Which Meta Tags Should I Be Using In 2020?

Originally Published January 2014 | Updated November 2019

Search engine optimization (SEO) techniques that were tolerated a few years ago are now considered major no-no’s and those who rely on them to manipulate Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) are penalized by Google, Yahoo, and Bing. And other elements, like certain meta tags, for instance, have negligible SEO value and don’t influence a company’s position in search engine results.

Generally, there are meta tags we should ignore completely now and in 2020, and others we should focus our attention on that could actually enhance the online visibility of a business.

Woman working on two computer screens

Basic Things That You Should Know About Meta Tags

Since the early days of search engines, various meta tags have been in use to manipulate ranking in SERPs. The late 2000s and early 2010s were a wild west of meta tags, with stuffing of keywords mandatory to land at the top of search results.

These days, there are multiple meta tags to ignore, some to use lightly, and others to concentrate on to provide a smooth user experience. Very few will have an outsize effect on your search engine ranking anymore.

Title Tag

Title tags are the first element search engines and searchers will see, and appear in the section of your page. It specifics the name of the particular web page to visitors. Title tags show up in both the browser tab and in search results. Title tags should be relevant to the topic of the page, and shouldn’t be stuffed with keywords. Generally, you want to keep them within 55 characters or less.

Example

<*title>Cohlab | Website Design, Internet Marketing | St. Cloud, MN

Meta Description

The meta description is used to summarize your web page within 160 characters or fewer. This shows up in search results, if it’s good enough, right below your title tag. Write your meta description to solve the problem or answer the question posed in the title tag, while encouraging them to click for more information. Use your main keyword/keywords, but don’t stuff it full – they should be used naturally.

Example

<*meta name="description" content="We're a results-driven digital marketing agency in St. Cloud. We handle responsive web design/development, internet marketing/SEO & review management.">

Robots Meta Tag / Robots.TXT

Robots meta tag doesn’t give any detailed information to search engines about your page, but it’s exceedingly useful. Adding the robots meta tag can be a useful way of keeping some pages out of search results. If you have a page you don’t want in search results – like a login page, terms of service, credit card policy, etc. – you can use the robots meta tage to “no index” the page. It will then disappear from search results the next time that the search engine crawls it, but is still accessible on your website and by following links to it.

The standard for search engines is to index every page and follow every link out of the page. If you want to tell search engines to not index the page, you should use “noindex”. If you want them not to follow links out of your page, you should use “nofollow”.

Example

<*meta name="robots" content="noindex,nofollow">

Viewport Meta Tag

The viewport meta tag is used to control layout of web pages on mobile devices. Instead of defaulting to a computer-based view, it tells the website to check what device the user is browsing with before serving the page, and serving it at “100%” of that device’s viewscreen size.

Don’t use the viewport meta tag if your website isn’t responsive – it will backfire on you.

Example

<*meta name=”viewport” content=”width=device-width,initial-scale=1″>

Header Tag

Header tags are used within the content of your page. H1, H2, H3, H4, H5, and H6 are used in order from most important to least. Your title should usually be repeated in an H1 tag, so that the title of the page is represented on the page itself. Subheadings would be organized using H2-H6, similar to how a bulleted list would work.

Example
<*h1>Which Meta Tags Should I Be Using In 2020?</h1>

<*h2>Basic Things To Know About Meta Tags</h2>

<*h3>Header Tag</h3>

Alt Text Tag

Alt text is important for images. It allows screen readers for those with poor or non-existant eyesight to tell what the images you’re using are, and helps search engines understand the images too since they can’t see either. Alt text needs to be a short, clear, to-the-point description of what is happening in the image. You only get about 50 characters.

Example

<*img src="https://cohlab.com/..." alt"Woman working on two computer screens.">

What Search Engines Think About Meta Tags

Full color new Google logo

Meta tags don’t have much impact on web search ranking directly, but make the browising experience for your users much better, which can result in users staying on your website longer and visitng more pages. This, in turn is a ranking signal to search engines which can help you in the SERPs.