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What You Should Know About META & TITLE Tags

In our last post, we talked about keeping your website’s ranking and how the process has changed over the years.

One particular change has been to the META tags . . . but we really didn’t cover the changes and what you can do to make optimum use of your site’s META tags in today’s search engine environment.

And, technically not a ‘META’ tag but something else you need to know since  it’s extremely important, we’ll briefly cover how to maximize your website’s  TITLE  tag.

What are the META tags?

In HTML, these lines of code are included in the section at the top of each page. They include:

A few years back you could stuff  these lines with keywords – repeating them over and over – to get a quick, top ranking. You can no longer do this.

The search engines have  evolved to the point where you want to focus on having a good, keyword rich TITLE as well as a good META tag description with less attention to the META keywords tag.

Although you can still include META keywords on the page, their importance has diminished significantly and the four major search engines (Google, Yahoo, Bing and Ask)  place very little to no importance on them.

TITLE Tag

All four of the  top search engines place a high value on the page’s title tag. Therefore, you want to make sure to include good keywords here.

The number of characters indexed range from a high of  1,129 (Google)  to  a low of  70 (Bing) with the others falling in between … so keeping the page’s most important information first is a good idea. (Note:  The number of characters indexed in the TITLE tag is often different from the number of title tag characters displayed in search results – so just because you’ve reached  the number of characters allowed … keep writing – the information beyond the set number of characters may end up being displayed in the search results. )

META Description Tag

Your META description tag should not only contain keywords for the page but also should be enticing enough that if someone reads it in the search results, they’ll  want to visit your site.

This can be quite a challenge . . . especially when you add in another factor which is to include a ‘call to action’ somewhere in the sentence, i.e., get info here, read more, etc. (Note:  You may also want to add short call to action in your TITLE tag when possible.)

When writing your description you should know that not all search engines view META tags the same. Each of the top four search engines have different priorities and limits as to what they use for search results and  how many characters they index .

So, in spite of the fact that you may have put a lot of  thought into writing your META description, not all of the search engines  use the META description for search results.   Some search results  may display content from the text on your page – or your Yahoo or DMOZ listing. (If you haven’t registered your website with DMOZ – visit this link to get started.)

META Keyword Tag

While the importance placed on META keywords is small to none these days – it is my opinion to go ahead and include at least the top keywords for the page. You have a 50-50 chance of your keywords being indexed. Some search engines index them (Yahoo & Ask) – some don’t (Google & Bing).

And, while I wouldn’t spend too much time agonizing over this particular META tag – I would go ahead and include at least 15-20 keywords per page… at least until we hear they’re back in favor or that they are no longer being indexed at all.

Conclusion

Writing a title and description that is both search engine optimized and “people friendly” can be challenging. However, if you follow these general guidelines for structuring your META tags and TITLE, you may find it helps in getting your website ranked as well as making your site appear more inviting when displayed in the search resuslts.

One final recommendation – optimize each page in your website on it’s own merit  for that page’s content. You do NOT want to have the same TITLE, META description or  META keyword  code on each page.   Time consuming… yes; but necessary for ranking.

Want to find out everything about META tags and what the top four search engines index and what they don’t? Get your subscription to Planet Ocean’s Search Engine News  here.


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