Meta Tags in Search Engine Optimization

Meta Tags in Search Engine Optimization

 

META tags have, for a number of years, formed the cornerstone of many search engine optimization efforts, along with other HTML tags, the right keywords, good site design and proper use of links.

Meta tags are found within the HEAD tags and provide a variety of information about a web page, which, although hidden from browsers (and site visitors), can be used by search engines to rank and classify web pages.

The incorporation of meta tag reading in many search engines’ indexing formulas have thus allowed site owners to have some degree of control over the way their web pages are described, just be optimizing their use of this HTML code.

And in case you too are considering the use of this tag in your search engine optimisation strategy, here are some types that may be of interest:

Most used in SEO: <meta name=”Keywords” content=”first, second, third*” />

*series of keywords representing your web page’s content, listed according to importance

* if supported, search engines often use keywords found here to categorize your web page based on proprietary algorithms which index your site in their databases

Tips:

* focus on main (relevant) keywords, then elaborate using synonyms/related words
* prioritize your keywords (position the most important ones first)
* reinforce the terms you think a page is important for
* separate phrases with a comma and no space (most engines treat commas as a space)
* add common misspellings of these words
* avoid word repetitions as this may hurt your ranking (and be considered spamming)
* never
o insert the same word twice in a row (even variations)
o repeat the same keywords / descriptions or put them next to each other in your meta tags

* avoid using more than 20-25 words (no more than four or five phrases)
* do not use words such as “a”, “the”, “and”, “by”, “with”, etc.

Caveats:

* stuffing it with keywords unrelated to your site’s content is liable to get you labeled as a spammer;
* only supported by few crawlers (most search engines have moved away from algorithms that used information collected from keywords tags)

<meta name=”Description” content=”general description of web page’s content” />

* if supported by the SE, description provided here will likely appear in the SERPs
* words within this tag are given some weight by most search engines
* gives you some degree of control with various crawlers

Tips:

* keep it under 20 words (generally, 200 to 250 characters may be indexed, though a smaller portion may be displayed)
* limit to one good descriptive sentence (not merely words) or two fairly short ones
* first sentence should capture the user’s attention and entice him to click on the link and visit your site
* utilize the page’s important keywords
* put the important keywords first
* whenever possible, use the same first words used in the title tag as the first words here
* should describe only the content of the page where the tag is found
* avoid marketing hype and biased words
* consider adding a keyword phrase toward the middle of your description
* do a grammar check (begin each sentence or proper nouns with capital letters and use proper punctuation)
* keep phrases within the same theme

Caveat:

* not all search engines use your description for ranking purposes

<meta name=”Robots” content=”noindex,nofollow*” />
* may be any of the following: noindex, index, nofollow, follow

* declares which content search engines should index, spider or ignore (level of spidering that should be done)
* crawlers, by default, will index and follow links on all your pages even without this tag
* add this on pages you don’t want indexed
* robots.txt convention of blocking indexing is more efficient (if you use this, there is no need to use meta robots tags)
* some search engines offer extensions to prevent indexing of multimedia content
* only one set of commands should be given to the robot

<meta name=”Abstract” content=”abstraction/summary of description META tag*” />

*usually a one line sentence that gives an overview of the entire webpage

<meta name=”Revisit-After” content=”x Days” />

*x = number

* indicates how often a search engine spider should visit the website for re-indexing
* for sites whose content changes frequently / regularly
* boosts your rankings if search engines display results based on most recent submissions

Optional:

*could include document author’s name, email address of the webmaster, company name or Internet address (URL)

<meta name=”Author” content=”author information*” />

* not widely supported

<meta name=”Copyright” content=”copyright statement” />

* defines any copyright statements you wish to disclose about your webpage documents

<meta name=”Distribution” content=”Global*” />

*can also be Local or Internal Use (IU)

* defines the webpage’s level or degree of distribution on the world wide web

<meta name=”Expires” content=”document’s expiration date/time*” />

*in RFC1123 format

* for sites running a limited time event or with preset date when document will no longer be valid (so SEs know when to delete the page from their database)

<meta http-equiv=”Content-Language” content=”DE” />

* declares the natural language of the document being indexed
* useful for non-English or multilingual sites (designated by two-letter codes: ex. DE for German)

Never Used:

<meta http-equiv=”Refresh” content=”X;URL=http://www.xxx.com/index.html*” />

*X = delay in seconds; URL = address to redirect to

* redirects users to another webpage after X number of seconds
* discouraged by some search engines because
o users can spam search engines with similar pages leading to the same page
o makes SE databases cluttered with irrelevant and multiple versions of the same data

Aside from those mentioned, here are additional dos and don’ts to consider:
Do:

* keep it short, simple and to the point
* eliminate any irrelevant meta tags
* proofread your tags (specially if using a “meta tag generator”) before putting them on your page

Don’t:

* overuse META tags (may cause a search engine to ignore or decrease the weight for that keyword or penalize your site’s rankings)
* use ALL CAPS
* use “Bridge” or redirect pages as they clutter up search engines’ databases and increase the likelihood of SE spamming