Search Engine Optimization and Meta Tags: Meta Keywords | Meta Description

This comes up far too frequently when I speak with clients or potential clients, so I thought it would be useful to cover the role of common meta tags and search engine optimization (SEO) – elements like meta keywords and the meta description.  When you see a listing on a search engine – here’s what the title tag (which is not a meta tag) and the meta description commonly look like – search engines don’t display meta keywords.


The Importance of Meta Keywords and SEO

Meta Keywords Tag is not important in search engine optimization – or not in the way you want it to be.  Many high ranking websites don’t even use them.  I admit, I still use them sometimes, perhaps it’s just an old habit and often clients insist meta keywords are important – but consider the following if you choose to use the meta keywords tag:

  1. Keep the keywords short – 5 or so is fine
  2. Use relevant meta keywords – don’t add keywords that aren’t in the web page’s content
  3. Meta keywords should be unique to each page
  4. Understand meta keywords won’t help the ranking of your page but overuse or misuse can negatively impact rankings
  5. Your competitors can easily view your meta keywords and know which terms you are “trying” to target or rank for – think about that

If you, your SEO resource, or staff thinks that meta keywords are a way to improve your search engine rankings – well, they are not.

The Importance of the Meta Description and SEO

The meta description however is an important meta element – because, as shown in the picture above, the meta description is what search engines typically display to describe your website.  While the meta description does not have significant SEO value, it does influence whether or not someone may click on your website’s search engine listing.
For that reason alone, care should be taken to craft relevant, meaningful description that are unique for each page.
In some cases, a search engine will choose to display a description other than what you have carefully worded as your meta description.  The most common example is Yahoo! is a Yahoo Directory description (if you have one) or search engines electing to use a DMOZ description (if you have one). Though I have even seen Google use alt tags as a web page description.  Yahoo! directory and DMOZ listings can be easily controlled (by using another meta tag!).  If Google is using other on-page elements for your description you need to understand why and fix it.

Your Website’s Title Tag and Search Engine Optimization – SEO

OK – the title tag (which is not a meta tag) has significant search engine optimization value and they influence whether someone will click on your website’s search engine listing.  So website titles should be crafted carefully and well, to target the intended keywords, provide a meaningful description of your website’s page and influence someone to click through your website’s search engine listing.
The title tag is probably the most important on-page seo element and one of the easiest to modify and improve.

SEO Marketing Services – Pricing and Value

So if you are shopping a search engine optimization partner, and you see a variety of different rates and service levels, and you don’t really understand what kind of value you are getting for your investment, I’ll offer these points for your consideration.

  • If the seo service provider is planning on changing your meta tags, title tag, submitting your website to a bunch of search engines and directories – the rate is probably low, for a reason.  There will be little return (albeit some) for that sort of service.
  • If your seo marketing resource is charging you a high rate for doing the above, look elsewhere.
  • Many seo marketing agencies offer tiered plans – and while it’s good to see a list of what will be done for your marketing investment, understand you are purchasing a pre-packaged seo plan – which may not fit the specific needs of your business.
  • If your resource provides seo marketing services which include on-page and off-page optimization; stays current with search engine trends; understands the different algorithms and has a successful track record with other clients – you may be on to something.  If you can effectively determine that seo provider’s professionalism and responsiveness, well then, now you may really be on to something.  Just be sure to use a qualified seo marketing consultant.

Meta Tags and Search Engine Optimization – Recap

So to summarize, here’s the real search engine optimization value of meta tags:
Meta Keywords – They will not help your search engine rankings. If used improperly, they may have a negative impact on your search engine rankings.
Meta Description – Important for your search engine listing and can influence whether or not people click on the listing and visit your website.
Title Tag – Very important for both search engine optimization as well as gaining traffic from search engine listings.

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