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When meta tags do apply, I have found that it is not very effective to group every kind of related keyword into one string of keywords that may cover many topics and try to apply that one section of code to every page. It isn't optimizing your web real estate.
Little known fact that human-based directory folks will check to see if "proper" seo methods have been applied to sites. That means taking the time to administer sites and meta information properly. It is just good form to fully service a website anyway.
I like that kind of thinking. I've been following that rule of thumb for years. I make sure that my title, description and keywords are relative to each page. I also make sure that on page content is in sync with the metas. I treat each page as its own entity with a strong push toward establishing theme. The metas are still important in the overall optimization strategy. Not real sure about the keywords tag, but hey, its been a standard for years and I'll continue to follow it until otherwise instructed.
I've been keeping my titles at 5-7 words at the most. Descriptions at 160 to 180 characters and keywords at no more than 10.
I am having a major problem with that and Inktomi. It is not reading my Metatags. For my page Inktomi (and then HotBot, MSN, etc.) list my contact information and the contents of my NavBar. I sent them an email asking about it--they answered my other questions and ignored the one about tags. They are so important that I am going to have to redo things a bit so that they see text first.
Cannot give you much input on the shared IP issue. From what I understand, many web hosting companies have switched to this type of hosting due to the shortage of IP addresses. There could be hundreds of sites that share the same IP and all of that is controlled through software at the server level.
I would never host a site on a shared IP. Mainly because the cost of hosting your own IP is fairly inexpensive and I don't want to take any chances!
P.S. You might want to do a search here at the forums for Shared IP's. There are many threads floating around here that discuss that issue.