September 25th, 2008.
Anyone whoâ€™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. Itâ€™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 â€˜free widgetsâ€™:
The page with the title tag: â€œFree Widgets: Download Your Widgets For Free Here Nowâ€ should get more clicks to their site over a page with the title tag: â€œThe big title tag that mentions Widgetsâ€.
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 doesnâ€™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 pageâ€™s content. Certain search engines use the description meta tag within their results, therefore itâ€™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 â€˜contentâ€™ 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 â€˜contentâ€™ 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 pageâ€™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, â€˜bookâ€™ and â€˜booksâ€™ 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.
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.