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Get your Meta in gear
By Bharat C
8/5/2008 12:46:00 PM


Keywords, descriptions, and robots. All three are bits of Meta information that should be at the top of each page of your site to help search engines classify your site. Meta information helps search engines figure out what's on your webpage when they spider you. Proper Meta information can help boost search results and increase the number of people who click on a link to your site, bad Meta data can tank your search results and make it hard for customers to find you. Now I don’t intend to talk about the gritty HTML coding side of Meta data, though really Meta information is probably one of the easiest things to code. Instead I plan to talk about what's important when it comes to Meta data and what you should be sure to avoid.


Let’s start with keywords, now keywords used to be a great way for search engines to quickly figure out what kind of content a page might have and in the 90’s search engines like AltaVista used them to great effect.  However unscrupulous website owners often stuffed misdirecting or false keywords that would often drive search engine results to spam sites. So by the turn of the century search engines started to discount keywords as something they ranked sites on in search terms. Keywords may or may not still influence search results but don’t lose any sleep trying to figure out the perfect two word description for the page, content is far more important. While writing keywords keep a few things in mind first keywords can be words or short phrases, ‘e-commerce’ and ‘complete e-commerce solution’ are both valid types of keywords.  Second is to separate your list of keywords by commas i.e. ‘e-commerce, e-commerce provider, integrated e-commerce’. Also be sure never to pack or ‘stuff’ too many keywords because while search engines may not weigh keywords heavily it is considered black hat, or bad practice, to put more than ten to fifteen keyword phrases into the tag.



Now let’s talk about description tags. Description tags serve a dual purpose, the first is to help search engine spiders figure out what your page is all about. The second and more important purpose is that the content in a description tag will often be used by a search engine on the search results page. Those little blurbs you see under links in search results, those are often times Meta descriptions. Sometimes a search engine might pull those little blurbs from the content of your site but it is always good to have a useful description in your Meta data. The key to good Meta data is to keep it short and sweet, try to keep it to about 200 characters as that is generally about the space you will have for a blurb on a search engine. Also start your Meta description with the most important thing about the description. If you are selling widgets try a phrase like “widgets designed to save you money” instead of a phrase like “save money when you buy our widgets”, search engines like Google prioritize the information in descriptions based on the order they appear the first word is considered the most important with each successive word being a little less important to your site.


And now it time to talk about the final and oft overlooked bit of Meta data you should be concerned about. The robots tag, the robots tag tells a search engine whether or not it is allowed to index a certain page, follow the links on the page or archive the page on its servers. As a general rule you should allow search engines to index your page and follow the links on your page unless there is content on there that you deem to be sensitive, after all to build a good search engine result you are going to want points for links and page content. Now archiving pages is a different matter, archived pages are those pages that appear in under a Google search result and are often called ‘cached’ it could be useful for you to allow a search engine to cache your page or it could be a determent to you. It all depends on how often you update your site and the kind of content you have on your site. A cached or archived page will not be the most current version of you site and if a visitor clicks on a cached link they might get outdated content. However if your site ever experiences any down time a visitor can simply visit the cached version of your site to gather the information they need, that is of course if Google has decided to cache the page they cannot after all make duplicates of everything on the internet. To get a search engine to index your page, follow all the links on your page and not cache your page you would write in the content field “index, follow, noarchive”. To learn how to code your own meta tags visit this useful site.


Well that’s about it for meta information. I know it got a little heavy near the end there but I hope it was all helpful and you find this information useful in maximizing your search rankings. But don’t forget Meta data is important but never place more value on it than the content of your site.


Bharat C.

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Tags: Meta tags, Meta information, Meta data, Meta descriptions
Categories: SEO, RSS, Commerce Insights Blog
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