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Meet the author:
Jill Olkoski

Jill has a MA in Clinical Psychology, a BS in Computer Science, and a BS in Mechanical Engineering.

She currently owns Aldebaran Web Design in Edmonds (near Seattle WA) and enjoys educating her clients on topics related to small business website design.

In Jill's previous life, she spent 17 years in the engineering and quality organizations of a Fortune 100 tech company.


What are Meta Tags and what role do they play in SEO – Search Engine Optimization?

March 26th, 2012

I often get clients asking questions about meta tags or some variation because someone has told them that these are really important things to have in their website. Hopefully this article will clear up the confusion a bit.

First thing to understand is that your web pages are made up of code, mostly html, with perhaps other languages mixed in (javascript, php, etc). Your web browser interprets this code and displays your website. But some code isn’t about how your website looks. There are certain “tags” (part of html code) that are called “meta tags” because they contain “meta” information, or a summary of the web page.

These meta tags do nothing to your website’s appearance, and you can’t see them unless you view the source code of your website. When you view your source code of a particular page, you look at the top, in the <head> section, and look for two meta tags: <title> and <meta name=”Description“…>.

These two meta tags, “title” and “description” are the only two meta tags that matter. There used to be a meta tag called “keywords” but Google ignores it so I do as well.

To understand how search engines use these two tags, please watch this video that Matt Cutts from Google made.

Ok, now that you’ve seen the video, you understand that these two tags are used by search engines to do two things. First they help your search engine rankings, assuming that the title tag actually matches keywords that are on your page. Secondly, the description tag helps humans to decide whether or not to click on the title that is showing up in search results.

In general, the title tag should not be more than 60 or 70 characters. Descriptions can be longer, between 160 and 200 characters. But remember from the video, Google may or may not display the description tag in it’s search results depending on the keywords entered in the search.

So to see your own meta tags, just view the source code of the page, and look up near the top for “title” and “description”. Each page should have a different title and description tag, because each page has different content and keywords. The most important keywords in the content, should be reflected in the title tag of the page.

For example, if you are a psychologist who does therapy in Miami, your keywords are “psychologist” “therapy” and “Miami” – and they should be both in the title tag, description, and all throughout the content of the home page of your website.


J. Olkoski
Aldebaran Web Design, Seattle
Jill Olkoski has a BS in Engineering, a BS in Computer Science and an MA in Clinical Psychology. She delights in using her advanced technical and psychological skills to help small business owners develop cost-effective and successful websites.

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