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Making Meta Tags Count

Keeping up with the latest trends in search engine optimization can be a wild ride. As is the case with Meta tags, their importance, once abandoned, is now a factor again. So Webmasters, its time to put those Meta tags back in!

While it is true that in the past meta tags were sorely abused by greedy webmasters and thus discounted by major search engines, you'll find that meta tags, the bits of text in the header tags invisible to viewers, are still important in smaller search engines and gaining relevancy again in search engines like Google, and the comeback kid, Yahoo. For newcomers and those who have ignored Meta tags for so long they forgot the best methods for using them, here are some essentials on utilizing meta tags.

A Webmaster to Webmaster Tip
If you are creating good web pages for people (not search engines) you will succeed in the search engine optimization game. Don't get so caught up in optimization strategies that you forget your audience, the real people who will visit your site. Chant to yourself, "People not engines, people not engines". Make it your mantra. With that tidbit in mind, consider the following tips for making your Meta tags count. We'll start with the three most important Meta tags- the description, keywords, and robots tags.

Writing Good Meta Descriptions
While you are still chanting, "people not engines" we'll discuss meta descriptions. The Meta description, while not seen on the actual web page, is seen as the link description in most search engine results pages. So this description is vital for convincing viewers to click on the link. Think of it is your one-chance sales pitch.

*Make the description a concise, keyword rich summary of the page.
*Convince readers your page is what they are looking for rather than the 10 other links that came up in the search result.
*Use keywords in a logical sentence structure, rather than a list
*Be concise- search engines have maximum character allotments for descriptions.
*If your description is long, make sure the keywords appear at the beginning.
For example: [meta name="description" content="Widgets Express sells low cost blue and gold widgets."]

Effective Meta Keywords
This is where not following the directions can hurt. Do not keyword stuff! Your site could be banned from search engines for filling your Meta keyword tag with senseless repetition of keywords or the inclusion of irrelevant words. The object of the keyword tag is to summarize what is on the page with a list of keywords. There is also an indexable character cap for engines on the keyword tag so pick your best words. Using the Overture keyword search tool can help if you aren't sure which words you should use on your site.

If you are in a very heated category and need the edge on your competitor you may include a few commonly misspelled keywords along with the others to catch the misspelled searches. However, misspelled words are taking up characters where you could have better keywords, so use with caution.

The other important Meta tag for webmasters to consider is the robots tag. A robots tag might look something like this: [meta name="robots" content="index, follow"]. The robots tag speaks specifically to search engine spiders to tell it whether or not to index a page. If you have web pages that you don't want to be spidered, then you need to use a "no follow" tag in your Meta robots tag.

Other Meta Name Tags
Some other [Meta name= ] tags that are common are the "author" "copyright" "rating" and "distribution" tags. While these tags are useful for viewers they have no bearing on search engine optimization so we won't worry about those in this article. Just know they exist and are basically optional for you to use. If you are considered about clogging up your HTML code with needless Meta tags, don't use them.

A Note about Title Tags
While title tags are not actual Meta tags, they are included with Meta tags in the HTML head tags. Title tags are very important for search engine optimization. The title tag of a web page is displayed as the link on search engine results pages. Smart keyword use in title tags is very important as readers will use the title tag to decide if they will click on the link or not. For more on title tags, read our article on creating good title tags.