I’m continuing with my theme of responding to your emails about your biggest site issues.
A handful of you mentioned that you are struggling with ranking and optimizing your pages (specifically meta tags and understanding how on-page factors influence your rank).
Meta tags are descriptors within your page’s code. The search engines read them and also display them in the results.
Some of you use plugins like Yoast or All in One SEO, and they let you manually enter data for these tags. Or if you have a StudioPress theme (affiliate link) like me, the fields are built into the WordPress editor.
Yoast has a Content Analyzer that encourages you to optimize your meta title, description and other on-page factors.
I must say. Even though I don’t use an SEO plugin, I do think there are helpful aspects of Yoast, and they keep the plugin up-to-date.
But I’ve also noticed many assume meta tags carry more weight than they actually do. I’ve known people to completely stress themselves out over what to enter in those Yoast fields.
You should review Google’s guide that explains how they use the data.
Where The Value Really Lies
If you’d rather watch the video version, see below. If not, continue reading.
If you didn’t get the memo, high quality links are what drive the top 10 results now.
So if you are trying to rank for a competitive keyword, it doesn’t matter what you put inside those meta tags, you need strong links pointing to your site. And don’t forget about internal page linking too.
Now, if it’s a less competitive phrase, then the content on the page and meta tags play more of a role.
But once your content is actually ranking, you can use your meta title and description to get more clicks by making them more engaging. That’s where the real value lies.
Remember my last post about AdSense Contributor? (By the way, that’s an example of an internal. People often forget to link their pages internally.)
Well here’s how the post looks in the results as of November 23rd.
Are the meta tags helping me rank?
The meta title helps, but largely because I targeted a keyword with low competition.
While I’d love for you to think I’m an SEO Goddess and I can rank for anything I want, no doubt the lack of competition helps.
Also, I don’t even have a meta description. No real reason other than the fact I just forgot to add one. I do this a lot.
But notice the title above.
I wanted to write something that really stands out so if it does rank, it will give people a reason to click.
To me, that’s the real value of meta tags today.
It’s not just about entering your target keywords. Type something interesting to get people’s attention.
Ten years ago, I would put more emphasis on the keywords I insert. Now I look at them more as an assistant for getting clicks once/if the page ranks well.
Yes, they still have value (except for the Keyword tag and engines admit they ignore it), but I personally feel the title and description are more helpful AFTER your site ranks.
And be careful of stuffing too many of the same keywords into these tags. This can actually cause a penalty if you overdo it.
Speaking of stuffing, have a Happy Thanksgiving! Sorry, couldn’t resist.