simply describe your page's content. Search engines often use it for the snippet in search results.

What is difference between title and head tag? ›

The main difference between a page title and an h1 tag is that the page title is shown in the browser window and search results snippet while the h1 tag is only shown on the page itself. The page title is defined in the HTML <head> section while the H1 tag is part of the <body> of a page.

What is the use of title and head tag? ›

The <head></head> element must include a title for the document, and can include scripts, styles, meta information, and more. The <title> tag is required in all HTML documents and it defines the title of the document.

Can you have two head tags HTML? ›

As per W3C standards, you can not have two HEAD tags.

What are the 3 meta attributes? ›

Meta Keywords Attribute – A series of keywords you deem relevant to the page in question. Title Tag – This is the text you'll see in the SERP and at the top of your browser. Search engines view this text as the “title” of your page. Meta Description Attribute – A brief description of the page.

What are meta tags used for in a website? ›

Meta tags are pieces of information you use to tell the search engines and those viewing your site more about your page and the information it contains. Meta tags include: Title tags: the title of your page, which should be unique for every page you publish. Meta description: a description of the content on the page.

Where is the head tag? ›

The head tag is placed between the opening <HTML> and <body> tags at the beginning of the HTML file. The metadata in the head tag is not displayed, but the information is used by browsers and by search engines.

Is head tag necessary in HTML? ›

In HTML 5 it is not mandatory to include a <head> tag inside the HTML document but in previous versions(4.0. 1) it was mandatory to include it. The tags like <title>, <meta> or <link> which are generally contained inside head will also work fine without the <head> tag or outside the <head> tag.

What is the difference between head and body tag in HTML? ›

(i) The HEAD tag defines the HTML document header. (ii) It contains the information such as page title. (i) The BODY tag defines the body of the document. (ii) It contains the entire contents that will appear in the web browser window.

What is head tag example? ›

The <head> element is a container for metadata (data about data) and is placed between the <html> tag and the <body> tag. Metadata is data about the HTML document. Metadata is not displayed. Metadata typically define the document title, character set, styles, scripts, and other meta information.

What is head title? ›

In addition to Keith's answer, the word/title "head" usually implies that there is only a single person in charge of whatever the area is. This is a key difference from VP, which implies seniority without requiring a title change later on if another VP is brought on in the same area.

How many heading tags are there in HTML? ›

HTML headings are defined with the <h1> to <h6> tags. <h1> defines the most important heading. <h6> defines the least important heading.

Why do we use head tags? ›

The <head> tag in HTML is used to define the head portion of the document which contains information related to the document. The <head> tag contains other head elements such as <title>, <meta>, <link>, <style> <link> etc. In HTML 4.01 the <head> element was mandatory but in HTML5, the <head> element can be omitted.

Which of the following tags can't be placed inside head section? ›

The <head> of a page can include different kinds of <meta> elements that may contain name and content attributes. The <script> tag contains a script (generally JavaScript), or reference to an external file with scripts. This element may not be included in <head>.

How do you use metadata? ›

Best Practices to Write Effective Metadata
  1. Keep it concise. Meta titles need to be short but sweet – Google typically displays the first 50–60 characters of a title tag. ...
  2. Include the focus keyword. ...
  3. Include a call-to-action. ...
  4. Match the title & description to your content. ...
  5. Make sure they're unique.

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2. Adding code into the "head" section of your website
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3. Meta Tags - Understanding What Meta Tags are
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