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Meta Tag Optimization - An Introduction

META tags are HTML tags that are used to include information about your web page. One big difference between other HTML tags and META tags is that META tags are always placed between the tags of the HTML page. A plethora of different META tags are available that you can use to include page-related information, but only two of them, the keyword tag and the description tag, are important from SEO perspective and shall alone be discussed here. These META tags are mostly invisible to your site's visitors, but will be seen by search engines.

How Do They Affect Search Ranking?

When someone searches the web with a keyword or a phrase, some search engines take the Keyword and the Description tags into consideration while ranking the sites for that keyword or phrase. These tags help the search engine spider determine the content of your web site so that it can be indexed properly. This is how they look like

Many people believe that META tags are the key to high search engine rankings, but in reality, they only have a limited effect. Still, it's worth adding them because most of the search engines use META tags information in either some part of their ranking formula or while displaying the search results.

The Description Tag

The Description Tag Generally, the description META tag looks like <meta name="description" content="<theme of your site>">

Should It Be Optimized?

When major search engines ignore the description tag, why bother to optimize it? The answer is simple: smaller search engines like inktomi use the description tag data and it takes only about 2 minutes to write it. As mentioned earlier, there are instances of Google using a supplied Website Description tag.

The information in this tag is listed directly below the title tag in search engine results. As a result, a good description can make your website stand out from other listings. To get the prospect to click on your site, it is important to write a snappy description while using your keywords.

How Do I Optimize It?

  • Give relevant description: As some search engines display this description in the search result, make it more relevant to your site.
  • Have only targeted keywords in description: Do not stuff the description with more keywords. It's better to restrict the number of words in this tag to 10 to 15 words.
  • Place the most important phrases at the start of the description, because, even if any search engine omits some part of the description, the important phrases will be displayed.

The META Myths

  1. Add all META that you can. This really isn't necessary; in fact, it must be avoided wherever possible. Just the title, description, and keywords tags would do.
  2. Have many keywords in the META tags. Actually, it's better to concentrate on some specific keywords. In fact, the maximum should be only 3 keywords. Use keywords, which are relevant to your page and target market.
  3. Repeating the keywords and description in comment tag will help. No, it does not add any additional value. In fact, unnecessary repetition of keywords can be considered Spam by search engines.
  4. The Description tag isn't important, because Google doesn't use it. Google generates a page snippet or a 'ransom note' comprising the parts of actual page content. Should this not be available, a relevant DMOZ Description is used. There are instances of Google using a supplied Website Description tag. Also, lots of other search engines make use of the Description tag.
  5. Keywords in META tag must be comma separated. There is no hard and fast rule about this. In fact, space-separated keywords are the latest trend. It allows the search engine to mix and match combinations of your presented keywords into possible phrases.

The keyword Tag

How Does It Look Like?

Generally, the keyword META tag looks something like:<meta name="keywords" content="keyword 1, keyword 2, keyword 3">or <meta name="keywords" content="keyword1 keyword2 keyword3">

Should It Be Optimized?

Much of the advice for your description tag also holds true for your Meta keywords tag. Note that the keywords in the "keyword" tag are useful only when those words also appear in the body text. Most of the search engines have become clever that they ignore the irrelevant keywords. Some major search engines seem to ignore this tag, because many webmasters misuse this tag stuffing it with many irrelevant, but most sought after, keywords. Nevertheless, there are some smaller search engines, which still follow the conventional way and spider the keywords tag, and there is certainly no harm in having your relevant keywords in this tag.

How Do I Optimize It?

  • Add only the keywords that appear in the body text.
  • Include alternate spelling of words (including typos) and synonyms of those keywords.
  • Some people resort to adding geographical information in the tag and it seems to be useful.
  • The best use of the keywords tag is for targeting obscure terms, model numbers, or targeted regions. Using this approach will help you get the most out of the limited benefits of the keywords tag. At the outset, optimizing the META tags might not sound worthwhile. But take a closer look and you will realize that it takes about 15-20 minutes to make a big difference if your watch sites (competitors) haven't optimized the tags as well as you have.
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