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Understanding META TAGS
Optimizing your pages metatags and title tags can help improve ranking.
Last Updated: November 02, 2012
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Meta Title Tags
All your pages should contain a relevant title, which is to say that the title of your page should always contain the keywords most relevant to your site. The primary keyword should appear at the beginning of the title tag.
Be careful not to use too many keywords in the title as Google may see this as spamming and ban your site. See below for an example of a good title tag:
<title>Red widgets and Blue widgets from domain-name.com</title>
Another good example would be:
<title>Primary Keyword | Secondary Keyword - Brand Name</title>
You will notice that I placed the keywords at the beginning and then placed the site name at the end. Keyword placement is the thing here, the keywords usually out-weight the domain name. Even if your domain name carries the keywords in it, I still prefer to use the search words I think the user will use first.
One of the first things I check while working on a clients project, is the use of the Meta Title tags throughout the site. Quite often, I find a lot of quick wins can be found by optimizing them properly. Never treat these tags lightly and always be sure to give each page a unique title! This is vital so that they can all perform well in the rankings, rather than compete with each other, or worse - be discounted as duplication.
Meta Description Tags
Descriptions are not necessarily going to help your site get ranked any higher; however, it is still a good idea to add a relevant description as this is what will appear as a summary in the search results, thus helping the user decide which site is most relevant to him/her. When done correctly, it can show vast improvements for your overall CTR (click thru rate).
There is no harm in implementing some of your top keywords into the description so the user can see that your site is relevant to his/her search. A good example of a description tag is:
<META name="description" content="Specializing in selling quality red widgets & blue widgets. Huge selection of widgets, we are based in Ireland but ship worldwide.">
Your description should be no more than 169 characters, anymore than this and it will be truncated within the results thus serving no real purpose. Again, refrain from too much marketing blurb as this is not usually considered important. Keep it short and relevant with a nice use of the keywords you favour. The only reason for using the target keywords is because they will appear in bold to the user in the search results snippet, making it more noticeable - as shown below.
If you would like to know how I got my picture to appear beside the result above, then visit my Adding Authorship section.
This is no longer an important tag with regard to Google's ranking system, however it is still advisable to implement the top 5 keywords of your site as they will be used for other search engines (just not Google, Bing or Yahoo). Plus, although Google pay less attention to this tag it does not mean they ignore it all together. Google News, for example, uses the tag against news sites such as BBC and CNN.
A good example of a keyword tag is:
<META name="keywords" content="widgets, red widgets, blue thingies">
As you can see, I have not used repeated words as this can be treated as spam. Think of the five most important words (or set of words) that people will use to find your product. It is vital that you do not exceed this amount. Various SEO's will give you different amounts to abide by, but anymore than five could be considered keyword stuffing and you really want to avoid that. Personally, I don't usually use this tag (unless it's an established news site) as it allows your competition to easily know what keywords and phrases you are chasing.
These are tricky little things and should be used with caution. Over use of alt tags will be noticed. Choose 2 or 3 relevant images per page and assign them tags that contain no more than one keyword. A good example of an appropriate alt tag is:
<IMG src="images/logo.gif alt="Welcome to Brand Name site">
Make sure that the ALT description is correct for that image and makes sense. It is a terrible thing to be penalized for something so trivial so avoid any chance of that happening by sticking to the rules.
As mentioned at the top of this page, Google continuously improves its algorythm. With such updates happening all the time, it is difficult to stay on top of the changes. However, regardless of Googles changes, everything that is written in this section will still be valueable to other search engines and even to Google. Descriptive, relevant content is always valueable, if not to the search engines, then definitly to your potential customers.