You want your site to be seen, right? Which means you want Google to index it, and you want to be able to get your pages shared in social media too. One of your best tools for getting your pages indexed and shared properly is to include all the necessary meta tags.
In a WordPress site, your easiest bet is probably to just use the Yoast SEO plugin (the free version will work fine, but you can also pay for the premium version to get even more options). If you don’t want to use Yoast, there are good ways to set it all up yourself with custom fields on each page, and then calling them in your template code. But that’s a post for another day. Today I’m just going to list out the meta tags in use most places now.
Believe it or not, there used to be many more meta tags. But a lot of them have become obsolete as things standardize more and more.
The first 6 are ones that should be on every single page of your site – but the robots line is probably the most important of all. They help with how your content is served on all browsers, including mobile devices.
There are a number of different parameters you can set for your robots meta tag. If you don’t want the robots to index your page at all, you would use “noindex, nofollow”. In the example below, I want the page to be indexed, but I don’t want the links in the page followed and indexed. You can read more about the robot meta tag here.
<html> <head> <meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=utf-8" /> <meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=ISO-8859-1"> <meta name=viewport content="width=device-width, initial-scale=1"> <meta name="robots" content="index, nofollow"> <title>Your Page Title Here</title> <meta name="title" content="Your Page Title Here" />
NOTE: KEYWORDS ARE NO LONGER A VALID FORM OF SEO.
Next we’ll talk about the “description” meta tag.
You may discover, frustratingly, that google doesn’t always use the description meta tag you put on your page. This is because they will choose between either your meta tag, the actual content it reads on your page, or pull from the Open Directory Project. So in some ways, you really aren’t in control of what Google will display for a given page. Frustrating, yes. But I still think it’s a worthwhile tag to use since they will choose it on many occasions. To quote from this (very old – 2011) article, “If Google can find the matching copy in your description, they’re more likely to use the tag as is.” So make sure that description really does match content on the page itself. Maybe even use your post/page “excerpt” there (in WordPress). Just remember also…just because Google doesn’t necessarily use the description meta tags, there ARE other search engines that DO.
According to the article above, you can attempt to keep Google from using ODP snippets by using this additional robots tag:
<meta name="robots" content="NOODP">
Personally, I wouldn’t worry about it if you’re matching actual content to your description. So, this would be your next tag inside:
<meta name="description" content="this would be a short, no more than 156 character, summary of the page"/>
The rest pertain to telling search engines and social media sites exactly what your page is about. They are a combination of regular, and Open Graph (og) tags. Twitter uses some specific meta tags as well, but if they aren’t present, they will use og tags.
og:image tag should be the main image depicting the content of the page. You will probably want to have a few different sizes here. All images associated with the meta tags need to be at least 200×200 px, or they aren’t likely to be used by social media sites or search engines. The image you use for social media specifically (as of November 15, 2021) can be the same size for Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, AND LinkedIn: 1200px x 630px. Remember that most of these are totally optional, and many may not apply to you or your specific needs.
<meta name="og:title" content="Your Page Title Here"/> <meta name="subject" content="Subject of your website"> <meta name="url" content="https://www.yourwebsite.com"> <meta name="og:url" content="https://www.yourwebsite.com/page-link"/> <meta property="og:image" content="https://www.yourwebsite.com/folder/images/imagename.jpg"/> <meta property="og:image:alt" content="describe image content here"> <meta name="og:email" content="email@example.com"/> <meta name="og:phone_number" content="123-456-7890"/> <meta name="og:street-address" content="123 East Main St"/> <meta name="og:locality" content="Anytown"/> <meta name="og:region" content="TN"/> <meta name="og:postal-code" content="12345"/> <meta name="og:country-name" content="USA"/> <meta name="twitter:card" content="summary"> <meta name="twitter:site" content="@yourtwitterhandle"> <meta name="twitter:title" content="Your Page Title Here"> <meta name="twitter:url" content="https://www.yourwebsite.com/page-link"> <meta name="twitter:description" content="This would be a short, no more than 200 character, summary of the page"> <meta name="twitter:image" content="https://www.yourwebsite.com/folder/images/imagename.jpg">
What other meta tags do you use and why? I’d be interested. Also, do you see any that have been deprecated? Let me know!