If you view the HTML sources for the web pages on the thesitewizard.com, you would have noticed that they all contain META tags. META tags influence the way some search engines list and index web pages.
There are at least three META tags that you will want to use to make sure your page is search engine ready.
For search engines that support them, META tags are used in at least three ways:
They are used to describe your site in the search results. For example, if you do not have a META Description tag for your page, some search engines will simply grab the first few lines of your page to serve as the description of your site. This description is more important than you may think. If you were searching for "nosuchwordasthis", which of the following two items listed would you be more likely to click?
Nosuchwordasthis.com: Ridiculous and Impossible Words
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Nosuchwordasthis.com: Ridiculous and Impossible Words
Some of the incredible words that netizens have come up with this year, along with their supposed meanings.
The first item above had a snippet from what appears to be its top menu in the lines below the website title. The second item has a description which tells the person searching exactly what the site is all about.
If you do not put a description tag, what appears in the listing would be likely to be whatever first appears on your page, usually the alt text of some graphic or banner or perhaps your top menu.
There are search engines which also look for a META Robots tag to determine how they index your site. For example, if Google does not encounter such a tag, it will assume that it can index and follow the links on the page. If you want some other behaviour from Google, you will have to use a META tag to specify it.
In the old days, they were used to determine which keywords your page will be listed under. So if you want your page to be listed in a search engine when the user searches for the term "nosuchwordasthis", the latter should be present in your META Keywords tag as well as in your document. I'm not sure however if any search engine still uses this tag today.
There are other META tags, which individual search engines recognize. However, the tags listed here are the main tags relevant to most search engines.
A META Description tag, for those of you who write your web pages using raw HTML code, looks like the following:
Give a brief description of your page in this tag. Bear in mind that this description (or part of it) will be displayed in the search engine results so try to make sure you phrase it in such a way that the person searching can tell at a glance that he's found the correct page for his search. Minimize irrelevancies and put the essentials near the beginning of the description so that if the search engine only accepts the initial (say) 150 characters, the essential parts of your description will still be displayed.
Not all search engines use this tag. For example, Google normally only displays the text surrounding the matching keyword that the searcher used.
Although this Meta tag is seldom mentioned in search engine promotion guides, it is important if you want certain search engines to crawl through your website using the links on the page you submit. Since adding it involves little additional effort, you might as well do it while you add the other tags.
In general, you will add the following line to your web page if you want the search engine to index your page and follow the links on it.
In cases where you do not want it to index your page simply use "noindex" instead of "index". Likewise if you don't want the engine to crawl through the links on your page, use "nofollow" instead of "follow".
Most, if not all, search engines today recognize this tag.
Furthermore, if you do not want the search engine to keep a cache of your page on their servers, you can affix a "noarchive" value to the "content" attribute, such as in the example below:
Google, for example, will see the "noarchive" value and not keep a copy of your page in its cache.
The Meta Keywords tag used to be an important way to get your page listed under specific keywords under the search engines. Nowadays, however, major search engines like Google and Alta Vista ignore this tag, and the keywords tag no longer has the significance it used to have in the early days of the web. You can read specific details about what is important to these search engines in their ranking of your page in the following articles:
Google Search Engine Positioning Tips
More Tips on Google Search Engine Results Placement
Alta Vista Search Engine Placement Tips
I no longer use this tag on my new pages, since it's mostly useless nowadays.
The META Keywords tag should be placed in the <head> portion of your web page. If you are using a WYSIWYG editor, there is usually some way for you to enter the keywords on the page using a separate dialog box. If you are typing it yourself into your web page, the tag looks like the following:
In place of the phrase "put your keywords here", you should of course give a list of your keywords. The keywords should be comma-delimited. That is, if you want to your page to be listed when the user searches for "medical help" and "free diagnosis", you should use the following tag:
Each search engine has its own limit to the number of characters in your keyword list. The general advice given is not to make your list longer than you need it to be. Some search engine experts recommend that you do not exceed 1000 characters in your list. In the days when it still recognized the keyword tag, Alta Vista did not use anything beyond 500 characters.
A word of caution. Although you might think that this is a good place to put in common misspellings of keywords that you spelt correctly on your page, you should probably note that in the days when search engines indexed the keyword list, some of them penalized web pages that contain words that cannot be found on the page itself. They were probably trying to guard against abuse by people trying to "spam" the index. The latter have been known to dump every conceivable keyword they can think of even if it is unrelated to their web page. Unfortunately, this policy also penalizes legitimate site owners who really want to catch those common misspellings of their page content.
You can read more information about this in the article Your Website's Spelling and the Search Engines at http://www.thesitewizard.com/sitepromotion/spellingerrors.shtml
You should also not repeat a particular keyword too many times in your tag. Again, some engines used to make a note of such things and penalize your site. Note that it is possible to accidentally repeat a keyword multiple times when you use a word in different phrases: eg, a tag that has the following keyword list, "search engine promotion, search engine ranking, search engine placement", would have repeated the words "search engine" three times even though they occur in different phrases. Some repetition is apparently acceptable (possibly even up to three times), although excessive repetition is regarded as "spam".
For those using a visual web editor to manage your site, you may want to check out the following tutorials on how you can actually insert the Meta tags using the editor:
Although the benefits conferred by using the various meta tags on your page are not substantial, they are nonetheless useful in controlling how the search engines index and list your page. Since tags like the description and robots tag require very little effort to add to your page, it is probably a good idea to add at least these tags to your pages.
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