Meta Tag Overview
Editors Note: We know that the title tag is not a meta tag, but since its usage goes hand in hand with the keyword and description meta tags, we are including it in this “meta tag” discussion for simplicity sake.
Meta tags are no longer the “magic bullet” solutions they once were. In fact, the relevance and importance of meta tags has diminished significantly over the past few years, however they can still play an important role in overall search engine optimization. The primary tags that should be included on every page are the Title, Keyword Meta, and Description Meta tags.
There are many other Meta tags that site owners often use that can tell any variety of things such as Author, Designer, Web Promoter, Dog’s Name, etc. Seriously, I’ve seen some pretty silly meta tags inserted onto some web pages, but by and large, the only ones you need (or arguably should even have) are the three mentioned above.
There are a few other tags that do have an operational purpose (such as a Robots tag), however unless you have a specific reason for a tag and fully know that it is a working tag, that is it fulfills its specific purpose, then avoid adding any extra Meta coding onto the page. For optimization purposes, it is best to eliminate all unnecessary coding as much as possible.
Keyword Meta Tag
Since the Keyword meta tag is the least important of the three, we’ll start with it. There has been a lot of debate over the years over how to build a keyword tag properly. Ultimately, it probably doesn’t matter much.
The keyword tag used to be an important part of the optimization process, but not anymore. Very few search engines actually consider the keyword tag, and those that do give it very little relevance over other factors. The reason for this is primarily to avoid spam. A few years back it was almost possible to get top rankings on your keyword tag alone. This caused many sites to add unrelated keywords into their keyword tag as a means to drive people to their sites. People would perform searches on “toys” and wind up at a porn site.
Because of this, search engines adopted a “Do as I say, not as I say” philosophy. By this I mean that they rank your site according to your text on the page, not by any unrelated keywords you might place in the keyword tag. If anything, the keyword tag merely serves to underscore the words already in the body text. If you have your search term optimized into the body of your page, then placing that term in your keyword tag *might* provide a slight boost for your page regarding that term.
The argument remains: is there a proper way to build your Keywords meta tag? Ask 10 people and you’ll get 10 different “proper” methods. Our recommendation is to keep your keyword tag to under 40 words, don’t repeat any words and don’t use commas. Put your important words towards the front and least important towards the end. If you sell red boots, blue boots, green boots, and cowboy boots; “boots” is probably your most important word and that word should be first. Don’t repeat “boots” after each description, just put “red blue green cowboy” after “boots”.
Why no commas? Because it saves character space and (this is my theory only) it allows the search engine to put the words together in any number of phrase combinations. Some place a comma rather than a space between keywords (boots,red,blue,green,cowboy) but the search engines simply see the comma as a space anyway so I don’t see the point.
When it comes down to it, every SEO has his/her own method that works best, and that’s just fine. The bottom line is don’t lose sleep over placing commas, spaces, caps or no caps in your keyword tag because it probably won’t make a noticeable difference anyway.
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