Meta-tags are pieces of code within your website that contain information about each page. These tags are supposed to provide information to the search engines and users what the page is all about.
There are 3 types of meta-tags
- Title – This is the text that appears in the title-bar of your web browser.
- Description – This is a quick summary of the information on the page.
- Keywords – These are words that are important in the page
In the recent years, there was a tremendous focus on meta-tags as a method of improving search engine rankings. . Webmasters could stuff all sorts of words into the meta-tags to improve their search engine rankings for the words they wanted to rank well for.
It wasn’t long before the search engines caught on to this little trick, and as a result the efficacy of “keyword-stuffed” meta-tags dwindled over time. Posts on Search Engine Optimization (SEO) boards heralded the demise of the meta-tag with posters claiming that Google all but ignored the meta-tags. It seemed that there was no use for meta-tags anymore – at least from the perspective of the online marketer.
But then, there was a revolt against these BLACK-HAT SEO techniques. The search market started to fracture. Yahoo and MSN both spun up their own search engines and dropped Google’s results from their engines. Both Yahoo and MSN’s new engines seemed to use content from the Title and Description meta-tags to display in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages). . Many of the results on the SERPs of both search engines will use the content from the meta-tags heavily.
Google is less predictable with regard to the use of meta-tags. Google often uses the title tag to determine the clickable link on its results pages, but only occasionally uses the description tag content in the page summary that it displays.
Steps to improve meta-tags
As a general rule, Yahoo uses the first 25-30 words of your Meta Description tag in the site description it displays on your SERPs; MSN uses the first 15 or so.
Write out a 30-word description of each page of your website that is broken up into two parts. The first 15 words need to get across what the page is about – this is all the MSN searchers will see. The second 15 words should support the first – this will be visible to Yahoo searchers.
Google searchers will sometimes see the first 7 – 15 words as well (although you can’t count on it). With meta-tags you have to just focus on the things you can control, and right now Google is an unknown quantity so it’s probably best not to worry about optimizing for Google.
You must make special efforts to ensure that the content presented to searchers inspires them to click on your links rather than your competitors.
If you don’t put meta-tags on your website’s pages, then Yahoo and MSN will just guess at what to put in the description of your website. They will pull phrases out of context (much the way Google does) from your site and throw them in there. The result is not nearly as inviting as it could have been otherwise. That’s why it is always beneficial to learn to write effective meta-tags.
(Researcher in progress)