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META Tags Web Site Design Terms Web Site Marketing Terms General Internet Terms Domain Names

META Tags: The Ugly Truth

This is the most talked about, least understood aspect of Search Engine Positioning and Site Promotion. What worked four or five years ago is ineffective today, yet ignorant or unscrupulous design firms are still promising that the right META Tags will help your site rank well.

The truth is that some META tags can be helpful, a few are mandatory, but even the best are nowhere near as important as the content and content type of your site.

It's All About Money, er... "Relevancy"

Hate to burst your bubble, but search engines are in it for the money. The more searches they deliver, the more money they can charge for advertising, sponsored links, or preferred ranking on their sites.

When search engine users get good results, they return to the search engine again and again — so there's always a fierce battle to develop the best secret algorithm (mathematical formula) to deliver the most qualified web sites (best search results) to end users.

Each engine uses a different algorithm, which explains why you can rank well on one engine, and not rank well, or not appear at all on another.

Search engines look for "Relevancy" — the measure of how well your site delivers what a visitor is searching for. The absolute best way to rank well across all engines is to have good site content, written and formatted specifically to match expected searches.

What are META tags?

META tags are a group of coded instructions that appear in the invisible, or HEAD section of a web page. They look like this:

<META name="keywords" content="search, search terms, keywords, listed here">

The META Keyword tag was intended to be used to index web sites on search engines. It was immediately targeted and abused by webmasters seeking high rankings, regardless of the revelance of their site. The Keyword tag is now entirely ignored by some engines, but still used by others as a secondary validation of site relevance.

The META tags that are absolutely mandatory for ranking are the Title and Description tags, which most (not all!) engines use to display the name and summary description of your site. The Keywords tag still carries enough weight that it should still be used, but within the guidelines below.

META Tags Done Right

The TITLE tag should come first, and include one or more search terms that also appear in page content.

The most important part of your site description should be included in the first 150 characters of the DESCRIPTION tag.

KEYWORDS should be manually edited for each page you care about and apply to the content of that page. Only the first 1,000 characters matter, never repeat the same word more than twice, and not twice in a row or you may be flagged for "spamming."

Staying out of META Trouble

If you use someone else's trademarked name or phrase in an invisible area of your page, such as META tags, you're just asking for trouble.

While there are legitimate uses, such as a vendor or distributor who provides a trademarked product or service, any attempt to direct searchers to your site using a competitor's trademarked term is a bad idea.

There are "fair use" laws which allow you to compare or differentiate your product from that of a competitor — clearly visible and in the body of your page.

Bottom Line:

META Tags are important, but nowhere near as important as they used to be. Be sure you have the important tags done right, and spend the rest of your energy developing good site content.


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