Using META Tags

Viktor Smirnoff

If you aren't utilizing META Tags in your Web site's pages, you may be missing out on valuable traffic and therefore paying customers.

META tags are the sections of your HTML that provide direction and information for search engine robots. To get the best rankings possible in some search engines, be sure to use META tags in every Web page you create - they are not viewable to Internet users unless they examine the source code of your pages.

Unfortunately, many site owners have abused META tag usage and a number of major search engines no longer use them as a means of ranking sites. Although this may be the case, it is still important to have META tag statements to cover as many bases as possible.

The process of META tag development is fast becoming a science, and this document is only a primer. Mathematical formulas are now in common use for developing keyword statements. Remember that META tags, like all other material on the Internet is bound by copyright (whether a copyright notice is utilized or not). Be careful not to copy and paste another person’s tags directly into your code without some heavy revising. People have been prosecuted for doing so.

META tags reside between the <HEAD> and </HEAD> tags of your document, and are written like this:

<META NAME="value" CONTENT="comments">

Be sure that your syntax is correct, otherwise your hours of work may be totally wasted. The most important META tags for you to use are:

Keywords Tag:
<META NAME="keywords" CONTENT="METAtags,keywords,description,definition">

This should be a comma separated list of relevant words for the search engines to index your page. These words should reflect your site's most important theme. Be careful not to repeat the same keyword too often; three occurrences is a safe benchmark and this includes word variations. Some engines perceive heavy repetition to be "spamming the index."

Do not use words that are not relevant to your site. Many search engines will blacklist you if you do. Phrases such as "META tag definition," are considered one keyword. When surfers enter queries into search engines, they will utilize phrases to help narrow down results. So think about the phrases that you would use if you were looking for subject material such as your site has to offer, and keep your most important keywords and phrases within the first 100 characters of this statement.

Capitalization is not so much an issue as most Internet users tend to use lowercase text when submitting queries, but it may be a consideration when it comes to locality names. This is a difficult aspect to judge as some search engines do not distinguish between uppercase and lowercase and it is easy to go over the three word limit by using such variations.

Some search engine optimization professionals use commas between keywords and keyphrases, but others recommend against this practice as it takes up valuable space. As with many search engine optimization topics, this is hotly debated so you may wish to experiment.

Wherever possible, try and use a different keyword statement on each page, with a recommended length of 500-750 characters.

Description Tag:
<META NAME="description" CONTENT="A human readable description of your site that will appear in the search engine results">

The page description is usually produced along with the page title in the results pages (SERPs) of a search engine query. Some search engines use the first few lines of text on a page as a description if this tag is absent, so also ensure that paragraph one of your page is relevant.

As with the Keywords META tag, be careful not to repeat terms too often to avoid rankings being penalized. This tag is not only used for search engine spiders, but also may be the text that appears as a result of an Internet user's search engine query. Here is the challenge: to create a description META tag that not only is attractive to robots, but also to humans.

Keep your most important terms at the beginning of each description META tag statement and try to have a different relevant statement for each page with a recommended length of 170-200 characters.

By using META tags you can increase search engine productivity, and profits.

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