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Metatags are Not Dead, Long Live Metatags!
Woz




msg:472343
 2:58 am on May 8, 2003 (gmt 0)

OK, I've got your attention, but I am sure you are thinking "Woz has lost the plot." I mean, why would I be posting about Metatags in the Directories forum? Bear with me.

First, what are metatags? Place holders that contain metadata about the page in question.
Reference - History of GML [sgmlsource.com], Dublin Core Metadata [dublincore.org].

As I see it, metadata is used by libraries and other such indexing and cataloging entities to ascribe pertinent information to index entries. Tags are a series of uniform place holders to contain that information in an easily retrievable form.

In a controlled environment, the system works fine and creates an easily accessible index of information allowing rapid queries and results. Where it breaks down is when the environment becomes uncontrolled and therefor open to abuse.

This is what has happened on the net where a subset of the available tags were used, and called Metatags, in an attempt to provide quick and easy indexing of pages. However, unfortunately the system was abused by some of our *cough* less than ethical or uneducated cousins.

This has led to a decline in the use of Metatags by the Search Engines which has therefor fostered the notion in the SEO community that they are now almost redundant and therefor perhaps not worth the effort.

However, lets look at it from another point of view - Directories. Now, I have to temper my comments here in that they are coming purely from personal experience and not from any evidence from the larger directories. But here is what happens with me.

I build directories using in-house scripting and software. I utilize Titles, Description and Keywords in the database, so, when I add a new entry, the software attempts to gather that information from the site/page in question.

What I am finding is a surprisingly, almost alarmingly, high percentage of pages and sites that do not contain an metadata at all, and a lot of these sites that should know better. (Out of interest I did some quick research on SEO sites and the results were less than disappointing.) It seems that, unfortunately, we are being spoiled by the SEs that index sites based on content and forget about other traffic sources. So, people are just not putting Metatags on pages anymore.

In my case, when I spider a page and collect the information, if it has the metadata, then my job is easier. More importantly, the site gets a far better listing than if I had to start from scratch. Sure, I tweak the information provided, make it more objective perhaps, automatically de-duplicate the keywords and quickly eyeball them for irrelevant ones, but if the basic information is there then things go smoothly and the site gets a good listing.

If there is no metadata, then I have to look harder at the site, check headings, develop a title, write a description, and then search through the page for relevant keywords. As you can imagine this can be tedious and usually I am less "obliging" when I have to do it all for myself.

As I say, I have no experience working in the major directories, (please correct me if I am wrong), but I would imagine there are a lot of editors out there in a similar situation having to write Titles and Descriptions for listings from scratch because the sites owner did not provide any help by writing metatags. Even if the Directory software does not get that information automatically, I would hazard a guess that a lot of savvy editors will view the source code and inspect the tags for clues.

So, consider this a personal plea, and one perhaps on behalf of a lot of other editors. Please include a good Title and good Description & Keyword tags on your sites, certainly on the home page and, if doing every page is not possible, also on the major section pages.

IE, any assistance you can give Directory Editors can only help.

Onya
Woz

 

SEO practioner




msg:472344
 3:50 am on May 8, 2003 (gmt 0)

Woz, I don't want to be a party pooper here but, as far as most of us are concerned here, meta tags are passť...

Google doesn't even look at them anymore. So are the other SE's. The only one that still gives a small glance at them is Inktomi. How long that will last is anyone's guess but I wouldn't hold my breath.

As far as I'm concerned, meta tags are dead.

pageoneresults




msg:472345
 4:28 am on May 8, 2003 (gmt 0)

I'm going to side with Woz on this one.

Google doesn't even look at them anymore.

Uh-hum, I believe they are looking at them again. Don't forget, as Woz says, there are other search engines and resources that utilize the tags. The META Description has never been declared dead. The META Keywords has been beaten to death around here and other resources.

I've been trying to avoid most of the META Keywords Tag discussions as I have been an avid supporter of them since 1996. I don't believe most of what I read in some instances, especially when it comes to metadata. The web was built on metadata indexing and I don't think that is going away anytime soon.

Just because an SE claims that they don't index the tag, doesn't mean that is the absolute truth. If you read any of the documentation on Google's Search Appliances, you'll see that metadata is a very important aspect of the overall indexing algo. And, Google claims that the Search Appliance works very much like the public search index, go figure.

It's fine if you don't want to include your metadata, but as Woz clearly points out, it may not be to your advantage to ignore this important element in web page design.

There are going to be many people scrambling to resinsert those tags back into their <head> sections once they figure out that there is an importance to them.

pageoneresults




msg:472346
 4:44 am on May 8, 2003 (gmt 0)

I should also point out that we are in the Directories Forum and that is what this topic is discussing. I too run a directory and we are always reviewing metadata. I can just imagine how many other smaller directories rely on this data to make their jobs easier.

Woz, didn't mean to take this one of course. Since it applies to both directories and search engines, I may have been a little heavy handed on the search engine side.

chiyo




msg:472347
 5:37 am on May 8, 2003 (gmt 0)

Pssoibly with selling or commercial sites, metatags are useless.

However i agree with Woz when it relates to informational sites. indeed several specialist directories that index us, plus one major magazine article database requires them.

My view is that if you think your site qualifies as providing "useful non-commercial information" there is a strong chance that some speciliast indexers, and more in the future will utilise them.

As far as commercial sites go, I respect what Woz is saying - eg. can be used as a starting point - but feel they are probably beyond redemption for parsers that index the commercial site area that are most subject to spam.

heini




msg:472348
 7:13 am on May 8, 2003 (gmt 0)

Couldn't agree more, Woz.
A great deal of that oh man, metas are so dead! talk is essentially a backswing from the overuse and abuse happening in the pre Google area.
It's a bit similar to the obsession with PR. Many people new to web promotion virtually don't know there's a web besides Google.
Correct meta data are definetly good practice. I think it's mandatory to include title and description at the minimum.
Sure those can be abused, but so can the body content, the alt txt, the link txt - every part of a page.

chiyo




msg:472349
 7:59 am on May 8, 2003 (gmt 0)

We find that adding just the standard descr and keyword metatags does not take very long at all. We use them all the time, but make them very short.

This has another advantage to. Especially if you use a team developing pages, it prompts them on what the theme and reason for the page is, and what keywords are meant to describe it. So we use it for discipline as well.

Also for sites that are 100% flash or have very complex code, I think Google for one, has said they DO use mettag info when nothing else is available.

cornwall




msg:472350
 8:47 am on May 8, 2003 (gmt 0)

>>What I am finding is a surprisingly, almost alarmingly, high percentage of pages and sites that do not contain an metadata at all, and a lot of these sites that should know better.

I am with the "put on the meta tags" brigade on this one.

When you are writing a site it is quick and fairly painless to add the metas.

If, on the basis of "what goes around comes around" there was a movement back to metas by all forms of indexing, then to have to add would be somewhat labour intensive.

At least you have some input to make on anyone else trying to index your site, and perhaps to steer them in the direction you want them steered

>>I don't believe most of what I read in some instances, especially when it comes to metadata. The web was built on metadata indexing and I don't think that is going away anytime soon.

sums it up for me

Go2




msg:472351
 8:54 am on May 8, 2003 (gmt 0)

There is an immense potential for the use of meta tags, perhaps especially for data that does not directly influence search engine result positions (SERPs). A few examples of such data:

* subject category
* author
* expire date
* hover message
* robot directives

etc.

A meta tag does not change the visual appearance of a web page yet it can still provide key data about the page. By using this powerful mechanism new directory paradigms can be devised which can provide new services to the web users.

Adria




msg:472352
 1:07 pm on May 8, 2003 (gmt 0)

...I have no experience working in the major directories...but I would imagine there are a lot of editors out there in a similar situation having to write Titles and Descriptions for listings from scratch because the sites owner did not provide any help by writing metatags.

I used to work at a major directory, and I can tell you that none of us *ever* looked at metatags other than the TITLE tag when creating site listings.

Most of the people that I worked with had MLS degrees and thus were professionally trained in metadata creation. In contrast, most normal people completely suck at writing metadata. Seriously.

Our actual process: Scan the home page and a few of the subpages in order to get an idea of what the site was about, and then write a description according to the style guidelines.

So no, I strongly doubt that META Description tags or META Keywords tags are useful to editors at major directories.

g1smd




msg:472353
 7:00 pm on May 8, 2003 (gmt 0)

A lot of people don't use these tags at all, as a Google search for "Untitled Document" or "Title goes here" and other such phrases, will show.

When editing for the ODP, the previewed Title and Description, for a site submitted from the outside, is that submitted by the user filling in the boxes on the Suggest a Site/Add URL form.

However, if I choose to go and find sites to add myself, adding them from an internal editor's only submit form, then the preview of the sites entry will then show a Title and Description that is derived from those tags on the user's site. So, yes, please do use those tags and put something useful there. You never know to what uses it may be put.

Brad




msg:472354
 7:24 pm on May 8, 2003 (gmt 0)

>>In my case, when I spider a page and collect the information, if it has the metadata, then my job is easier. More importantly, the site gets a far better listing than if I had to start from scratch.

I just got done reviewing a bunch of sites I had meta-spidered into one of my directories when I found this thread. One out of 5 had meta tags filled out.

What Woz says is so true. If you don't fill out your meta tags then you just have to be happy with /my/ description of your site. If you want to control that description then put the metas in properly, at least on your index page.

Happy Editor = chance at higher ranking ;)

Also, many directories do add deep links, so I would put meta's on each major subsection of a larger site too, as a minimum.

You will only be helping yourself.

Edouard_H




msg:472355
 7:30 pm on May 8, 2003 (gmt 0)

I use meta description and key words mainly because my internal search engine uses them, but I have noticed tweaking the description gives a slight boost to my Inktomi PFI pages.

rossH




msg:472356
 10:23 pm on May 8, 2003 (gmt 0)

I really enjoyed seeing a meta description end up verbatim as the ODP description of a site, presumably because the editor found it as representative as I tried to make it. And of course that's what showed in Google too.

I think the skill is worth keeping sharp

dannysullivan




msg:472357
 10:55 am on May 9, 2003 (gmt 0)

Absolutely agree with Woz, a good title and description tag is an essential feature for both crawlers and directories. I've absolutely seen directory editors use the meta description tag content verbatim. It's so easy to use an opening sentence or paragraph of a page for this that there's no excuse not to, though writing a custom tag is even better.

As for the meta keywords tag, I certainly have said fairly recently that for many people, it probably isn't worth the time, given the limited support. But it's interesting to hear that directory editors might want to make use of that data, so certainly something to consider.

cornwall




msg:472358
 6:55 pm on May 9, 2003 (gmt 0)

>>As for the meta keywords tag, I certainly have said fairly recently that for many people, it probably isn't worth the time, given the limited support.

Adding a 6 or 7 word metatag for keywords does not take that much time ;)

dannysullivan




msg:472359
 7:56 pm on May 9, 2003 (gmt 0)

Adding a 6 or 7 word metatag for keywords does not take that much time

If you know what you're doing. Over the years, I've watched people simply freak out over that tag. Do I use commas? How often do I repeat a word? Have spaces or not?

Say someone writes a page about shoe. I've seen them do things like:

shoes, Shoes, SHOES

because they think they should have every case variation, though more experience folks would say that such repetition isn't good -- nor is the variation in the meta keywords tag helping much for the few major crawlers that look at the tag.

That's what I mean by time -- the worry time people spend. I'd rather see them take that time and put it into good body copy.

mil2k




msg:472360
 10:44 am on May 15, 2003 (gmt 0)

Do I use commas? How often do I repeat a word? Have spaces or not?

Very true.

Although i find myself agreeing to Woz's point of view.(Maybe because i submit sites to directories everyday).

1) Meta keywords helps Professional SEO's like me to keep a list of major keywords for each website. This saves time in those innumerous directories which require their own set of keywords (which we have to submit along with site details).

2) They also help me to showcase the keywords to my Potential Clients. I can give them the url and tell them to look at the Meta Keyword Tag to look at the keywords i was targetting, and the subsequent results which i achieved.

3) As Woz said it also helps the Editor of the Directories in categorizing the site.

Some people say who cares of small directories? We only care for Google. My answer is even Google likes backlinks from directories. And if you are submitting to small directories then why not have a list of Keywords in hand in the form of Meta Keyword Tag on your website.

engine




msg:472361
 11:09 am on May 15, 2003 (gmt 0)

I agree with Woz, too.

Creating meta data in a site and by page is a good discipline. It allows me to contruct better themes by focusing on the key information across the site for each individual page.

A good description tag is valuable for the directory entry, too.

Just because you don't need them doesn't mean someone else wont.

I'll keep creating them.

Woz




msg:472362
 7:34 am on Feb 20, 2005 (gmt 0)

I just thought I would bump this very old thread for further discussion. I have been directory building today and am still amazed at the number of high end companies in the market I cover that either do not have basic metatags, or that are either badly formed or full of so much corporate speak as to make them almost unusable.

In these cases I generally go to the about or company page to put together a succinct description. Unfortunately, I find these are mostly filled with corporate speak as well.

Please, if you are involved with a corporate site, make sure that good basic tags are present for directory editors to use, at least as a starting point, and also provide some common-sense material in the corporate section for editors to use.

No doubt this common-sense material would be more easily understood by the general public as well, but that is another story ...

Onya
Woz

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