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Make intelligent use of META tags - Part 1

     

DrDoc

10:39 pm on May 27, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member drdoc is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



This is a subject I feel often is forgotten. There are tons of META tags available, but so many developers simply ignore them, or just don't know how to use them.

Here's a list of useful META tags you can use.

name="keywords" content="keywords go here"
This tag is a must. It lets you specify keywords people might use when looking for your site. Enter as many as you can think of, but don't repeat each word more than once.

name="description" content="description goes here"
Here you can enter a short description for your site. Avoid using phrases like "the best" .. Keep the description short, but to the point. Usually, this is what a person will see as the title when using a search engine.

http-equiv="expires" content="expiration date (Example: Mon, 24 Dec 2001 23:00:00 MST)"
If you want to make sure that the visitor gets the latest version of your page, enter an expiration date in the past. Or, simply enter the date when the page will become outdated.

http-equiv="pragma" content="no-cache"
This tag tells IE not to cache the page.

name="robots" content="instructions go here"
This tag tells a SE spider whether to index a page or not (index/noindex), and whether to follow links on the page or not (follow/nofollow). You can use these in any combination you want.


  • index, follow
    - Default value. Page will be indexed, and links on the page will be followed.
  • index, nofollow
    - Page will be indexed, but any links on the page will not be followed.
  • noindex, follow
    - Page will not be indexed, but links on the page will be followed.
  • noindex, nofollow
    - Page will not be indexed, and links on the page will not be followed.

name="author" content="author's or company's name"
Pretty self explanatory. Information about who is the author goes here. This information will for example be showed in the page info for Mozilla users.

name="copyright" content="copyright information"
Pretty self explanatory as well. The proper copyright information starts with the word 'Copyright' followed by the copyright symbol, the year(s) you claim copyright, and your name (or company). Example:

Copyright  1998-2002, DrDoc Systems

http-equiv="Content-type" content="text/html;charset=ISO-8859-1"
Is your site using a certain character set? Well, here you can specify which character map to use. As long as you are using only basic latin characters (a-z, no funky symbols that can't be typed on a standard keyboard), this tag can be omitted. But if you are using certain character entities (like ) you should use this tag to ensure that they will be displayed properly.

Axacta

2:31 am on May 28, 2002 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



richlowe,

In that case you might want to check out [dublincore.org...]

Axacta

2:32 am on May 28, 2002 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



Like you said - amazing.

buckworks

3:00 am on May 28, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator buckworks is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



Regarding synonyms in the keywords tag: In my experience, if you include terms in the keywords tag that do not otherwise appear on the page, they won't carry enough weight to help the page get found unless it's a very obscure term.

If you want people to find your site for both "potatoes" and "spuds" you have to do more than just put "spuds" in the keywords tag of a "potatoes" page. It would be most effective to build an additional page and optimize it for "spuds".

tedster

3:02 am on May 28, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



> We are the designers. We set the standards. We decide whether the tags are useful or not.

Yes, to a degree. However the search engines also help set the standards and they have a lot of clout. That's the fact of life behind some of the comments here that downplay the meta keywords tag. The search engines just don't care much for that tag anymore.

I posted my comments as a caveat for any readers who may still be operating in a "1998" mode (per Web Guerilla). We shouldn't expect the keywords tag to be of much help with today's search engines. If you want a search with an alternate spelling or a synonym to bring up your page on search returns, then that exact spelling belongs in your page copy, link text, and perhaps in a page title as well.

Meta keywords is still a useful tag, but there's a lot of hokum on the web about it that just isn't true any more.

The future will no doubt hold some fancy linguistic support at search engines - where THEY will determine synonyms and alternate spellings. Some of that is already in place. But the variations are coming from the search engine programming, not our meta tags.

fathom

3:44 am on May 28, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member fathom is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



>> still be operating in a "1998" mode (per Web Guerilla). <<

recent posts by WebGuerilla suggest that he has recently updated that "mode of operation".

hee hee

Sorry Tedster, (and WG) could'nt resist!

JayC

3:51 am on May 28, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



>> a lot of hokum on the web about it

Yeah, I guess that's what's behind my knee-jerk reaction that it's not accurate to say that meta keywords are "a must." How many posts are there here at webmasterworld in a given month to the effect that "I have all the right meta keywords, but my site still is buried in the search results..."

Maybe the objection is a little too seo-centric, but there's a lot of unlearning, and a lot of "public education," to do.

pageoneresults

4:04 am on May 28, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member pageoneresults is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



I think we just need to get back to the grass roots of what the keywords tag was intended to do. In short, it is a method to provide indexing spiders with a list of keywords that are relevant to the on page content.

For those SE's that utilize the tag, it could mean the difference between a #1 or a #5 position. There is still a relevancy factor involved with many other resources. I think alot of us look at this from the Google perspective where the tag may be totally ignored. That's fine, but what about Ink and AV? What about newer SE's that are giving relevancy?

The biggest problem I've seen is that the search engine spiders have not been able to effectively look at the keywords tag and calculate that into the overall relevance of the page. For some reason, that tag presents problems or we would not be in the position we are today, little to no relevance.

It definitely has evolved into one of the basics of html design. Using a title, description and the keywords tag is just good design in my mind. Focusing all of your attention on the keywords tag is archaic. When you have authoritative resources that post information pertaining to the importance of these tags, it makes it hard to dispute! You see things like; up to 1,000 characters can be used in this tag. Ouch!

Something I think about now as I reply to this post is other search engines that I am not very familiar with that are country specific. How do they look at the keywords tag?

papabaer

6:49 am on May 28, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



There are a lot of good... no, GREAT, points being made in this thread. Charset? Definately! Description? Absolutely! Keywords? Of course! And why not?

No one is disputing that the major search engines have changed their weighting of the keyword meta, but... will this remain true? What if you built 500 pages and ignored a well thought out, concise, relevant keyword META element?

I look at it like this: I "bank" a lot of file size by optimizing my pages by using CSS and valid XHTML markup. Using the Webpage Size Checker [searchengineworld.com] I have a number of new pages that check in with over 80% text to html code. Since efficient design has allowed me to "bank" some file size "currency," I don't feel at all guilty by "spending" some $kilobytes on keyword and descriptive META elements that I know will be there... ready and waiting, if the big SE's algos once again elevate the META tag status. Wouldn't you rather have them present just in case? And even IF they are still acredited some weight now... albeit slight, doesn't evey bit help?

Pageone touched a hot button... Do we really know how ALL the search engines deal with META content? Are you willing to chance it?

Write clean, efficient code and spend a little kb on well though out META content.
- papabaer

Thanks DrDoc for a great topic! :)

brotherhood of LAN

1:42 pm on May 28, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator brotherhood_of_lan is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



Scanned through the thread, obviously people have their own opinions on Meta tags :)

I've chosen to base my opinion on what i've read in WMW and the thread that pageone pointed out.

tags i use - charset, title, description, keywords ('bout 5/10 words, with main keyword usually at beginning middle and end or a permutation of it)

If I used another 4 tags id probably increase my page size by about 15-20%, and from what i've read here and there, I'd probably end up losing traffic as opposed to gaining it with my bloated code.
Thats about it (for me) really :)

backus

1:52 pm on May 28, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



There are only a few Meta's of value, the rest are useless.

chris_f

2:36 pm on May 28, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



http-equiv="expires" content="expiration date (Example: Mon, 24 Dec 2001 23:00:00 MST)"
If you want to make sure that the visitor gets the latest version of your page, enter an expiration date in the past. Or, simply enter the date when the page will become outdated.

Becareful here,

There are sites that will disagree on this point. They say some search engines will not index you page if the expires date is set in the past. I can't say I use it so I will not back either statement.

chris_f

2:41 pm on May 28, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



Can anyone put maximum lengths to these tags. I am interested in the following:

<TITLE> - which is not a meta tag
and the meta tags
Title
Description
Keywords

Chris

pageoneresults

2:51 pm on May 28, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member pageoneresults is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



Hello chris_f. I don't believe that there is a maximum length so to say. Each SE spiders a different amount of content. Based on my experience over the past six years, these numbers should be safe. Always try to keep your primary targeted phrase at the beginning of each tag.

<title> - 70 Characters (7-9 Words Max)
<description> - 170 Characters (25 Words or Less)
<keywords> - 744 Characters * (15-20 Words or Less)

* I've seen some say up to 1,000 Characters.

<title> - I usually keep the title to 7-9 words maximum. Typically 7 words or less if I can. Again, placing the targeted keyword phrase at or very near the beginning.

<description> - I usually keep the description to 25 words or less since that has been the standard that the major directories suggest. Again, you want to make sure that your primary content is at the beginning of the tag so when the full description is not indexed, you don't end up with your primaries in the truncation. Remember, I feel that 170 characters or less is the magic number for this tag.

<keywords> - I usually keep the keywords to no more than a maximum of 15 words, sometimes a little more. I'll also keep the primary keyword phrase at or near the beginning. I use both commas and no commas just to mix things up a bit.

fathom

2:54 pm on May 28, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member fathom is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



<TITLE> - 70 - 90 characters but lycos max's out at 135

Title "element" any length IE wraps at about 50 however, netscape one long string. (alt tags same)

Description 150 - 200. Engines that use description (e.g. altavista) will max tag only if not text content not available Otherwise min recommended

Keywords 1000. Most SE that suggest still using keyword repeat same word no more than 3 times.

pageoneresults

3:03 pm on May 28, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member pageoneresults is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



Here's my perfect scenario for a regionally specific company selling Blue Widgets in California...

<title>Blue Widgets in California from ABC Company</title>

<meta name="description" content="ABC Company provides Blue Widgets in California. Serving San Francisco, Los Angeles, Orange County and San Diego. Blue Widgets in all sizes!">

<meta name="keywords" content="blue widgets california san francisco los angeles orange county san diego blue widgets sizes">

And then of course the one thing that makes the above three tags whole...

<h1>Blue Widgets in California - All Sizes Available</h1>

and this...

<p>ABC Company is proud to offer Blue Widgets in all sizes to California Distributors. We carry a complete line of widgets to meet your requirements. Our representatives cover both Northern and Southern California with offices in...</p>

<li>San Francisco</li>
<li>Los Angeles</li>
<li>Orange County</li>
<li>San Diego</li>

<p>...and all points inbetween. If you are looking for that oddball size Blue Widget, we've probably go it in stock in one of our local California warehouses.</p>

<p>Call ABC Company today for all of your Blue Widget needs.</p>

Yes, I know, it sounds a little hokey. But hey, what do you expect on such short notice?! There are a few things missing from the above equation and I'll let you fill in the blanks.

P.S. Just imagine how difficult it would be to actually optimize for the term Blue Widgets!

backus

3:14 pm on May 28, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



I comma my keywords, does it matter?

tedster

3:21 pm on May 28, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



Not much, as long as you don't put a space after the comma, using up two characters just for separation when one will do just fine.

There may be some small advantage to not using commas, as the search engines get more of a chance to mix-and-match your keywords into various phrases.

pageoneresults

3:21 pm on May 28, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member pageoneresults is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



Eek! Don't want to go down that path again! There are many schools of thought on the comma vs. no comma. Right now I'd say it is more of a preference. Since I've tested both and see no real significant or insignificant difference, I could not honestly give an answer to that one.

I'm a believer that the commas make the phrases whole. Without the commas, there is possibly a chance of other phrases that can be extracted if the commas are not there.

Please, don't take that as a confirmation of commas or no commas. Its a personal preference only!

WebGuerrilla

5:31 pm on May 28, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



For example, say that you built a site that has to do with trucks .. What we call a 'truck' here in America is way different from what they mean in England. Wouldn't it be wise to include words like "lorry" and "pick-up" among the keywords?
What if a page has to do with arthritis? Wouldn't it be wise to include words like "reumatism"?
If your page has a selfstudy course teaching Perl, are people searching for "programming" or "CGI" going to find it?

It would be wise if it would actually help, but it won't. The idea that including commonly used synonyms or related words in your keyword tag will help make your page visible for those terms simply isn't correct. (unless of course, it was still 1998):)

Even if you are dealing with one of the very few engines that admits that they look at the tag at all, you will still never see a meta synonym match returned at the top of the results. Exact matches will always come first.

If there happens to be an extremely unccommon term that no one has ever used in the body or title of a page, then you might have a chance. Of course, if it's that uncommon, there probably won't be anyone searching for it.

I'm in complete agreement regarding the other tags that have been mentioned, and I also think the concept of the Dublin Core makes sense on paper.

However, I also know that there is no way that any legitimate search engine will ever return to a system that allows non-visual input from web page authors to have any significant impact on the way they sort their SERPS.

That being the case, I would once again say that the proper use of the tag is to simply repeat prominent words that already appear in places that actually contribute to scoring a page.

digitalghost

7:40 pm on May 28, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member digitalghost is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



Stating my copyright is also important, as I might need to enforce it later.

I keep seeing this line of thought in regards to copyright.

Q. If it doesn't have a copyright mark is it protected by copyright?

A. More than likely YES. If the work was created after March 1st, 1989 any copyright mark or notice is OPTIONAL. Copyright marks take the following forms:

followed by a date and name
"Copyright" followed by a date and name
"Copr" followed by a date and name.

The copyright meta is certainly superfluous.

DG

rmjvol

7:57 pm on May 28, 2002 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



FWIW, here's what Ink has to say about the keyword meta tags.
This line is not as important as is commonly believed. Put phrases that relate to this page in the Keywords line, separated by commas.

They comment on titles & meta description as well on the same page:
Inktomi Content Policy [inktomi.com]

rmjvol

rmjvol

8:02 pm on May 28, 2002 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



Regardless of Inktomi's comments on comma usage, I tend to agree with tedster & pageoneresults. I don't use them most of the time.

rmjvol

Chris_R

12:31 am on May 29, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



They are useless in my opinion for anything other than internal search engines.

Any Search Engine that relies on keywords is WAY WAY outdated.

AltaVista claims they are good for putting in foreign words - others claim that if you have words in your tag that aren't in your page - it is spam.

Therefore - for any general use page - it is useless for any page using the AV method - and for all intents and purpose useless in general.

You may get some small search engines here and there, but you won't get any real traffic.

Of course - submitting to SEs is pretty much useless as well, but 90% of people don't believe that either - so back to the google board I go...

Robert Charlton

1:06 am on May 29, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator robert_charlton is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



The title tag is probably your most important optimizing element on the page if the rest of the page supports it. Pageoneresults lays it out very well.

I don't know whether the title tag is officially a meta tag. It's not completely invisible, as it does appear in the serps. I try to keep it under 70 characters. Very occasionally, when the words at the end of the title are very uncompetitive, I'll let it go a little bit longer, and I'll agonize over it, as focus is important.

I can see that the engines are beginning to pay less attention to the meta description tag, but I still give it careful attention, keeping it roughly the same as my ODP or Yahoo description, with a few enhancing adjectives for marketing.

As for the meta keywords tag, I'm with the minimalists. I use it, but I'm not under any illusions that it will help on most engines. Lots has been written about this tag. Here's a quote from one of my past posts that I think bears repeating here:

AV used to treat keywords as if they were just text on the page. Some of the keyword metas I've seen are such diffuse wish lists that if this AV model were used, the keyword meta would actually be reducing relevancy for desired words... or else they'd be gathering a spam penalty for excessive repetition.

In most cases, the pages involved couldn't possibly rank on many of the keywords in the list, so why have them there?

And here are a few threads on the meta keywords tags that are worth looking at.

Meta Keyword Tags:
[webmasterworld.com...]

Meta keywords and page copy
[webmasterworld.com...]

Meta Tags Keywords
[webmasterworld.com...]

ScottM

1:32 am on May 29, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



2 websites-very similar in content, but slightly different topics.

I own both, they are hobby websites.

Site A was my first-heavy on keywords meta tag. (In fact ALL meta tags I could find) I received excellent ranking in a certain search engine that begins with the letter 'G'.

Site B was different. HEAVY emphasis on Title tag. A small keyword list on the index.htm, but not much else. The rest of the site is void of meta tag 'keyword' (I think)...

The site is now #6 on the big 'G'.

If you were to ask me...I would say the meta tag that produces results is the 'title' tag.

I am, of course, continuing the experiment. Building more and more content...sometimes 2 to 3 pages in a day. All with titles...of course.

For the record-another totally unrelated website is buried DEEP in SERP. First month in the index.

Possible problem? Index page title says: "Overview". (I'm still banging my head for that dumb mistake!)

richlowe

2:05 am on May 29, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



In reply to digitalghost: Yes, you do not need to include a copyright notice to copyright a document. I include it because most people do not know this small fact. I've found that casual copying is much reduced by simply including the notice.

As far as keyword tags are concerned, I have found they don't make much difference either way in the major engines. However, they are used by MY internal search engine and by many of the smaller engines. While no one (or even dozen) small engines produces as much traffic as the smallest major engine, they do cause visits, and I've found the visits tend to be more targeted. My log file analysis tools are clear on this.

The description tag is critical not because it gets traffic, but because most engines (including MY engine for my site) tend to use it as the description on the results page. Thus, the description gets people interested enough to click. At least that's my read on it.

I really don't worry about search engines and such. My sites seem to get more than enough traffic (between half a gig and a gig per day) for my purposes. I just write articles (about 1,500 original ones so far), exchange lots of links, give out awards to sites that I like (and meet some basic standards and criteria), send out a weekly, daily and periodic newsletter, and provide help and guidence on internet related topics. That seems to keep people coming and returning.

In fact, I'm almost afraid of spending the time on the engines, as that might increase my traffic too much... seems strange, I know, but my sites are educational not commercial. So I can only pay for so much bandwidth.

Richard Lowe

lindavh

2:09 am on May 29, 2002 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



I am still a newbie at the web site submission thing, yet I am still giving it a shot with our website...it's my brother's company, and have to date been lucky enough to get submitted in Google and Yahoo with search terms I feel are most relivant.

Now to the question...
In a previous post by Tester:
"Google is in the forefront here - they just don't look at the tag, period. They prefer that their algo make up it's own mind about what searches the page is relevant for, rather than take the page author's word for it."

What concerns me is that I am ranking high in Google with my index page just the way it is...somewhere a long time ago it was suggested (although maybe incorrectly), that I use keywords for my DESCRIPTION metatag...and so I did that.
I would like now to change my description metatag to explain who we are...not just a long list of keywords...but I am afraid to affect my Google ranking...and Tester's post suggested that Google does not even read metatags...(although in an email he was kind enough to suggest that I post this and get other's opinions as well).

Question: Would it be safe to change my description metatag from keywords to actual description and Google will not notice or change rank because of it?

Thanks all for any suggestions...love this board and appreciate all that I am learning from everyone so generously helpful here in these boards!
Linda

pageoneresults

2:31 am on May 29, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member pageoneresults is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



Hmmm, is there a way you can maybe rewrite the description keeping the primary keyword phrases that the page is ranking highly for? Get rid of the other ones that really don't relate to the primary phrase. Seeing how the description looks now would be of benefit. Can you sticky me the description as it reads now? You might want to include the page title too.

Robert Charlton

2:58 am on May 29, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator robert_charlton is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



>>I would like now to change my description metatag to explain who we are...not just a long list of keywords...but I am afraid to affect my Google ranking<<

Changing the description meta tag should not affect your ranking on Google. It may affect it on some other engines. The description should never be a long list of keywords... It should be almost a haiku description with keywords... and some adjectives thrown in for marketing. It needs to read well to the user, and to offer your target key phrases to the engines to attract search.

These tags, incidentally, should be customized for the page... You're wasting them if they're global for the site.

fathom

3:09 am on May 29, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member fathom is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



You need to look at this from the markets point of view. If your page is #1 but the listing looks like "spam" to them you are spam. In this instant they will likely, mostly click through on the listing that is the most appealing to their search.

There is a fine line between marketing to your audience and marketing for the sake of making yourself feel good.

In the case of Google the bot will read the description as it tries to read all code but will not use this tag to define your page (but other search engine will like Alatvista.

Recommend using the decription as an attractive phrase closely matching your title tag which should match the page content.

Use both title and descriptions in varying ways as title elements in such links, images and, tables <a href="" title=""> <tr width="" title=""> <img src="" title=""> this will help increase your word density.

Always refer back to the original statement, if you look like spam and feel like spam then you probably are spam.

The object is not to try and fool a search enine but to get colse enough to your markets eyes by making it to the first page of result.

Ranked 10 and a good clean attractive listing is far better than spam at No#1.

This 117 message thread spans 4 pages: 117
 

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