Meta-tags – do they matter?

In the early days of the Internet, search engines made heavy use of meta-tags to index sites. Meta-tags like the “keywords” tag gave the site owner the opportunity to describe in short everything their site was about so that a search for a particular keyword in a search engine would return all the sites that contained that keyword in their “keywords” meta-tag. Of course there were other factors that determined how a site was indexed and classified but that is basically how a “keywords” meta tag was meant to operate.

As you may imagine, this left unscrupulous Internet-marketers, otherwise known as black-hat Internet marketers, a gap wide enough to drive a bus through to exploit, which they did (Exploit I mean. Not sure how many black-hatters know how to drive a bus.). The “keywords” meta tag of a site was padded out with as many keywords, relevant or not, as were allowed so that a search for ‘chalk’ would return sites that sell ‘cheese’! This meant that search engines weren’t any good in returning relevant results and they quickly re-structured their search algorithms to discount the “keywords” tag.

So the question is, do meta tags matter today. Sure they do, but only a few of them have any real impact when a search engine calls to index your site. Although most Internet marketers don’t bother too much with the “keywords” tag it’s still a good idea to put in a few relevant tags just to be on the safe side. The search engines are forever changing their algorithms and you can never tell when the “keywords” tag will become important again.

So, the important tags to keep are:

<title>Your page title here</title>
<meta name=”description” content=”Your page description here”>
<meta name=”keywords” content=”Your keywords here”>
<meta name=”robots” content=”index, follow”>

The most important tag, at this time anyway, is the “title” tag. This is the title of your page and search engines make heavy use of it when classifying a site. It’s always a good idea to give each page on your site a short descriptive title, including relevant keywords, to help a search engine index the page.

Following this is the the “description” tag. Take a look at any google search results page and you’ll notice that some of the results have a great description and some don’t. If the “description” tag hasn’t been used for a particular site/page, a search engine has to pull off some information from the page itself to fill in it’s description of that page. This means that for pages that haven’t a “description” tag may have rather non-descriptive descriptions! Help the searcher by adding a clean description to each page of your site so they know exactly what they’re likely to find there.

Next is the “keywords” meta-tag. As discussed above this tag isn’t very important at the moment but there’s no harm in filling it in anyway. Kepp it clean and only use keywords that are relevant to your site, the services you offer and items you sell.

Lastly is the “robots” tag. This looks like this:

<meta name=”robots” content=”index, follow”>

The meaning behind this tag is as follows; The “index” directive instructs a search engine’s indexing robot whether it should index the page or not. If you don’t want it to then it would be set to “noindex”.
The “follow” directive instructs the same robot whether it should follow links on the page. If not it would be set to “nofollow”.

One thing to keep in mind is that not all robot files support this tag, however it’s still a good one to have as it’ll help search engines that do support it to index your pages the way you’d like them to.

I hope this short article has cleared up some of the mystery surrounding meta-tags. If you’d like any more info be sure to contact us and we’ll be happy to help. Alternatively, leave a comment below.