So, you have a cool new website. Your stoked. Your own little portion of the interwebs; congrats to you! Now you are on fire, you want business, leads or maybe you want people to check out your pictures of cats crocheting. You’ve heard people talk about this thing called SEO. You want some! You need some! That neighbor of yours, who used to dabble with FrontPage back in the 80’s and 90’s told you – “Get those Meta Tags, you need ’em! It’s the magic bullet to Google!”. So you Google Meta Tags and hopefully you end up here.
First off, here is a little secret… there is no magic bullet for SEO – which by the way means “Search Engine Optimization”. Meta Tags are just a small piece of the algorithmic pie. Sure, back in the day people put all sorts of stuff inside the various Meta Tags. In fact back in the 90’s and early ’00’s it worked. Not so much any more.
What the heck are Meta Tags anyway? Wikipedia defines them as: “Meta elements are HTML or XHTML elements used to provide structured metadata about a Web page.” Please note, there are a number types of Meta Tags. First, lets knock out the one most people in the SEO industry dislike.
Keywords Meta Tag
The Keywords Meta Tag was used way back when, to assist the Search Engines in determining what the page was about. Greedy people would stuff hundreds of keywords in the tag. The search engines took note of the abuse, and basically stopped looking at it all. If you are still using it, I would suggest to abandon that tag completely. Here’s why:
1. None of the modern search engines use it. It’s deprecated. Which means it’s invalid or obsolete. For all intents and purposes it’s dead. Thank god.
2. Bing does sort of use it, but its used to detect spammers.
3. If you are still using it, competitors can view the source of your site. Then extrapolate from the tag what keywords you are shooting for. They they can use the analysis to whip your rear end.
Next up, the Description Meta Tag
The Description tag does help tell the search engine what your page is about. It’s should be an accurate description. It should be different for each page on your site, since each page should really have it’s own reason for existing. If you do not add a Description, Google will do it for you. Sorry, but I would rather handle that (although, I too – often get lazy). I like to think of the Description tag as an elevator pitch for each specific page. Google won’t even come close to what you would want to use. The description also tells the user what the page is about. This inevitably helps you convert more clicks to your site. Lastly, note that the description is what normally appears under your listing in the Google’s result page.
Robots.txt Meta Tag
I know what you are thinking… Robots… this guy is off his rocker. Well, not exactly. A Robots.txt file is used to tell the search engines about pages and directories that can and cannot be indexed in the SERP’S (Search Engine Results Pages). This tag and the associated robots.txt file can hurt you if you don’t know how to use it correctly. You can actually use it to tell Google to DE-INDEX you. Meaning remove you completely from their search engine. Yikes. Proceed with caution when using it.
The title tag is often confused as being part of the Meta Tag structure. It is an important tag that is REQUIRED. However, it is not actually a Meta Tag. We will talk about Title Tags in a future post, as well as the importance they play in SEO.
Those are the main tags, while there are others such as: Distribution, Refresh, Revisit and things like Dublin Core. Anyway, I hope that sheds some light on the not-so-very-magic-bullet Meta Tags.