Better search results (not just rankings) are the goal of most any website owner. If you want people to be able to find you amongst the kajillion pages on Google, Bing, or Yahoooo!, you have to write great meta tags. If you are a webmaster, programmer, or designer, then this is probably review for you. Pay attention anyway because sometimes we forget things. For the website owner, you may have no idea what a meta tag is. Meta tags are incorporated into the HTML code of your webpage. They affect both how a site appears in search results, and how high or low it can appear on the page. The three most common meta tags are TITLE, DESCRIPTION, and KEYWORDS. Each of these is important for different reasons. Let’s take a look at a page result from Google and then we will break it down into more detail.
Google Search Engine Result for “Zen Cart”
This tag might be the most important of all the meta tags. This tag determines both the clickable title of a webpage in the search results, and the title that appears in the browser bar when the webpage is displayed. Writing a great TITLE tag is as simple as remembering these steps:
- Each page of the website should have a unique TITLE
- You want the beginning of the TITLE to incorporate your main keyword for that page.
- Put the name of your company at the end of the TITLE
- Keep the TITLE to 65 characters or less to avoid having part of it cut off by the search engine or browser.
Your description tag appears directly below your title in the search results. It should be written not for the robots and crawlers, but for the visitors that will be clicking through to your site. A few things that might help with creating this tag include:
- Keep it simple, relevant, and intriguing to the user. Don’t give too much away, but don’t be too vague either.
- Keep the length between 125-175 characters.
- Be sure to use your keywords and keyword phrases so that they will appear in bold in the search results.
The KEYWORD tag is not as important as TITLE and DESCRIPTION. Many search engines don’t use this tag as a ranking factor. There are some that do, so it is best to make it a part of your HTML code anyway. Keep this in mind as your create this tag:
- Don’t write any of the words more than once, and try and keep the number or keywords/phrases below fifteen.
- Use keywords that were not already utilized in your TITLE and DESCRIPTION tags.
- Make sure the words are relevant, and that they can be found elsewhere in the content of your page. Otherwise, penalties could ensue.
- The proper separator for keywords is the comma.
Now then, in the example above the site circled in green represents one that meets all, or most of the characteristics listed above for both the TITLE and DESCRIPTION tags. Note that the company name is at the end of the title, and that the description is relevant, makes sense to the reader, and is of the proper length. The example circled in red has one or more elements that need some improvement. Can you find them? If so, then you are well on your way to developing great META tags that will make your search engine results more readable, move you up the results page, and drive those targeted, potential customers to your website.