Ahhh, the glorious and once celebrated Meta Tags, now the red headed step child of Search Engine Optimization. Surprised this is the second step? After all, Meta Tags are almost completely ignored by most search engines and the ones that do actually take a peek at them don’t give them all that much weight. So, what gives?!?
Well, for all of you naysayers out there, I am here to tell you that you need to start showing your Meta Tags a little more love because they are important…even though they don’t really have much oomph when it comes to your search engine ranking.
Aside from the admittedly useless Meta Tags, you will notice in the title of today’s post I also mention Title Tags. Now, Title Tags are a much different story because they do hold a lot of weight in terms of their effect on your ranking. Although similar in the sense that they both live in the header of a web page, the Title Tag isn’t technically a Meta Tag but it tends to get lumped in as one all of the time…kind of like how tomatoes are really fruits but we all just go about life thinking they are vegetables.
In 10 Seconds or Less, What Are Meta Tags and Title Tags?
A Meta Tag is code placed within the header area of a page so it is not viewable by the visitor and gives basic information about the page such as its description and the keywords it is targeting. The Title Tag is also code that is placed within the header and gives the title of the page but in this case it is viewable by the visitor since it shows up in the top bar of the web browser.
In the past, I used to teach how to actually code Meta Tags and Title tags but it has become so unnecessary as most sites nowadays use content management systems like WordPress, Drupal and Joomla that have modules that you can use to enter this info just like you would the content on the page. Without opening a can of worms, here are a few of the better modules to look out for depending on what type of CMS you have:
- WordPress: All in One SEO Pack, Yoast SEO
- Drupal: Meta Tags, Page Title
- Joomla: Tag Meta, Custom Page Title
So now let’s talk about our strategy for each of the types of tags we’ve been talking about.
Keyword Meta Tag
Remember earlier how I said that these tags were all but ignored by search engines and you thought that reading the rest of this post would be a waste of time so I suggested that perhaps you needed to show your Meta Tags a little more love at which point you felt guilty and continued to read? Well, it’s time for the big payoff. The reason I find the keyword tag so useful is because it forces you to organize, get specific and document what keywords you want to use on that page. By filling up the keywords Meta Tag with the phrases you want to target on that page you have built yourself a nifty little reference to go back to whenever you need to update the text, build links or monitor the success of your campaign. This is a HUGE help when you are working on a site that has a lot of pages. As to how many keyword phrase to include in the tag, I try and keep it a little small with about 4-6 related phrases separated by a comma otherwise it’s tough to maintain relevance and write good copy with too many keywords to work with.
Example: <meta name=”keywords” content=”SEO Speaker, Internet Marketing Speaker, Social Media Speaker, SEO Blogger, Internet Marketing Blogger, Social Media Blogger” />
Description Meta Tag
This one holds a little more weight than the keywords tag so even if you choose to ignore my advice (at your own peril) you should still write a nice description for each page but keep it to under about 160 characters or so if you can, as anything above that gets truncated. When writing your descriptions, be sure to include the keywords that you are targeting on that page…what’s that? You don’t remember what words you are targeting? See…next time you will listen to me. Go back one step and fill in your Keywords tag. As I was saying, use the keywords in the description and try to get them in as early in the description as you can. The key here is to write a description that is readable by a human being. Don’t just stuff it with keywords. This is likely the blurb that will be sitting under your title in the search results and you want to make sure that any person skimming or reading the descriptions know exactly what you are about before clicking that link!
Example: <meta name=”description” content=”SEO, Internet Marketing and Social Media Speaker and Blogger Marc Ensign is best known for sharing creative ways to increase your exposure online.” />
This is the granddaddy of them all. The title tag holds a lot of weight and should be taken very seriously. Oftentimes people waste this valuable real estate on crummy titles like “Home” or “John’s Store” or even “Untitled Document.” When writing out your Title Tags you should make a conscious effort to use at least two or three of your most important keyword phrases for that page first and then if your want to include your company or your name last, go for it. Just do your best to eke it under about 70 characters if you can. You can separate the keyword phrases with a comma, dash or the pipe symbol, whichever you think looks better…remember, searchers will see this in the results of their search so it needs to look attractive to them!
Example: <title>SEO Speaker | Internet Marketing Speaker | Social Media Speaker | Blogger | Marc Ensign</title>
Just a Little More Housekeeping and We’re Done!
It doesn’t matter how many pages you have on your site. Do not repeat any Meta Tags or Page Titles on other pages. Each page must have a different title, keyword tag and description tag. You can repeat keywords from one page to the next, just don’t put them in the same order or anything.
So now you have your second assignment. Get to work and start putting together the Meta Tags and Page Titles on each important page of your site. If you have a lot of pages, this may take a while, but it’s important and worth your time!