meta tag optimisation « Datadial Blog
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On the subject of meta tag optimisation

Martina Martina

March 10th, 2011.

A few things companies should know about their website… ‘meta-speak’

The Meta Description Tag

The Meta-description tag is a excerpt of HTML code that belongs inside the ‘ <meta name=”Description” content=” description goes here /> section of a web page.

This tag can definitely come in handy in your overall SEO campaign but the keywords and phrases you use in your Meta description tag actually have no effect on your page’s ranking in search engine results.

What does this mean?

Well you might have thought that these tags help your pages rank highly for the words you use within them, or spruce up the description a little bit in terms of what is shown in the search engines when they are typed – well if you did – you were wrong. In actual fact, similar to the Meta keywords tag, the information you place in this tag really isn’t given any weight in Google’s ranking algorithms.

In other words, whether or not you use your most important keywords in your Meta description tag, it simply won’t affect the position of your page in the results. So essentially, you could leave a description out altogether!

It almost sounds like you don’t need these tags at all, should you bother with them then?

Well, if you’re already happy with the excerpts of text that the search engines post from your page in any given search query, then there’s no reason to have a Meta description tag on your page(s). You might want to remember though, that the excerpt the engines use varies depending on what the searcher types into the engine.

Okay, so…?

In Google, if you search for a site by URL, the excerpts you see in the lists results returned are the first instance of text on that page. However on some pages an ‘image-alt’ tag that looks like this: <img> (the code that embeds an image in an HTML page), is the first instance of words on a page. In these cases, that is what would show up as part of the “excerpt” for your search.

For the most part the people searching with URLs are site owners checking whether or not their pages are indexed. So generally, you don’t need to worry about this.

What does this mean in layman’s terms?

Okay so a normal search wouldn’t usually involve a full URL. You would probably put in 3 or 4 (or 5 or 6) keywords describing what it is you were looking for (known as a long-tail keyword) – In this example let’s say you searched for “pink ballet shoes” – however if none of these keywords are used in the Meta description tags on any site that is returned in the search results or/and they aren’t on the landing page as a complete phrase in that order, then Google will simply gather a list of pages that contain any of the words ‘pink + ballet + shoes’ near each other and it will use any words surrounding these ones as the excerpts for those pages.

If “pink ballet shoes” were a product you were selling, then a great idea would be to adjust the page to include these words in the Meta description tags and also somewhere in the body of text on your page(s). Remember however, this isn’t in attempt to rank any higher but would simply be a way to make your site more search friendly when the user types these keywords into a search engine.

The Meta Title Tag

Completely unlike the description tag, the title tag will is and always will be one of the most important factors in achieving high search engine rankings.

Put simply – ensuring you have strong title tags on each of your pages can generate significant differences to your rankings. This is because the words in the title tag are what appear in the links on the results pages returned after a query is put in (the bold, blue underlined text on Google when you put in a query and press ‘enter’) – therefore these are this is your first chance to impress the user.
They can’t be THAT important, can they?

Yes they can! Title tags are one of the main elements given algorithmic weight by search engines – in fact, if not more so, they are equally as important as the visible text highlighting your pages.
So what information should go in the title tag?

The name of your business should be the main thing here. Whatever else you add is entirely up to you, this can range from taglines, to descriptions of what your business does, to location details (so using the example from before you might add something like “Smiths’ Ballet Retailers – Middlesbrough”).

So the main thing was…?

This is the first thing users will see! Don’t miss out on a huge opportunity by not including the name of your business here.

To Surmise…

  • Meta keyword tags/description tags are not related to how you are ranked in a search engine, but it would be silly to leave them out.
  • The Meta description tag summarises what’s on your page and the keyword tag supplies a summary list of the important words on your page. Both types of tag make the page more search engine friendly.

Good luck!

Adam Adam

September 25th, 2008.

Top Five Tips For Optimising Your Business’ Meta Tags

Anyone who’s been around long enough in the SEO industry will remember how meta tags where used and abused to get short term results for sites all over the world. Of course, search engines cottoned on to these tactics, and over time removed some of the weighting meta tags (especially keyword tags) have in the ranking algorithms. However, well optimised meta tags are still important, and it is worth taking the time to optimise the meta tags for your business to increase your sales, signups, leads- whatever your business aim.

Today meta tags should be used responsibly. By optimising these tags efficiently you may notice an improvement in search engine results pages (SERPs), as well as the Click Through Rate (CTR) of your results in the SERPs.

The following tags are found within the HTML code of your page. By using these tags wisely, you can increase some of the on-page search engine optimisation for your site with very little effort.

Tip #1: Title Tag Optimisation

Although not a meta tag, the title tag is widely considered to be one of the most important parts of on-page optimisation, not to mention being equally important to visitors. The title tag is the text you see in the top left of your browser window – a tag that displays the page title, but the text does not actually appear on your page itself. In the HTML code, your title tag may look something like this:

<title>Web Site Design And Web Development London UK : Datadial Ltd </title>

Title tags are important to visitors- just as a title is important to a book. The title tag can be used to identify your site from another if multiple browser windows are open for example. Obviously the title should be accurate to the content of the specific page. It’s very important that each page on the site has a different title to reflect that specific pages content. Having uniform title tags across all pages is a waste of prime optimisation space.

The title tag is also be used in search engine results. For example, in Google (and many other search engines), the blue links millions of searchers click on everyday, almost without a thought, uses the title tag for the page.

You can see from our example the title tag is being shown as the title of the search result. By creating a well optimised title tag that is compelling to the reader, you will notice an increase in your CTR.

Tip #2: Placing Keywords In Title Tag

By placing your most important keywords in your title tag, your page in the search results has more of a chance of getting that click, as the keyword will be bolded, as you can see in this example:

So a result for the search query ‘free widgets’:

The page with the title tag: “Free Widgets: Download Your Widgets For Free Here Now” should get more clicks to their site over a page with the title tag: “The big title tag that mentions Widgets”.

Why?

Firstly, several key phrases are found in the tag (as opposed to just one of the keywords). This means potentially more of the title is bolded if those search phrases are used, which attracts the searchers attention.

Secondly, the keyword is located closer to the beginning of the tag. Since most searchers read from left to right, the quicker the keyword is seen in the tag, the more likely the user will stop to read the result, and as less text has been read prior to discovering the keyword, your result may appear more relevant.

Thirdly, the tag is exciting, as opposed to the other, which doesn’t inspire the searcher to stop and read the description for the result.

Fourthly, the tag has a call to action, inviting the searcher to click the link.

The main aim of your sites title tag should be to include your main keywords (which will be bolded and attract their attention), then provide them with a compelling title that fulfils their search need. By fulfilling their search need, the searcher will either click the link, or continue reading your listing (by moving on to the results description).

Tip #3: Description Meta Tag Optimisation

The description meta tag is an important part of on-page optimisation. A well optimised description meta tag can have a large impact on your click through rate (CTR) for your site in the search engine results, along with the ability to contain your top keywords.

The description meta tag is intended to contain a brief description of the page’s content. Certain search engines use the description meta tag within their results, therefore it’s a good idea to get your description meta tags right!

The description meta tag in the HTML code may look something like this:

<meta name="Description" content="Datadial offer complete online marketing solutions to meet your targets and fit your budget. Internet marketing services and consultancy that gives results." />

And may appear in search results:

The description meta tag text does not appear in the page text itself. However, when optimising your description meta tag, be sure to keep the description of the page accurate, and to include your main keywords. These keywords will again be bolded in the search results, therefore drawing more attention to your result.

It may also be wise to place a subtle call to action, slogan or mission statement within your description meta tag or a description that will entice the searcher. Remember, you are competing with many other pages so providing searchers with a reason to click on your page is a good idea and can easily be accomplished with the description meta tag.

Note: If you have submitted your site to the DMOZ Open Directory Project, you may find that your description is used from that of the DMOZ description.
To prevent this from happening, and to prompt search engines to use the description meta tag on your page, add the following robots meta tag:

<meta name="robots" content="noodp">

This meta tag also works for MSN, as well as Google.

Similar effects can also be found in Yahoo! Results if your page is listed in the Yahoo! Directory by using the following robots meta tag:

<meta name="robots" content="noydir">

If you would like to use both, you can simply comma separate the ‘content’ for the robots meta tag, like so:

<meta name="robots" content="noydir, noodp">

Tip #4: Robots Meta Tag

In addition to instructing search engine robots to not use DMOZ or Yahoo! Directory descriptions, the robots meta tag can also be used to control which pages can be indexed, followed and archived.

The robots meta tag is also found in the HTML code, and again does not appear on the page. This meta tag is an instruction to search engine robots when crawling a page and can be used to control which pages can be indexed or followed by the search engine spider. The robots meta tag may be similar to this:

<meta name="robots" content="noindex,noodp,noydir">

The ‘content’ part of this meta tag controls the instruction to the search engine robot. The following operators can be included within the content:

  • noindex- prevents search engines indexing the page
  • nofollow- prevents search engines following links on the page
  • none- combines the function of noindex and nofollow into one
  • noimageindex- prevents search engines indexing images on the page
  • noarchive- prevents search engines caching the page (keeping an archived copy of the page in their results)
  • noydir- prevents Yahoo! from displaying the Yahoo! Directory description
  • noodp- prevents search engines from displaying the description from the Open Directory
  • nosnippet- prevents a description appearing in the SERPS

The robots meta tag is useful for excluding pages you do not wish to be found in search engines (such as member pages), as well as the use previously mentioned.

Tip #5: Keywords Meta Tag Optimisation

The keywords meta tag used to be a powerful SEO tool. By placing keywords in this meta tag, SEOs used to be able to see their pages ranked for these keywords relatively quickly.
Once the search engines realised that it was effectively being abused, all weight that the keywords meta tag had on a page’s results was removed by the majority, effectively making the keywords meta tag relatively redundant.

Now it is not necessary to place keywords in the keyword meta tag- this has little to no effect on the pages ranking in search results. However, placing your keywords in the keyword meta tag can still be found in practice today, as small search engines may still rely on keyword meta tag content.

The keywords meta tag is found in the HTML code and may look similar to this:

<meta name="keywords" content="seo,buying seo,seo guide" />

Keywords are comma separated, and should not be repeated. This was once a tactic spammers used to trick search engines into thinking a page was relevant and today repeating keywords can hurt you rather than helping. You can also include synonyms of your keywords as well, ‘book’ and ‘books’ are not the same.

There are many other meta tags in use today, including abstract, author, copyright, distribution, expires, language, refresh and revisit meta tags, amongst others. While these meta tags can also be used, these tags have little effect on optimising your pages for search results, therefore these meta tags have been excluded.

Summary

By using the meta tag optimisation tips mentioned, you should notice an improvement in search engine results, as well as an increase in the Click Through Rate (CTR) of your results. To make the most out of meta tag optimisation, we suggest testing different title and descriptions to maximise the amount of click throughs your results get, tracking the results over a set period and using the best performing tags to improve your CTR from search engine results pages (SERPs).

You should also be aware that other on-page search engine optimisation efforts should also be used to make your pages search engine friendly and rank higher.

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