Search Engine Optimization June 4th, 2012
Meta tags on your website are the tags that inform both browsers and human visitors what your website is about. This way when a search engine brings up your page as a result, or when you link to your page from a social network, it will present the information you want it to including the thumbnail image you want and the short description you’d like to pop up. At the same time the search engines will give this information extra importance when indexing and organizing websites, so that the keywords you use in your meta tags and title tag will be given more weight.
How to Use Meta Tags
A meta tag looks like this:
<meta name=”keywords” content =”meta tags, information about meta tags, meta tag list”>
That right there was a ‘keyword’ meta tag. We know this because of the ‘meta name=”keywords”‘ part. The most commonly used meta tags are ‘keywords’, ‘description’, ‘subject’, ‘copyright’, ‘language’, ‘robots’, ‘author’ etc. and any of these can be used in order to help make it easier for spiders to know what your page is about. The more you use, the more search engines will thank you and the more accurate listings of your pages and sites will become.
Tips for Effective Meta Tags
However not all meta tags are born equal and some are more likely to be successful than others. How do you go about making a successful meta tag?
Description: Your description is what may show up when a search engine brings up your page (unless it highlights a passage of your content) and when a social network shows a preview of your site. This then is your ‘shop window’ as it were and it’s your opportunity to grab interest and get people to click. As such this needs to be informative and relevant and you should try to make sure it’s designed to impress. It helps to make this a summary of what your page is about, but also if you have any exciting points you are going to make in the article, now is the time to make them. At the same time it doesn’t hurt to demonstrate a bit of that wit and charm that tells people this is a real blog written by a real person and not just some spun rubbish. And now is a good time to include your keywords a little too (in a nicely subtle way).
Keywords: Keep your keywords to a small-ish number so that they aren’t fighting for attention, and don’t try to cram in every related term under the sun. Pick one or two descriptive and relevant terms that you have researched and promote those here.
Title: Your title tag isn’t technically a meta tag… it’s a title tag (the clue is in the name). However it is very similar and you should approach it in the same way. Again you are catering to both human readers and search engine ‘bots (preferable the former moreso) and you want to make this descriptive and provocative but also as brief as possible with a keyword or two thrown in for good measure.
Robots: Robots meta tag has created a lot of confusion among webmasters because it uses values like nofollow and noindex. It should be noted that these values existed before Google proposed it’s rel=nofollow attribute for anchor tags. A page can use meta robots tags to tell search engine and other reports that the content shouldn’t be indexed (even though it can be crawled, as opposed to robots.txt that prohibits bots from crawling content).
Others: The other meta tags aren’t always going to be relevant which is why you hear less about them. Still though, putting in the author won’t hurt as it will help searches for your name, and likewise you can also put in others where it suits – such as abstracts if you are publishing a study or piece of research. You should also look into the use of schemas which are a new kind of markup language that work well with Google Plus.
John Russell loves to write about SEO, internet and technology. You can read some of his hosting reviews by visiting his site HostingReview.com
Meta Tags 101Read time: 3 minutes