Google’s SEO tagging best practices, and the website tags they value have changed dramatically over the last decade. When I first started doing search engine optimization almost ten years ago, there were a ton of SEO Tags that were added to a website to help it’s content to become more relevant for a keyword. Over the years, most of those tags, such as the meta keywords tag, have lost value, and thus don’t impact rankings or content relevance. There are still a few that have value, of which you will find the SEO tag best practices for below.
SEO Title Tag Best Practices
What Is The Title Tag?
Title tags, also known as SEO title tags or meta page titles for SEO, are often used on search engine results pages to display preview snippets for a given web page and are important both for SEO and social media sharing. The title element of a web page is meant to be an accurate and concise description of a page’s content.
Much like the meta description tag, Google can pull different SEO title tags to display in their search results based on search query and what they feel is the intent of the searcher. Bill Ross, CEO of Project 320, a Durham SEO Company
SEO Title Tag Structure
There are many theories on how to best structure your title tag to impact rankings. Some say that you should put your keywords first, others say it does not matter all that much. We are on the side of the later. Title tags should include keywords, but should also be conversational in nature and not just a list of keywords.
SEO Title Tag Length
Originally the length of the title tag for SEO was 70 characters including spaces, but more recently it was discovered the Google defines length by pixels more than purely by character count. Google calculate the pixel width of the characters used in titles with a limit of 512 pixels. Anything over this limit, Google truncate the title and include an ellipsis.
Description Tag Best Practices
What Is The Meta Description Tag?
The description tag, also known as the meta description tag or SEO meta description tag, is the short snippet that is shown under your search result within Google’s Search results.
Where Does Google Get The Description Tag From?
Many times websites owners don’t understand where Google gets the description tag from. They can’t understand why the snippet they wrote is not showing up, or why different search terms produce different description tags for the same page. There are two primary tactics Google uses to create your meta description tag.
The Description Tag You Write
This version will show up most of the time if the keyword the user searched for is in that tag. For this reason, it makes it important that when defining your description tags, you put the primary keyword target of each page in the description tag.
The User’s Search Query
The second way Google builds the description tag is generating it based on the search query. Google reads through the on-page content to find the keyword a user searched for, and pieces together the keyword, and a word or two on either side of it, and uses this mash-up as the description tag in the search results.
Description Tag Structure
When writing the description tag for your website, the best way to think about the structure and what to include, is to think of it as a paid search ad. The content of the description tag is used to entice the Google user to click on your listing by giving them targeted information about what to expect on your web page.
Description Tag Length
Meta descriptions can be any length, but search engines generally truncate snippets longer than 160 characters. It is best to keep meta description length between 150 and 160 characters.
Canonical Tag Best Practices
What Are Canonical Tags?
Canonical tags are used by the search engines to consolidate pages that a website owner defines as duplicates. Each web page that is duplicative of the canonical version of the page gets a canonical tag placed in the header that defines the canonical version.
Canonical tags can be used for internal duplicate content, meaning on the same domain, or they can be used as cross domain canonical tags, where duplicate content exists across different domains.
Should Every Page Have A Canonical Tag?
Every page should have a canonical tag, even if there are no known duplicates. If there are no known duplicates, simply use a self-referencing canonical tag to point to the page. This will help if there are marketing campaigns that utilize the page where the URL is altered for the purpose of tracking the marketing campaign’s results.
How Long Does It Take Google To Find Canonical Tags?
The answer to this question is not straightforward. Because canonical tags are simply recommendations, Google does not need to honor them. Thus, it can take weeks or months for a website to see an impact of a canonical tag campaign.
Structure of Canonical Tags
Canonical tags are placed in the header area of the code and are defined by using the following.
<link href=”http://mysite.com/canonical-version/” rel=”canonical” />
H1 Tag Best Practices
What Are H1 Tags?
H1 Tags are the header tag that defines the primary topics of a web page. They are used by both search engines and users, just in slightly different ways.
Search engines use the SEO H1 tag to help understand the primary topic of the page; whereas users use the H1 tag as a reference point that signals they have landed on the correct page.
How Many H1 Tags Should A Web Page Have?
A web page should have one H1 tag per page. This tag should represent the primary topic of the page and fall between 50-100 characters.
Image Alt Tag Best Practices
What Are Alt Tags?
The term “ALT tag” is a common shorthand term used to refer to the ALT attribute within in at image tag. Any time you use an image on a website, be sure to include an ALT tag within the image tag. Doing so will provide a clear text alternative of the image for users who are using screen readers.
The ALT tag is also used by search engines as anchor text when an image links to another web page – thus passing link relevancy for a specific topic.
How Long Should Alt Tags Be?
There is not a defined length for an alt tag, but best practices for alt text define the length as somewhere between 3-5 words that describe the image.