Meta Tags: The Ultimate Guide for 2024

Meta Tags

Over the last 15 years, the Google SERPs have undergone significant changes. One of the most heavily altered aspects of search engine results pages has been meta tags. Nowadays, some meta tags are essential for the proper functioning of your website, while others are indispensable not only for improving click-through rates and overall SEO. Many others, however, are largely discontinued. Knowing which is which, and how to properly use the ones that remain, is important for a well-functioning site.

Meta Title

The meta title tag specifies the title of your page. This title appears at the top of your web browser, anywhere the post is shared dynamically (such as on Facebook or X), and in any search engine. In general, write your tags for human readers but optimize them with search engines in mind.

Meta Title Width Pixels
Your title tag should be no more than 600px wide, which translates to approximately 70 characters long, with keywords up front and brand names last. Note that you don’t always have to display your brand name in a title tag. This is especially true for brands with long names that take up a lot of space, as in the example above.

Pro tip: Ensure every title tag on every page is unique to avoid duplicate content. If you have two identical meta titles, it’s the same as having two H1 header tags. Google will not know which one to display for a target search term. This won’t lead to penalties (as duplicate content never leads to penalties per se), but it will force Google to do guesswork. And you don’t want that. You want all information from your website served to Google on a silver platter. In turn, Google will reward you with better rankings. Simple, right?

Meta Description

The description tag is the text in black that appears under your link in Google search results, as well as in other search engines. It also appears when your posts are linked dynamically on social media profiles that generate previews. If you leave the meta description tag blank, Google and other preview generators will create a description for you, often pulling from the first major bit of content on the page.

Optimized Meta Description Example
An example of a well-optimized meta description uses keywords effectively without keyword stuffing.

But is that a good idea? By no means. Meta descriptions are part of your snippet on the SERPs; you can think of it as your motorway signage, basically. This isn’t the place to describe your product; instead, it’s a piece of text meant to include your most important keywords (without keyword stuffing), including long-tail ones that you couldn’t fit into the meta title due to space limitations. Ideally, if the space allows, it should end with a call to action.

Limit it to 920px, which translates to around 155 characters.

Above all else, ensure the description for every page is completely unique and written with humans in mind.

Social Media Meta Attributes

You can customize your meta title, preview image, and meta description specifically for Facebook using the Facebook Open Graph attributes. The meta property og:title, og:image, and og:description tags are used in these cases. Similarly, Twitter Cards can be used for Twitter with meta attributes like twitter:site, twitter:creator, twitter:title, twitter:description, and twitter:image.

Note: Twitter Cards are still referred to as Twitter Cards, even after the rebranding of Twitter to X.

Meta Robots Directives

Robots directives, specified in a robots.txt file, guide how search engines crawl your site. The robots.txt file is a simple and effective way to control web crawlers’ access to your site’s content, but it should be used with care to avoid unintentional exclusion of important pages. Properly configured, a robots.txt file can effectively manage crawling behavior without the need for more complex directives.


There are four attributes that can be used in meta attributes:

  • Index: Tells the robot to index the page (default behavior).
  • NoIndex: Tells the robot not to index the page (use on system pages, category pages, etc.).
  • Follow: Tells the robot to follow and pass PageRank (still an active component of Google’s ranking algorithm) to links on the page.
  • NoFollow: Tells the robot not to follow the links on the page.

Index/NoIndex and Follow/NoFollow are mutually exclusive and should be used carefully.

Obsolete Meta Tags

There are several meta tags that are no longer used or are very rarely used, including:

  • Meta Keywords: Several years ago, the best way to get your posts indexed for certain keywords was to use the meta keywords attribute. This method quickly became prone to spam, and Google decided to remove its influence altogether. Today, it is not used at all. If your site still has a meta keywords implementation, consider removing it as it is obsolete and may even harm your site’s ranking.
  • Meta Revisit-After: This tag was intended to tell search engines when to revisit a page for fresh content. Modern search engines now use more sophisticated methods to determine when to crawl a site, rendering this tag obsolete​.
  • Meta Author: While this tag can still be useful for some purposes, search engines no longer use it to determine the author of a page’s content. Authorship is now handled through structured data and other means​.
  • Meta Subject: This tag was used to define the subject of a web page but is now largely ignored by search engines, which have more advanced methods to determine page content relevance​.
  • Meta Classification: Similar to the meta subject, this tag was used to classify a page’s content but is no longer relevant due to advancements in search engine algorithms​.
  • Meta Expiry/Expires: Intended to specify an expiration date for web content, this tag is rarely used today as dynamic content management systems and HTTP headers handle content updates and expiration more effectively​.
  • Meta Copyright: While it can be useful for legal purposes, this tag is not used by search engines to affect ranking or content evaluation​​.
  • Meta Refresh: This tag can refresh or redirect a page after a specified time. However, it’s better practice to use server-side redirects (HTTP status codes) for these purposes due to better control and user experience​​.

Required Meta Character Set

Meta Charset UTF 8

Every web page should start with a meta http-equiv tag labeling the content type as text/html and the character set as UTF-8. This is essential and should not be removed.


Meta tags continue to play a crucial role in the proper functioning and SEO of your website. By understanding which tags are essential, how to use them effectively, and which ones to avoid, you can ensure your site remains optimized and competitive.

Branislav Nikolic

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