When optimizing your website for search engines, there are many things that you have to take into account and keep track of. You need to build backlinks, research keywords, optimize your content, improve core web vitals, avoid duplications, and so on, and so forth. The list of chores seems, practically, endless.
That’s why, whenever an opportunity to automate one of the processes arises, many marketers are quick to embrace it.
Such is the case with dynamic meta tags SEO.
It promises quicker and easier ways to input the metadata of your content, and provide it to the search engine bots. Also, it can be used when there’s dynamic content on pages in order to display more relevant SERP information to the user in hopes of making a better impression.
However, does this really work?
Well, in the words of every SEO expert ever regarding any SEO-related questions – it depends.
In this article, we talk about how dynamic meta tags affect SEO and whether you should use them.
For more clarity on the issues and benefits of dynamic meta tags, before we delve into the specifics, first, we’ll highlight the essentials of static (or regular) meta tags.
What Are Meta Tags?
Meta tags are short pieces of information that you can add to the head section of the HTML code of a web page. They are used to describe the page to search engines and help them to better understand and index the content.
They are called “meta” tags, because the data they provide is, kind of, behind the scenes – it doesn’t show on the page itself, and is not for the website visitor, but mainly for the robots that crawl the web.
That said, some of the information from the meta tags is visible to the users in the search engine results pages (SERPs). Therefore, some of the tags need to be not only robot-friendly and informational, but user-friendly and compelling as well.
Marketers and website owners who are new to SEO may be tempted to neglect meta tags, because it’s a well-known fact that you don’t have to provide them manually, your content will be indexed either way. Furthermore, even without meta tags, search engines will still automatically extract information from the content on the page and display it in the SERPs.
However, leaving this to chance is not a good strategy, as you don’t have control over what the robots will deem relevant. Also, search engine algorithms may be advanced but they are still not capable of analyzing and understanding content well-enough to extract the essence of it the way a human can.
In a nutshell, if you want the robots to easily understand what your pages are about and show them to the most relevant queries, you should write the meta tags yourself.
Luckily, in WordPress you don’t need to be able to code in order to do so, you can use a plugin, such as Yoast, and add the meta information in a hassle-free, code-free way.
Most Important Meta Tags for SEO
There are various meta tags that you can add to the source code of your pages, depending on the content and your goals.
However, when it comes to SEO the most important ones are:
The title tag is easily the most important SEO meta tag. It provides the headline that the search engines show in search results.
To make sure that users are more likely to click on your links, the title tags should be relevant to the content, compelling, and informative.
Also, in order for the search engine to show the full length of your title, the tag should be up to 60 characters long (including spaces).
However, keep in mind that even if you’ve provided a title tag, Google may still decide to show to the user a different SERP title depending on their query. This may happen if your title tag is not really relevant to the content, it’s too long, or stuffed with keywords..
Overall, the bots should prioritize the original title tag, because it’s easier for them to work with ready information than to extract it themselves, so if it’s well-written, you should be on the safe side.
The goal of the meta description tag is to tell the search engine what the content is about.
In search results, this text snippet is shown below the title, and, as such, it can be a strong tool in attracting the user’s attention and convincing them to click on your link.
This is especially valid when your title is too similar to those of other pages that rank next to you in the search results. In the meta description, you can provide additional information, add keywords, and a powerful call to action.
The character limit of this meta tag is 155.
We said it once, but we’ll say it again, it’s very important to write your meta descriptions yourself, instead of relying on the bots to generate them automatically. Otherwise, you may miss an opportunity to show the user the value you provide, and convince them to visit your website.
The robots meta tag is visible only for the search engine bots, and doesn’t regard the users.
In it, you can provide information to the bots on how to crawl, index, and display the page in the SERPs. You can do this by adding various parameters to the tag such as “follow”, “nofollow”, “index”, “noindex”, “noimageindex”, etc.
Robot tags serve as a strong suggestion, or directive, which means that the robots should follow the provided instructions. As opposed to the robot.txt file, where the suggestion is a bit weaker.
Also, in the robots tag, you can specify which user agent (i.e. search engine) the directions apply to. For example, you may want to block Google from indexing this particular page, but make it available to Bing and DuckDuckGo.
The viewport meta tag is quite important nowadays because it shows search engines that your page is mobile-friendly. It does that by providing instructions on how the page is to be rendered on different devices depending on the display’s dimensions.
As such, when it comes to SEO, it gives you points for user experience and may affect how the bots prioritize your pages over others that don’t have the tag.
Here’s a great illustration on how the viewport tag works, provided by W3Schools:
What Are Dynamic Meta Tags?
Dynamic meta tags are quite similar to static ones with the difference that they are not set in stone, so to speak, but change depending on the user’s query and/or when there is dynamic content on the page.
These types of tags are, usually, applied to websites with multiple pages with similar content, such as, for example, eCommerce stores.
Let’s say that you sell products that are of the same type, but by different brands and providers, and with different models and features. You can set up the meta tags to be automatically populated with content from the page when it’s rendered by the browser.
This will include the product name, company, automatically extracted meta description from the first 155 characters of content on the page, and so on.
Also, this type of approach can be used on blogs. The category page of the blog should be optimized with static tags, and for the rest of the pages, information such as Post Excerpt, Post Content, Author Info, Archive Title, Site Name, Site Logo, etc., is extracted automatically.
It is a great way to save yourself the time of manually writing and updating all this information.
However, unfortunately, it’s not all fun and games, as we will see in the next section.
How Dynamic Meta Tags Affect SEO
The topic of dynamic meta tags is quite controversial in the SEO world, as these types of tags can be a double edged sword.
Furthermore, as we have established earlier, it’s important for meta tags to be unique, well crafted, relevant, and in certain situations, compelling.
This can’t be achieved with dynamic meta tags, as you have no control over what the final result will look like. Depending on the type of content on your page and how it is optimized and formatted, the data the search bot (and, eventually, the user) sees may be confusing and straight out meaningless.
As a result, except on rare occasions, dynamic meta tags can compromise all your SEO efforts.
The Verdict: Should You Use Static or Dynamic Meta Tags?
In a nutshell, unless you fall into the few categories of websites that can benefit from dynamic meta tags, you’d better avoid them and stick with static ones.
Creating your metadata manually may be cumbersome and tedious but, in the end, more often than not, it’s worth it.
However, if you have a blog or an eCommerce site with thousands of pages with similar products, it can be, practically, impossible to add the details for all pages one by one.
By setting up your content and configuring dynamical meta tagging properly, you can actually benefit greatly from dynamic meta tags.
In short, as with everything SEO-related, it depends.
Meta tagging allows you to “explain” your content to search engines. In order to benefit your SEO and ensure proper indexing, it’s best to provide the meta information manually, and make sure that it counts.
Dynamic meta tags can be a valuable tool for a few types of websites, but are not something that you should use unless you absolutely need to.
If you are still not sure whether dynamic meta tags are a good choice for your website, give us a call and we’ll help!
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