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Web Site Optimisation - Title and Meta Tags

In This Section
  Title tags
  Meta description tags
  Meta keyword tags

Before we go any further let me reiterate that the most important element in optimising sites for high search engine listings is html body text. If the pages do not have keyword rich text, even the best titles and meta tags are not going to go very far toward good listings.

The titles and meta tags are supposed to highlight the most important keywords, as listed throughout the html body text on that web page as well as match the overall theme of the site. They are meant to be an addition to, not replacement for, keyword rich html copy.

After the body copy, the < title > < /title > tag is the most important element in search engine optimisation for a web page (please note that the theme, navigation, and inbound links are the most important elements for successful search engine placement for the site overall). The text in the title tag should be:

  • limited to a total of 60-70 characters (spaces and punctuation should be counted as characters)
  • include the most important 2-4 keywords/phrases that are in that page's body copy
  • be well written, easy to read, and capitalised and punctuated as a book title would be

The < meta name="description" content=" " > tag is not an important element as far as search engine optimisation is concerned but it is important for your site's listings as a well worded description has often been the deciding factor in whether a searcher clicked on the first, second or third links, with many choosing the lower listing due to a better title and description. Please note that not all engines use the meta description tag when displaying results, some use the first few lines of text from your web page and some use text from anywhere in your web page providing it contains the terms that were used in the search. The meta description tag should be:

  • one or two sentences describing the page as it relates to the site/company overall
  • limited to a total of 160-200 characters (spaces and punctuation should be counted as characters)

Next comes the < meta name="keywords" content=" " > tag about which there are so many misconceptions. In short, if you don't have the time, forget this tag completely. I personally use it on almost every web page I optimise simply because I believe that every little bit might count but I never spend a lot of time on it. Simply choose the few main keywords that are being targeted on that particular webpage and add them to the meta keyword tag. Try not to repeat any single word if possible. In order to avoid repetition it's advisable to not use commas as this will allow you to string words together to make up several possible combinations without having to repeat any one of them.

The meta keywords tag should be:

  • used to highlight that particular page's keywords/phrases
  • limited to a total of 1000 characters (spaces and punctuation should be counted as characters) although in reality you should limit it to 10-30 words depending on how much text the page contains
  • do not repeat words if possible
  • do not use words that do not appear on the page unless they are synonyms or relate to the site's overall theme
  • do not use another company's name, trademarks or product names unless you have a very good reason for doing so (one that will hold up in court)

There are a lot of other meta tags but none of them are currently useful for search engine optimisation. That doesn't mean they should not be used, just don't expect them to affect the site's rankings.

NEXT Step: Search Engine Optimisation - Alt Tags and Link Text

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