|How to Use
Meta Tags In Search Engine Promotion
By Christopher S L Heng
|If you view the HTML
sources for the web pages on my site, you would have noticed
that they all contain META tags. META tags influence the way
most Search Engines list and index web pages.
There are at least three META tags that you should use to make
sure your page is search engine ready.
1. What are Meta tags good for?
For search engines that support them, META tags are used in
at least three ways:
i. They are used to determine which keywords your page will
be listed under. So if you want your page to be listed in a
search engine when the user searches for the term "nosuchwordasthis",
the latter should be present in your META Keywords tag as well
as in your document.
ii. They are used to describe your site in the search results.
For example, if you do not have a META Description tag for your
page, some search engines will simply grab the first few lines
of your page to serve as the description of your site. This
description is more important than you may think. If you were
searching for "nosuchwordasthis", which of the following two
items listed would you be more likely to click?
- Nosuchwordasthis.com: Ridiculous and Impossible
Home About Example.com Contact Us Links Download FAQ
- Nosuchwordasthis.com: Ridiculous and Impossible
Some of the incredible words that netizens have come up
with this year, along with their supposed meanings.
The first item above had a snippet from what appears to be its
top menu in the lines below the website title. The second item
has a description which tells the person searching exactly what
the site is all about.
If you do not put a description tag, what appears in the listing
would be likely to be whatever first appears on your page, usually
the alt text of some graphic or banner or perhaps your top menu.
iii. There are search engines which also look for a META Robots
tag to determine how they index your site. For example, if Google
(a search engine) does not encounter such a tag, it will only
index the page but not follow the links on it (at least that
was its behaviour the last time I checked). If you want it to
index the pages linked from your main page, you will need to
place a META Robots tag.
There are other META tags, which individual search engines may
recognize. However, the tags listed here are the important ones
that you'll definitely want to remember to include on your web
2. How to Use the META Keywords Tag
The META Keywords tag should be placed in the HEAD portion of
your web page. If you are using a WYSIWYG editor, there is usually
some provision for you to enter the keywords on the page using
a separate dialog box. If you are typing it yourself into your
web page, the tag looks like the following:
<meta name="keywords" content="put
your keywords here">
In place of the phrase "put your keywords here", you should
of course give a list of your keywords. The keywords should
be comma-delimited. That is, if you want to your page to be
listed when the user searches for "medical help" and "free diagnosis",
you should use the following tag:
<meta name="keywords" content="medical
help, free diagnosis">
Each search engine has its own limit to the number of characters
in your keyword list. The general advice given is not to make
your list longer than you need it to be. Some search engine
experts recommend that you do not exceed 1000 characters in
your list. However, it seems that even 1000 may be too long
since it appears that Alta Vista does not recognize anything
beyond 500 characters.
A word of caution. Although you might think that this is a good
place to put in common misspellings of keywords that you spelt
correctly on your page, you should probably note that some search
engines (including Alta Vista) penalize web pages that contain
keywords that cannot be found on the page itself. They are probably
trying to guard against abuse by people trying to "spam" the
index. The latter have been known to dump every conceivable
keyword they can think of even if it is unrelated to their web
page. Unfortunately, this policy also penalizes legitimate site
owners who really want to catch those common misspellings of
their page content.
You should also not repeat a particular keyword too many times
in your tag. Again, some engines make a note of such things
and penalize your site. Note that it is possible to accidentally
repeat a keyword multiple times when you use a word in different
phrases: eg, a tag that has the following keyword list, "search
engine promotion, search engine ranking, search engine placement",
would have repeated the words "search engine" three times even
though they occur in different phrases. Some repetition is apparently
acceptable (possibly even up to three times); excessive repetition
is regarded as "spam".
3. How to Use the META Description Tag
A META Description tag, for those of you who write your web
pages using raw HTML code, looks like the following:
<meta name="description" content="put
your page description here">
Give a brief description of your page in this tag. Bear in mind
that this description (or part of it) will be displayed in the
search engine results so try to make sure you phrase it in such
a way that the person searching can tell at a glance that he's
found the correct page for his search. Minimize irrelevancies
and put the essentials near the beginning of the description
so that if the search engine only accepts the initial (say)
150 characters, the essential parts of your description will
still be displayed.
4. How to Use the META Robots Tag
Although this Meta tag is seldom mentioned in search engine
promotion guides, it is still important if you want certain
search engines to crawl through your website using the links
on the page you submit. Since adding it involves little additional
effort, you might as well do it while you add the other tags.
In general, you will add the following line to your web page
if you want the search engine to index your page and follow
the links on it.
<meta name="ROBOTS" content="INDEX,FOLLOW">
In cases where you do not want it to index your page simply
use "noindex" instead of "index". Likewise if you don't want
the engine to crawl through the links on your page, use "nofollow"
instead of "follow".
Google and search engines that use the Inktomi engine, like
HotBot, apparently recognize this tag.
Furthermore, if you do not want Google to keep a cache of your
page on their servers, you can affix a NOARCHIVE value to the
CONTENT attribute, such as in the example below:
<meta name="ROBOTS" content="INDEX,FOLLOW,NOARCHIVE">
5. Which Search Engines recognize META tags?
To give you an idea of how important Meta tags are, here's a
list of some search engines that recognize the Meta tag. It
is probably not exhaustive, and since search engines are continually
changing, the list may not necessarily be accurate by the time
you read it:
Alta Vista, Excite, Google, HotBot, InfoSeek, Lycos, Northern
6. So how important is the Meta tag?
Like all things in search engine promotion, the Meta tag helps
your listing and perhaps even placement in the search engines.
It only requires a little additional effort when you first create
your page, but it yields its dividend over and over again with
each visitor that you manage to attract to your site from the
Copyright by Christopher S L Heng. All rights reserved.
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