Business technology

Meta tags and SEO: a beginner’s guide

- November 5, 2010 2 MIN READ

Meta information and meta tags are some of the most basic yet misunderstood aspects of search engine optimisation (SEO). This article simplifies them for you.

The terms meta information and meta tags encompass many of the so-called ‘hidden words’ on your website that many people assume are vital to search engine rankings. The aspects of meta information most people tend to think about for search engine optimisation purposes are the title, keywords and description meta tags.

Meta titles

The meta title is the title a webpage presents to search engines. It’s not visible on the web page itself but instead sits in the top border of your browser (where the minimise, maximise and close buttons are), right next to the little IE or Firefox icon.

The meta title is arguably the most important on-page factor you can manipulate for SEO purposes. An effective meta title should contain your target keywords for that page and therefore should be different to the meta titles of the other pages on your site.

It should represent the content of the page so that search engines notice that not only does your page title say “Blue Designer Spanners,” but the content of the web page is also all about those great blue designer spanners you sell.

Tip: Limit your meta titles to 60 characters or fewer (including spaces) or they may be truncated in search engine results pages.

Want more articles like this? Check out the SEO techniques section.

Meta keywords

Meta keywords are keywords inserted into a webpage’s header information. They’re visible to search engine robots but not to people viewing the web page. Although previously used as a method of categorising pages and to signify what a page was about to the search engines, they were prone to abuse by website owners who started stuffing them with high traffic keywords (regardless of whether relevant to their sites or not), and consequently are of little value now.

Google have clearly stated that they don’t use meta keywords for ranking and as Bing takes over the Yahoo search listings there is little point in using these for SEO purposes any more (not that Yahoo makes any significant use of them either).

Tip: Although meta keywords are unlikely to help your page ranking, they can assist webmasters with their work flow, so feel free to use them to keep your website organised.

Meta descriptions

Your meta description is the snippet of text that often appears in search engine results pages. It is more likely to be used by the search engines if it contains the keywords from the meta title and reflects the content of that particular page.

Your web page’s meta description won’t help its search engine rankings, but it is your chance to describe what your page is about and entice searchers to click your listing, so try to include a call to action to attract the visitor. For example:

Blue Designer Spanners from Check out our huge range of coloured designer spanners. Best prices in Australia Guaranteed.

Tip: Keep meta descriptions to no more than 160 characters to avoid truncation.

Remember that search engines value good, unique content above everything else so without that your meta tags are not going to help at all!

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