Title and Description Meta Tags in SEO
Meta tags are special HTML tags, the main function of which is to provide additional information about a web page, the so-called metadata. The three meta tags that are the most important for SEO optimization are the title, description, and keywords. One of the main tasks in the process of technical SEO-optimization of web pages is their correct filling.
Meta tags have a big impact on a site’s position in search results because Google’s search algorithms use them to understand the content of a web document. In addition, they have an indirect impact on attracting visitors to the site. The meta description tag allows a potential client to briefly review the content of a web document before clicking on a link. Consequently, the more interesting the page description text is, the more chances that the user will choose it from the search results.
Most webmasters and SEO pros are accustomed to using the title and description meta tags only once per page. It seems self-evident and few people think about it. Recently, an issue has been raised among SEOs. As a result, quite interesting facts emerged. Later in this article, we will find out how Google treats multiple meta tags and how it affects search results.
Meta Tags in the HTML5 Spec
First, let’s find out what the HTML5 markup language specification says about the number of meta tags in one web document:
Therefore, the page cannot have several identical title and description meta tags. What happens if you ignore the spec and add multiple headers and meta HTML descriptions to one web document?
Visually it will not be noticeable to users but the title and description meta tags are intended primarily for search engines. Will the crawler consider such pages as erroneous or will it index them like everyone else? We will try to understand this issue based on the statements of Google experts, For now, let’s look at the known errors that can cause poor indexing of a web document.
Indexing Web Pages With Errors
In the process of internal SEO-optimization of a website, a lot of attention is paid to technical optimization. This is a rather boring and repetitive process, especially if you need to optimize hundreds, if not thousands of pages. However, it is very important for the correct indexing of web documents. The specialists fill in all the necessary meta tags, optimize the content, and identify possible errors in the HTML code.
If there are errors in a web document, it is removed from indexing until the defects are eliminated. However, if you do not remove web pages with errors from indexing, how will Google’s algorithms handle it? Will this greatly affect the overall position of the site in search results?
There is no exact answer to these questions since the developers of search algorithms do not disclose all the technical details of their work. However, it is possible to draw some conclusions based on practical cases. Practice shows that a web document may not be indexed or indexed poorly for the following main reasons:
- Invalid encoding: Correct character encoding is very important for the correct display of content. If not, unreadable characters will be displayed on the user’s screen. Therefore, even if Google can read the information in a web document, users will immediately leave an unreadable page. This will negatively affect behavioral factors and the site’s position in search results.
- Incorrect configuration or absence of the sitemap.xml file, which provides the search robot with information about how the content on the site is organized. Read the related article – Sitemaps XML Guide.
- Incorrect redirects: in the process of technical optimization of a web document, you need to take care of the correct redirects, in particular the 301 redirect. This redirects Google to a different address. More information can be found in article 301 vs 302 Redirects.
- Incorrect HTTP headers: You can learn more by reading the article HTTPS vs. HTTP.
- Incorrect filling of meta tags.
As you can see, this list does not include the use of several identical meta tags.
Multiple Title and Description Meta Tags
Recently, a video was posted on the official YouTube Google Webmasters channel that allows us to draw some conclusions about the relationship of Google algorithms to error pages in HTML code. Google spokesman John Mueller was asked a question about the use of multiple title and description meta tags on the same web page.
Google’s response was mixed. According to John Mueller, if there are two meta description tags on the page, this will not be a problem for the crawler. It will simply combine the texts of the two descriptions just as if they were in the same description tag. Mueller emphasized that there is no bonus from repeating title and description tags.
What conclusions can be drawn from the answer of a Google representative? It turns out that pages with multiple meta tags will be indexed in the same way as web documents without errors. Google is smart enough to pick the information it needs.
However, despite John Mueller’s claim, one cannot be completely sure how exactly search algorithms handle double meta titles and meta descriptions. This does not mean that their use will not bring any unintended results. The official position is that search engine spiders will combine duplicate tags. How they will do this remains a mystery. Consequently, by delegating the choice of title or description to Google, there is a possibility that the algorithm will misjudge their content. This will worsen the ranking in search results. More about meta titles can be found in the article How to Create Search Engine Friendly Title Tags.
John Mueller himself also does not deny that it is best practice to adhere to generally accepted standards and not use the title and description meta tags more than once on the same web page. This will avoid unexpected errors and ranking problems.
You also need to keep in mind that using more than one meta tag in a web document violates its official structure, provided in the corresponding specification. Any violation or error in generally accepted standards a priori cannot lead to a good result.
To summarize, it should be noted that most SEO-specialists have the opinion that the title and description meta tags should be used only once in one web document. If not, the page will contain an error in the HTML code, which can create additional difficulties in search engine optimization.
Despite the fact that modern Google search algorithms are constantly improving and are able to index even pages with errors, no one can guarantee that the content of such pages will be evaluated by search robots in the way that an SEO specialist plans.