Today’s article is all about Meta Tags, what are they, why you should care about them, how they can affect your rankings and our process for creating amazing meta tags.
What Are Meta Tags
At a fundamental level, Meta Tags are pieces of information that describes the content of a web page to Google or any other search engines. This is information is included within the source code of each page on your Shopify Site. The reason why SEO Agencies care about meta tags is that, it’s through this information that determines what your listing looks like on the Google Search Engine Results Page.
Meta Tags are a form of Technical SEO. Check out our 10 point Technical SEO checklist to find other techniques to improve your websites performance.
There are two types of Meta Tags that we primarily focus on. First of all we have the Meta Title Tag or Page Title. As it sounds, this should encompass the title of the webpage. When you are searching in Google, the blue titles for each listing show that pages Title Tag.
The second tag is the Meta Description Tag. This is where you get some more characters to play with. Description Tags do exactly that, they describe what content is on your page. When you’re searching in Google, this is the black text below the Blue Title Tag.
The most common issues we see is that Shopify sites often don’t use Meta Tags to their capacity. Not using the full character limits in their title and description tags, or even leaving the description tag completely blank.
We need to think of meta tags like any other form of ad that we might run. If we were running an ad in a newspaper, we wouldn’t just use a half of the allotted space with no thought about the content. Meta Tags are effectively the same, we want to think of them as our ad content, using all of the space that we have available and writing content that is as engaging as possible. We want users who are scrolling through Google to stop once they have seen our listing and click through because it shows exactly what they are searching for and provides a great value.
Meta Tags are a core component of Technical SEO. In fact it’s actually included within our 10 point SEO Checklist. Once you’ve finished updating your meta tags, check out how else you can improve your Shopify site.
How do I know if I have Meta Tags already?
The chances are that you will have some form of meta tags on your website. Both Shopify & Google do their best to provide useful content. Shopify will use the title of your page that you’ve created, i.e. your product title, name of your collection etc. & if you’ve left your description empty, then Google will use any other written content from that page. This is often where the problem lies. Our websites are competing against hundreds or thousands of others. If we are only using 1 or 2 word headings and a selection of random words as our description, then it’s going to be hard to compete and get a decent click through rate.
How to check your meta tags on Shopify:
- The first is by manually going through each page on your Shopify site. We’ll go through how you can review and edit these shortly. But this method can be quite time consuming.
- If you’re using chrome, you can use an SEO extension. This will show your meta tags and more. There are a huge range of extensions available, a couple that we like looking at are SEO META in 1 CLICK & SEO Analysis & Website Review by WooRank.
- The best method for checking pages quickly and seeing what our listing looks like in Google is by actually searching in Google. Type in ‘site:’ before your website url in Google and it will show you all of the pages that Google has indexed on your website. Example – site:digitalchoice.com.au
Why Do I Need To Care About Meta Tags?
Meta Tags are one of the first aspects that first aspects that we look at when reviewing a website. It is often one of the quickest ways to see an improvement in traffic. When we adjust meta tags (either for the first time or to improve what is currently there), we are trying to improve our click through rate (CTR%). The CTR% is the total number of clicks divided by the total number of impressions.
With our meta tags, we have to remember that we are competing in the search results page with hundreds of other websites. Because the Meta Tags control what was shown in the search results page, we need to be captivating in what we write. The best meta tags provide enough information to a user who may have never been on their website before. We also need to demonstrate some form of value as well. We’ll talk about how to write compelling meta tags later.
How Do Meta Tags Affect My Site?
Meta Tags won’t change anything on a website from a user experience point of view. But mentioned, updating meta tags can have a huge impact on the results from Google and the website overall.
Meta Tags won’t expand the total amount of searches a website shows for. But it can help to maximise the clicks that a website can receive from what it is already showing for. For example, if a websites listing is currently averages 10,000 impressions every day in the search results page, and they have a CTR% of 2%. Then the website gets an average of 200 clicks per day. By improving their meta tags, the websites CTR% goes to 3%, then the average clicks increases by 100 per day to 300. For a lot of websites that could be an extra sale or 2 per day!
This is the reason we love Meta Tags. It’s something that anyone can do, particularly on Shopify. The other benefit is that results are often seen quicker. It’s like updating an ad to use a more compelling message. We should see the results in days or weeks rather than months.
Do Meta Tags Affect My Rankings?
There’s a grey area around whether Meta tags impact your rankings in search engines. From our research and experience, updating meta tags don’t have a direct impact on a websites Google rankings. Nor do they expand what search terms a website shows for in Google. The role that they accomplish is to get as many clicks as you possibly can for the search results you are already showing for. The more clicks you receive the more likely you are to see increased sales.
The grey area lies in that there are many factors that go into how a website ranks in Google. We are fairly certain that one of these ranking metrics from Google is CTR%. Imagine the search results for a leather wrist watch. Rather than clicking the first result, the fourth website listing is getting a higher percentage of clicks than normal. This is because it has a beautifully crafted message, offering free shipping & returns etc. It would make sense for Google to start ranking that website higher. We have to remember that Google wants to give the user the best experience possible. If there is one website that is giving a better experience, then you can be sure that Google is going to prefer it over the others.
So to summarise, Meta tags don’t immediately improve your rankings in Google. They help you get more traffic from your current search results. Over time it is absolutely possible that your website will be seeing some positive impact from meta tags. The best thing to do is to track your CTR% on your key search terms & see what impact changing your meta tag has over time. Think of meta tags as ads for your website and continue adjusting, aiming to improve your CTR%.
How Do I Change My Meta Tags?
On Shopify, depending on which page you are trying to change the meta tags for, you will have to go to different areas. Below we’ve broken down how you can change your meta tags for each page style along with some tips you can use to speed up the process.
When you’ve logged into Shopify, click on the Online store tab on the left menu. Then click into Preferences. At the top of the page, the first thing you will see is the homepage title & meta description. This is where you can adjust you meta tags for you homepage. Shopify shows how many characters you’ve used, which is a benefit. Be sure to check out the next section which outlines our process for creating amazing meta tags.
Collection Pages, Pages & Blogs:
We have two options for updating your meta tags on these pages. For both of them you will need to go to the relevant section in Shopify. The description below will be for changing a collection page, but the same process works for your Pages & Blogs.
Through the left menu in Shopify, open up Products and then into the Collections section. If you are only changing an individual meta tag or a small amount, then open up each individual collection you are changing. Once the relevant collection is open, scroll right down to the bottom. You will find ‘Edit Website SEO’. This is where you can adjust your meta title, meta description & collection URL. Changing the meta tags this way will again show you your character limits, so you can make sure not to be too brief or too detailed.
If you are in the process of changing plenty of tags, then our second option is for you. Open up the collections page and select the relevant collections you would like to change by ticking the box on their left. Up the top of the page you will find edit collections. A pop-up should appear and you may need to change what you would like to edit. Include Page Title & Meta Description. This method will allow you to change multiple collections at the same time, however, you don’t get the character limits. If you are adjusting through this method, we recommend typing out in a document of google sheet first and then copying and pasting directly.
When changing product page meta tags, you have the previous 2 options in the collections pages, but you also have the option of changing through a CSV. This is a perfect solution to change your meta tags in bulk and is designed for websites with large inventories. While spreadsheets can seem confusing for some, this is by far the best method if you are looking to make changes to your meta tags at scale.
To download your product CSV, open up the products tab on the left hand menu. Under the products heading you will find the export button. Click on exports and make sure you have selected the right inventory. If you haven’t set any meta tags, then select ‘entire inventory’. Otherwise there are plenty of other options to choose from like ‘Current page’, ‘Selected Products’ or ‘Current Search’. As a default Shopify will have ‘export as CSV for Excel’ selected, if not make sure this is selected before clicking the export products button. Depending on how many products you have selected a .zip file may download straight or may be sent to the email address you used to log into Shopify.
Once you’ve opened the .zip file and the .csv file has downloaded, you will be able to open as spreadsheet. Look for columns AB & AC, this is where you will find SEO Title & SEO Description. In column A you will find the relevant product URL handle. When working with this spreadsheet, be sure not to make any changes to this column. If you do make a change, when you import the spreadsheet it will upload as a brand new product or come back with an error rather than changing. So we recommend just right clicking on Column A and hiding the column from the get go.
In column AB & AC change your meta titles & descriptions. Once you’ve finished, we recommend that you ‘Save As’ and rename the spreadsheet. That way you have a backup just in case something strange happens. Make sure that you have saved as a .csv file as well.
Uploading is quite a simple process. Click into the product section and click import (next to the export button you used before). Select the updated .csv file that you’ve renamed. Make sure you have also selected ‘replace any current products that have the same handle’. This will update those products and make sure you don’t create any duplicate products.
Once you’ve uploaded it can take a while for all of the changes to be implemented. Often you’ll receive a notification saying that it has finished, but generally we still see it completed 10 minutes or so after this notification.
How To Create Amazing Meta Tags
Creating amazing meta tags is a process. Whenever we are creating or updating tags, we always think of these as ad copy for the website. We need to demonstrate value to the customer and provide as much context as possible in the character limit that we have.
The first place we look is at the actual search queries that the page is currently showing for. Depending on how you have your website set-up, you can find this is in your Google Search Console or Google Analytics accounts. We always try to capture the most searched term within our Meta Title and/or Description.
Once we know what search terms are page is showing for, we also do some searches in Google to see what competitors have mentioned. We pay close attention to see what content is included within the text ads (if they show for the specific term) and the first 3 listings. This research can give an indication of what the user might be looking for or to see how you can better their offering.
When we start to put our messaging together, there are a couple of things we have to keep in mind. Firstly, we always write our messaging for someone who has never heard of the website before. Including text like ‘20 years industry experience’ or ‘Specialists in xyz’ can see some great results and build trust with a new user for their first experience. We also make sure to include a ‘call to action’ or ‘value proposition’. This should aim to build some urgency or inform the user what to do. Messaging like ‘10% off your first purchase’ or ‘express shipping available’ can help to create some urgency for the sale.
Messaging doesn’t always have to be related to having the lowest price. Be creative and find areas of your business that you can provide value without sacrificing your product margin. When you are brainstorming, the following questions can help to get the ball rolling:
- What does your business do better than your competitors
- Why do customers choose to purchase through you
- What makes you different from your competitors
- What makes this product better than others in the market
- When speaking to a customer what are the key points you emphasise about this product.
- What questions do your customers ask about this product
We also have to be very mindful of our character limit restrictions. We often see people using the limits provided when they are changing the titles in Shopify. Unfortunately, these often get truncated in Google. We can write a lot more in our meta tags, but Google will it cut off. So we use the following guidelines to make sure that our full message is conveyed in the search results. Meta Titles should be no longer than 60 characters & Meta descriptions should be no longer than 155 Characters. This will make sure that our entire message is being shown no matter what device a user is searching on.
Once we have created some options, it’s best then to show them to some colleagues, family or friends. Often it’s people who come from an outside perspective that best represent the users who are searching in Google. Make sure you get feedback and adjust accordingly. Alternatively you can survey your customers after they purchased to see why the did so. This is likely to be your best source of information, but can be time consuming or costly depending on how you choose to do so.
There you have it, everything you need to know about meta tags and how to create amazing tags for your website. Be sure to check out our checklist below when you are writing your own tags.
Finished updating your meta tags? Well make sure you turn those extra clicks into sales. Check out our guide to improving your website load time, so you don’t just see an increase in bounces from your site.
Meta Tag Checklist
- Include Search Term
- 60 Characters Max for Title
- 155 Characters Max for Description
- Include Value proposition
- Focus on how your website can help the user, rather than looking directly for the sale.
- Write for someone who has never heard of your website before