Do I Need to be Concerned About Meta Tags?

I received an email from a client today about web site Meta Tags that I thought I would share on this blog. Hopefully this sheds some light on one of the most common misconceptions about Search Engine Optimization:

Hi Tim,

I have a quick question that is one of those Web 101 things....Can you explain to me if the term "meta tag" is relevant today? I know meta tags used to be embedded in HTML coding, but is this the equivalent of our keywords [our] site?

Good question. The simple answer is that in terms of getting your site to the top of Google (or any modern search engine for that matter), Meta Tags are completely useless. There are of course best practices that should be followed:

  1. The "TITLE" tag should be optimized - Although this is technically not a Meta Tag, using accurate keywords that can be found in the content of the page is a best practice technique. If you look at the blue (or gray) bar at the very top of your browser, you will see the Title tag. The Title Tag is also the anchor text (or link) that is displayed in the search results.

  2. "Description" Meta Tags Can Leveraged - The "Description" meta tag can be used in the search engine results snippet (i.e. the brief description text that is displayed below the link in the search results. If you do not specify a Description tag, then the search engine will dynamically create a snippet and bold the keywords that are found on that page in context. I tend to think that this is a better method because it will embolden the keywords making them pop more, and it will help prove to the user that the page is relevant to what they are looking for.

  3. "Keywords" Tags are Completely Ignored - Way back in the day, when Webcrawler was the browser of choice and everyone was connected with thier 14.4 Dialup modem on their 486 DX-66, if you could write a good Keyword Meta Tag, you would be at the top of the list...but that is like so, 1994. Ha!

If you would like to transform into a complete search engine nerd like me, you can check out the official Google Webmaster blog: http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2007/12/answering-more-popular-picks-meta-tags.html There you will find a more in-depth explanation of the summary points above...of course you may need a geek translator to get past the second sentence. Ha!


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