How much time should I spend on meta tags, and which ones matter?
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How much time should I spend on meta tags, and which ones matter?


Today’s question comes
from the Bay Area, because it’s my question. And Matt Cutts asks, “How much
time should I spend on meta tags, and which ones matter?”
So the conventional wisdom a few years ago was that meta
tags mattered a whole lot. You really had to tweak them and
spent a lot of time to get your keywords right. And did you have a space, or a
comma between your keywords, and all that kind of stuff? And we’ve mostly evolved
past that. But the pendulum might have gone
a little bit too far in the other direction, because a
lot of people sometimes say, don’t think at all
about meta tags. Don’t spend any time
whatsoever on them. And so let me give you
a more nuanced view. You shouldn’t spend any time
on the meta keywords tag. We don’t use it. I’m not aware of any major
search engine that uses it these days. It’s a place that people
don’t really see when they load the browser. And so a lot of webmasters
just keyword stuff there. And so it’s really not
all that helpful. So we don’t use meta
keywords at all. But we do use the meta
description tag. The meta description is really
handy, because if we don’t know what would make a good
snippet, and you have something in the meta
description tag that would basically give a pretty
good answer– maybe it matches what the user
typed in or something along those lines, then we do reserve
the right to show that meta description tag
as the snippet. So we can either show the
snippet that might be the keyword in context on the page
or the meta description. Now, if the meta description
is really well written and really compelling, then a person
who sees it might click through more often. So if you’re a good SEO,
someone who is paying attention to conversion and not
just rankings on trophy phrases, then you might want
to pay some attention to testing different meta
descriptions that might result in more clickthrough and
possibly more conversions. So don’t do anything deceptive,
like you say you’re about apples when you’re really
about red widgets that are completely unrelated
to apples. But if you have a good and a
compelling meta description, that can be handy. There are a lot of
other meta tags. I think in the metadata for this
video, we can link to a really good page of
documentation that we had, that sort of talks about which
stuff we pay attention to and which stuff we don’t
pay attention to. But at a 50,000-foot level,
don’t pay attention to the keywords meta tag. But the description meta tag is
worth paying attention to.

41 Comments

  • Die1101

    @MichaelDadona Most commonly, because the user's query is better helped by showing the relevant parts of the page (where the keywords appear) instead of the generic meta description. Try doing a site: search. It could also be that your description is low-quality (too short, duplicate, spammy). There are other possible issues like your page being blocked by robots.txt, but I assume that's not your case.

  • Die1101

    @MichaelDadona Use both! The meta description is a human-readable overview of what a page is about, while schema.org markup is machine-readable information that can be used in various ways, including rich snippets.

  • Die1101

    Yes. It matters from an indexing point-of-view because whatever words appear in the description are considered towards relevance. And it matters from a user point-of-view because a good description is likely to attract more clicks from the search results.

  • Irene Cros

    I just wanted to say, I don't mind if you point or you 'generalise' , I think your answers are clear, to the point and extremely helpful !

  • Dan K

    Question: My website (ASP Classic) has Integrated Meta Tags (Title, Description and Keywords). Will this effect my SEO Rankings and if so, how to fix it ?

  • Spiros Crawford

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  • Ace Site Creator

    That should be common sense. Of course meta keywords tags are finished as you can put anything there but you still want to give people a good description.

  • Kurt Margolis

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  • Spook SEO

    The meta description is a good foot in teh door tool for those who konws how to use it. Do it right, then people will come clicking your link. But if you make it boring and seem irrelevant to what they are looking for, then you'll end up with zero clicks!

  • EverSpark Interactive

    A good rule of thumb for meta titles and meta descriptions is to include wording that will best describe the website and what it has to offer.

  • andares panify

    come on you can't change everything all the time..in this way you confused the people instead to help them..google is a service for the people..not to work the people whith changes every month as google wish..you cant make rules by your own..there got a be some global rules

  • RankYa

    Yes, Matt, meta tags do matter for letting visitors know what the page Google brings is all about at. And as you said if it is well written and compelling then CTR does in fact increase.

  • Graphicxtras.com

    would love to see the meta description used on my pages, most of the time the snippet chosen is some random (and generally poor choice) snippet – out of context and just featuring the words. Rarely does the snippet help promote the site at all as it is often something odd like the navigation menu or worse. Be great if there was some way in google webmaster to indicate a preference for the actual description to be used for the page and not a random snippet

  • Aykin Cakaloz

    Interesting…
    So, Why does YouTube use meta keywords? Especially, since it is the only place the keywords for the videos are displayed?

  • Andrey Trey

    why google+ ignored my og:image and itemprop="image" ? Google+ parse my page and get that image what they want (when I sharing news from my web site )

  • frms xgq

    <meta charset="utf-8">
    <meta name="Description" CONTENT="Author: A.N. Author, Illustrator: P. Picture, Category: Books, Price: £9.24, Length: 784 pages">
    <meta name="google-site-verification" content="+nxGUDJ4QpAZ5l9Bsjdi102tLVC21AIh5d1Nl23908vVuFHs34="/>
    <title>Example Books – high-quality used books for children</title>
    <meta name="robots" content="noindex,nofollow">

  • Ken Cox

    Can I ask you with meta-tags, I have a photography site hosted by site specializing in hosting for photographers. they insist on showing meta tags under each image, plus showing my meta description on each page, they say without it Google will penalize site which is new to me. It makes my site look amateurish. there is a script I can use to hide tags from showing and description. from what you have said tags don't matter no more and you would know so Im happy to just take them out all together rather than hide them with code but if I hide the description from my site with code will it cause a Google penalty like the image hosting company states. Also they also add letters and syllables instead of my image name claiming its for security they do says that Google will still find it as an alt tag but so far the only one I have seen come up is the image with there strange letters. so where I name an image to be descriptive like name of landscape for example one image I named The_Great_Mewstone _South_Devon but they they change it to i-Dg6j8fH nether is being seen by Google though I have only uploaded it a couple of days ago.

  • Martin Pultz

    Seems like a lot of these videos could be revisited since I'm looking for answers on SEO, meta, etc, but these questions were asked almost 6 years ago and I don't know if they are still relevant so even after watching this I still feel compelled to keep searching the internet for a more recent answer.

  • Ella Blun

    this may be good description of the two meta tags, but what about other meta tags? apparently, you can't get a lighthouse (chrome devtools) gold star ranking if you don't use theme color meta tag. and apparently, meta tags can force your page to reload, anew, everytime you hit the reload button, even if you run service workers which render even the ctrl + f5 useless. these two I found out in last week. I knew about keywords and description and robots and author, ever since I started diddling with html, years ago. viewport I learned about few months ago, when I decided to refresh and catch up on current tech in order to start searching for a better job (I'm not employed as web developer so in all these years, I would typically do a week of making something, and then months of no activity, so these things never ranked as high priority) but these two finds from last week, make me think that meta tags are extremely powerful, and that there might be shit ton of things they can actually do, and it's impossible to discover it unless you search for a particular issue you are having, cause everyone is just talking about description and keywords, and occasionally about robots and viewport.

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