Why Use HTML Meta Tags?
Meta tags are special HTML tags inserted into the source code of your pages, containing
hidden information about your site. The purpose of meta tags are explaining to the
search engines what your page is all about. HTML meta tags are not a magic solution
to higher search engine placement. Never or less they are essential parts of a
well-designed Web site. So let us try to put them to work for you:
There are several meta tags, but only three are important: The description meta tag, the keyword meta tag and the title tag (strictly speaking the title tag is not a meta tag, but I will refer to it as such on this page). The title, description and keyword meta tags are the only tags that should be in the section of your pages. It is especially important that you do not use the meta refresh tag, the HTML meta redirect tag or robots meta tag if you want your site to be properly indexed by all search engines and get a high search engine placement.
Note: Statistics show that only about 20% of Web pages are using the keyword and description meta tags. If you use them and your competitor does not, you have a big advantage.
Here is an example showing the HTML source from a Website using correctly formatted title and meta tags.
Below you can see how this page will appear for people watching it in the search
engine listings. Notice the title tag and description is shown. The keyword meta tag
The page title is placed here
To edit the HTML source in your Web page (the local copy residing on your computer), open it in Internet Explorer, right click on the page and choose "view source". Now you can insert or edit HTML meta tags (remember to save the changes afterwards).
There are several WYSIWYG editors capable of adding HTML meta tags to your site. Unfortunately, most of those editors are inserting many unnecessary meta tags. Such tags should be removed, or at the very least be placed below the title, description and keyword tags.
The Title Tag
The title tag is perhaps the most important tag on your page. It should be the first tag in the section of all your pages. Place it above your description and keyword meta tags.
This tag is a good place to put your keywords. The search engines put much weight on the words in the page title. Placing this tag first in the HTML (before other meta tags) and your main keyword first in the tag, will give a very powerful boost in rank. Note: Some directories give slight priority to alphabetically correct titles. Try to start your title with a letter that starts early in the alphabet.... whenever possible an "A".
Don't forget: The title tag is the first thing people will see when they spot your page in the search results. Keep it short and appealing. Make the title sell your site!
Description Meta Tags
Description meta tags. Right after the title, the description meta tag follows. This should be a short paragraph (one or two sentences) capturing the "essence" of your site. Along with the title, the description meta tag is what encourages people to click on your search engine listing. This is where to place the text that is intended to motivate people to click your link instead of your competitors.
Many search engines will display more than 150 characters for your description meta tag. Nevertheless you should keep the tag to 150 char or less to prevent it from being cut of by those who don't.
The search engines often regard words in the description tag as more important compared to the words elsewhere on your page. This makes perfect sense, considering this tag should be capturing the "essence" of your page. Take advantage of this fact by always including your primary keywords within the description meta tags, preferably near the beginning of the tag. This will give your keywords a better "keyword prominence".
All major search engines (except Google and Fast/Lycos) are currently supporting the description meta tag. Those who don't will usually grab a few lines of text from the beginning of your page, and use this for the description.
Keyword Meta Tags
Keyword meta tags. The keyword tag is not as important as the title and description meta tag. Some search engines are now totally ignoring this tag. But used correctly the keyword meta tag still can contribute to a higher rank.
This tag is not read by anyone except the search engines. The keyword meta is a hidden tag providing search engines with a list of keywords or keyword phrases related to your page. You can use a keyword generator tool to come up with a list of suitable keywords to put in to this tag.
Note: Your keyword meta tags should include only keywords related to the particular page they are on. All keywords in this tag must be directly related to the text on the page in question.
Tip: Organize your keywords so each page within your Web site concentrate on a different group of closely related keywords. Each page must focus on different products, different keywords and different aspects of the sites central theme.
Putting many keywords covering a broad range of subjects in your meta tags in an attempt to get a singe Web page to rank for many keywords will most likely not be a very successful approach.
The standard format for keyword meta tags is comma-separated words. Each phrase should be separated with commas (no space between the commas). The comma in is understood as the Boolean term "OR" while a space between keywords is understood as "AND". Officially, this is the recommended way to design your keyword meta tags. However, many search engine optimizers are claiming to get better results by separating keywords with spaces only. The idea is: When keywords are separated by a space only, the search engine may be able to make combinations between the words by itself. Try both methods and see what is working best for you.
Keywords should not be repeated to often. 3 - 6 repeats with different variations (case and phrases) is generally regarded as the maximum number allowed. So, avoid the temptation to repeat your keywords over and over again. This is considered spamming by some search engines and might result in your site being blacklisted, or penalized.
Most search engines will allow you to use approximately 1000 characters within the meta keyword tag. Usually you will get much better results by targeting just a few keywords for each page though.
One important factor to consider when writing your meta tags is "keyword weight". Try finding the percentage of words in the meta tag that is used by your keyword or keyword phrase. If you are looking at the keyword weight in a keyword meta tag that contains 100 words, and your keyword is found only one time, your keyword weight would be 1%. Less keywords will give the remaining words more weight.
Remember that search engines use mathematical algorithms to calculate the importance of each word in your meta tags. By watering down your keywords, you are reducing your possibility to rank well.
Robots Meta Tags
One last tag worth mentioning is the robots meta tag. This meta tag is supposed to give instructions for search engine robots/spiders and let you in control of how your page is indexed.
However, some search engines do not fully support the robots meta tag standard and might refuse to index Web pages using variations of this tag. You should not be using this meta tag unless you want to exclude your site from being found by search engines.
If you do not want the search engine spiders to index your page, you can use a robots meta tag like this: <META NAME="robots" CONTENT=" noindex, nofollow"> This will instruct the search engines not to index your page or follow any links from it.
For better control over search engine robots I recommend using robots.txt instead of robot meta tags. A useful tool to track and manage search engine robots is Robot Manager. This software will also help you create a correctly formatted robots.txt.
A few words from AltaVista about Meta Tags
"Many Webmasters focus on the "METAtags" and lose sight of the importance of the HTML title and the plain-text content of the page.
What people don't realize is that for ranking purposes, the HTML title and first lines of text are still very important. METAtags do not take precedence.
AltaVista indexes every word on every page, and every word (and the order in which they appear) is important. The purpose of the "keyword" METAtag is simply to allow you to add synonyms words that are appropriate for what's on your page - that describe what's there but that do not actually appear on that page.
One of the best uses for "keyword" METAtags is for foreign translations of the main words on your page, so, for instance, somebody searching in French will find that page."
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