Your title tag provides the caption, your meta keywords tag normally provides the scope of the information on the page (and is invisible to humans), and your meta description tag completes the call to action – together, they form the ultra-important ‘hook’ of your advertising in the SERPS – searc engine results pages. The Page Title and the Meta Description are the MAIN meta tags you really need at this time because most search engines at least look at them.
- Title – 1-12 words max (with page keyword) – Google displays 70 characters in SERPS – I like to keep titles to within this and ensure my important keywords are within the first 55 characters. MOST IMPORTANT! Read more about Page Title Tag Optimization.
- Meta Description – 5-24 words max (with page keyword if you want a chance to feature the meta description in SERPS) – Google displays @156 characters on normal searches. Descriptions can be larger on long-tail searches. IMPORTANT!
- Meta Keywords – 3-12 keyword phrases, individually separated with “,” – Although Google does not give a page any visible benefit in terms of ranking for words here, Yahoo seems to be the only major search engine that still looks at meta keywords tag. Read more about Meta Keyword Tag Optimization.
- Meta tags must reflect page content
- Each Page should naturally optimise one keyword (with multiple phrases) and be reflected in the meta tags.
- Do not spam the search engines!
- Keep it simple – don’t obsess about meta tags
Search engines understand one thing: text. They cannot understand graphics or images, and they are still years off properly understanding proprietary technologies such as Flash – don’t build your website with Flash. Text is key to accessible website design and search engine optimisation – and meta tags offer you a golden opportunity to add a bit more, relevant and descriptive text about your web page into your web page. So, before you even worry about the correct use of meta tags: Write relevant text content for your page! You’ll find a good example of meta tags spread at the bottom of this page.
Note: Meta tags are hidden in a document’s source, invisible to the reader. Some search engines, however, are able to include the content of meta tags in results – if they want.
If your meta tags don’t reflect the text content on the page then you *might* be in trouble, if not now, tomorrow! Though copy writing text to emphasize certain keywords can greatly improve a web page’s rankings for those terms, writing lots of relevant content is the most important part. If you’re writing useful, quality information on any subject or product, optimisation of certain terms will occur naturally.
What are Meta Keyword tags?
Some information resources on the web will tell you to ignore meta keyword tags, skip them, or they’ll scare you into believing using meta keyword tags could damage your rankings.
Using any underhanded tricks on a search engine will *might* well damage your rankings in the long term. However, using meta keyword tags properly can help spiders properly include your website in their results and promote it to the world. When you begin creating your page, think of what you would type into a search engine to find your page. Target those terms, write understandable copy about those terms and summarize this page in your meta tags.
Definitive Use – The TITLE tag
Ok. So not technically a meta-tag (it’s an Element), but still, you should write your title tag at the same time as your other meta tags and cross refer the content. Using a unique, relevant title on every page of your website is crucial. The title is a highly valued aspect of a website in the eyes of assistive software devices and search engines. Many dynamic sites or template based websites use the same title for every page, such as “Companyname.com”
This is a total waste of the tag. The W3C states that the Title Tag is the most important element of any quality web page, and the search engines obviously agree. If you’re not using this important tag properly, you’re either ignorant, lazy, or you’re building the site for next-to-nothing, or your under too much pressure at work!
A good title is generally a 4 to 8 (12 max) word description of the page contents – we did a quick test to see just how many words in a page title for Google SEO and more importantly, how many characters in a page title for Google SEO. Try to include the relevant keywords or keyword combinations that occur within the pages headings and text. Using descriptive titles not only benefits search engines, but it also makes logical sense, gives the page a more complete feel, and is a huge benefit to users browsing the page using assistive technologies.
Make it readable to visitors, not just search engines.
Remember! Using words in your title that people are searching for can improve your search engine placement. Research keywords people are searching for, and include those in your page title – ESPECIALLY.
Definitive Use – The meta description tag
There is no definitive use. The meta description tag describes your page’s content, giving search engines’ spiders an accurate summary (filled with multiple keywords!). Try to include at least the major keyword(s) in this description, and use 5-20 words for the description. Keep it short and to the point. Remember – this is your advert to the world! Write a good catchy, but objective description of the page content, and write it for people, not search engines!
The meta description tag is especially important because it’s the only tag supported by most engines. A meta description tag can boost your rankings on some engines. Another reason the meta description tag is important is that some engines use it as a site’s summary on their results pages. If they do, the reader may actually see this hidden tag. Make sure its contents are enticing to the reader.
The meta description tag should contain multiple keywords organized in a logical sentence. Place the keywords near the beginning of your description.
Search engines vary in their preferred length for meta tags. Try to use the smaller number, 150 characters, for your site. Never make your metatag more than 250 characters long because some results pages will cut it off. At the moment, Google seems to display a maximum of 156 characters.
Good meta tags
It’s unlikey any major search engine will penalize sites that use meta tags properly – you should always have a UNIQUE PAGE TITLE ON EACH PAGE, and if useing meta descriptions, ensure each is unique to that page (in relation to your site).
Most search engines use meta tags, but just because a search engine ‘uses’ meta-description tags, for instance, doesn’t mean they are using it to factor where your page features in the SERPS.
Some search engines seem to ignore meta-tags. At the other end of the scale, there are other Meta Tag search engines which declare: “Your site will not be added if it does not have Title, and, Meta Description tags.”
Spamming Search Engines With Spammy Meta Tags
Avoid un-natural repeating keywords anywhere on your site. Some search engines consider it to be spam, and then you are in big trouble!
There are a number of tools for analyzing and creating your meta tags.
Example Meta Tags Best Practice
<title>Meta Tags Tutorial - Tips & Techniques - Best Practice Google SEO</title>
<meta name="Description" content="Meta tags. The definitive guide to using the most important meta tags and how search engines use them."
<meta name="keywords" content="meta tags, metatags, meta-tags">
…and then let the page text content do the rest!