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The REAL Truth About <META> Tags
2006-03-02

6 Steps to a More Successful Website in 2006
2006-01-05

Keyword Fisher 2.0 Released
2005-12-29

 

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The Real Truth About <META> Tags

If you've ever searched the web for tips on Search Engine Optimization, chances are you've come across pages about <META> tags. There's also a good chance that everything you've read on them was flat out wrong...

Many pages I've read recently tell you that <META> tags are dead these days - that modern search engines don't pay attention to or utilize them. I hope my competitors read and believe those pages... If so, I'll have a major advantage over them every time their results appear on a search result page with mine, and I'll tell you why.

There are two extremely important <META> tags that nearly all search engines look at, they are:
<META name="description" ...>
<META name="keywords" ...>

<META> Description Tags:

Debatably, the more important of the two tags is the <META> description tag, yet it's the one most webmasters overlook. The fact is: This tag gives you direct control of how all the major search engines display your results. It can be the most powerful factor in whether your result item will get clicked on -- or scrolled past without a second thought.

Five minutes before I started writing this I did a search for one of my products on Google, Yahoo, and MSN Search. Without fail, the description displayed for my results on all three of the most popular search engines was EXACTLY what I have in my <META> Description tags.

Think about that for a second, and realize how powerful that fact really is. Then reconsider how important your <META> Description is for your page.

Instead of getting context based content that the search engine throws together to fill the space, you get to define EXACTLY what you want your result item to say. You really can't ask for much more than that.

Your <META> description tag should be one of the most well thought out and carefully planned items on your whole web page. It's every bit as important as the <TITLE> tag (which is usually displayed as the text for the clickable link on search engine results.) It's every bit as important as the <H1> text or headline of your page, and in many cases it should be very similar to, or exactly match your <H1> or headline.

Your META description also needs to be rich in the most important keywords that users who should be finding your page will be typing. Most importantly, it needs to convince those users that your page is the one they need to click for the answers they're looking for.

You can have the best web page and product in the world but if people don't click your result to get there they will never know it.

Consider these suggestions when making your <META> description tags:

  • This tag will often be the deciding factor determining whether your page is clicked on or not. Make the user want to click your result based on what's in this text.

  • Coordinate it with your HTML <TITLE> tag to get almost complete control over how your result is displayed by major search engines.

  • Make it around 150 characters. This is about how many characters the major engines will display with each result. If it's too short the engines will either fill the extra space in with other random text from your page, or leave blank space, neither is a desirable result.

  • Many times this text is the ONLY source for sensible information to be displayed about your page. For instance, if someone searches for sites on your domain name there will be no context sensitive text to display... Guess where the engines look next for text to display for your results?

<META> Keywords Tags:

The <META> keywords is not quite as important as the description tag, however you shouldn't neglect it. The keywords tag is used to declare which keywords you, as the author of the page, believe that the content on your page represents. It doesn't mean that the search engines will believe you, but it gives you some input on the matter. It also gives you a chance to stick in keywords that you may not be able to work into the body of your page that are relevant to your topic.

Just the other day on Google I found a page that came up as the #1 result for an extremely competitive search term. I went to the page to analyze how they had optimized it for the specific term to find that the term was found nowhere in the body of the page, only in the <META> keywords tag for the page. If that's not proof the tag can work to your advantage, I don't know what is.

As with anything useful (especially when it comes to obtaining search engine rankings), there webmasters who abuse the intended use of these tags. I've seen pages with meta keywords lists with 1000 or more keyword items, most of which weren't even related to the content of the page. If you make your tags like this, then the article you previously read about how meta tags are useless may apply to your page.

Think of the story of the boy who cried wolf. In this case, it's the webmaster who cried keyword. If you load your keyword tag with 1000 keywords of which 985 have nothing to do with the exact content of the specific page, why should the engines believe you about the 15 that are really valid? They won't.

Here's what you need to do to make your <META> keywords tags work for you:

  • Pick your keywords for your <META> keywords tag to match the exact content of the exact page in question.

  • Specify, specify, specify... The more specific your keywords, the better. Pick your keywords too broadly and you'll be competing against everyone and their affiliate's affiliates.

  • Limit yourself to the 10 or 15 BEST keywords for the exact page you're working on.

  • DON'T just copy and paste your same keyword block to all your pages just to have it on the page.

  • If there aren't 10 or 15 keywords that match your content for the page, don't try to make some up, just use your relevant words.

<META> tags, used properly, need to be a very important part of your overall SEO Optimization strategy. Don't underestimate their value to your pages and to your click through rates on major search engines.

Now that you understand the importance of these often overlooked tags, do you know what the stats of these tags are for your web site?

Sitemap Equalizer is a great tool that can help you find out quickly. Let it spider your site and you'll have an exact itemized report to let you know where you stand.

Check out the web page at: http://www.sitemapequalizer.com/ or download the demo version by clicking here.

Chuck Hall
Binary Pros

http://www.binarypros.com/

 

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