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Meta Tags – Good Webmaster Practice

There are a lot of untruths banded around the internet about the use of meta tags on your web pages, the biggest is that they will get you to the top of the search engine listings. Surprise, surprise this is untrue, they are no guaranteed solution to gain top search engine rankings however they do offer the webmaster the ability to ‘influence' how their site and its web pages are described by the search engines in their listings.

There are multitudes of meta tags that can be used but to be honest there are only really three that you should be using, some of the others do have their uses but tend to be more for specialised functions like the refresh tag etc. Lets first define what a meta tag actually is:

A meta tag is an HTML tag which provides information about a web document.

Meta tags are placed within the <head></head> tags of your web pages and are generally not seen by the viewers of your pages except for the title meta tag which displays in your browser. Before I go on to discuss the individual tags I would like to illustrate what meta tags should look like on your web page

<HEAD>
<TITLE>Widget Collecting Forum</TITLE>
< META name=”description” content=”A widget collectors forum that brings collectors together to develop their collections.”>
< META name=”keywords” content=”widgets, widget collecting, widget forum, widget prices, widgets for sale”>
</HEAD>

OK now lets break these tags down:

Title Tag

This tag is technically not a meta tag, but is important because whatever you enter as the text shows in the browser bar at the top whenever they go to one of your pages it is also generally used as a description for your web page in the search engine index and anyone reading the produced indexed page listing will easily see what your page is about if the title is clear, concise and to the point. It is worthwhile putting your keywords into the title as this is what the searcher was looking for and will focus their eyes so your page stands out from the rest, remember that as with all advertising a catchy customer focused strap line is vital to draw attention so focusing it onto your keywords can only be good.

It is also worth remembering that the title tag also provides the bookmark description whenever someone adds your page to their bookmarks/favourites and as such a keyword focused title will help also.

Description Meta Tag

This tag is the tag that you use to ‘influence' the search engines description of your site, it's important to note that not all search engines use this tag. Some actually take the text off your page as a summary but for those that do use it, it gives you some control over what the search engines listings state about your page.

For this reason your description should include your main keywords but should read correctly, do not spam the tag and make it so that a human reader can make sense of it. Again think like an advertiser and you will not go far wrong.

Keywords Meta Tag

This tag, this is probably the most abused tag of them all and as such is pretty much ignored by the majority of the search engines. So why use it I here you say, its simple really…..some still do. This used to be a very good tag to influence your rankings as it was used to rank your website for those words listed between the tags, however the spammers soon made the search engines wise to this and adjust their algorithms to compensate.

The biggest mistake that most webmasters make is that they put words into the keyword tag that they do not use on their web site in the hope that they will get ranked for it in the search engines, this doesn't work even for the search engines that use the tag because they use the tag in CONJUNCTION with the text on your pages.

Lots of webmasters become obsessive about this tag, the key thing to remember is that the majority of search engines disregard this tag and for those that do use it there is no guarantee that it will help. One thing for sure is that the search engines have measures in place to prevent keyword spamming and having excessive keywords and repeated words in the tag can actually HARM your ranking.

In fact I have decided that from now on I will not be using the keyword tag on any of my pages, those that are already in place I will leave as they are not harming my rankings as they are not ‘spammy' but going forward placing the keyword tags onto the page is probably a waste of my time.

If you do decide to use the tag then limit yourself to ten keywords, the ten you are focused on and make sure they are related to your web site pages and that they are featured within the text of the pages themselves. Otherwise do not bother.

The best piece of advice I can give on meta tags is to use them correctly, make them relative to your pages and web site, do not try to spam the search engines with them and make sure they are related to the words that are actually contained within the text of your pages. Effective meta tags take a few minutes to write, if it takes more than that then either your research is wrong or you are spamming.

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