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When people refer to meta tags, they are talking about the meta description and meta keyword tags. Some search engines may display the meta description as part of the search results, but the meta keywords tags generally does not appear in search results.
Is it Worth it to Create Meta Tags?
Most people generally do not spend time creating meta keywords tags but creating page specific meta description tags is definitely worthwhile.
Meta Keywords Tag
If your site does not have meta keyword tags its not worthwhile spending the time to add them. If you add meta keywords while you are creating pages, dont spend more than a minute on each page and don’t list any more than a few of them per page.
The meta keywords tag is not supported by many major search engines. While it is important to choose the correct keywords for your page, the meta keywords tag itself is not used by many top SEO experts.
Mike Grehan interviewed Jon Glick (formerly of Yahoo! Search) and asked him about the meta keyword tag. Jon stated that the meta keyword tag is used to include a page among a subset of search results, but is not used in determining the relevancy of that page for the given search term.
If a word does not exist on a page and is not in any of its inbound linkage data then search engines such as Yahoo! may not know to include the page in search results unless it exists in the keyword tag. Most SEO Experts usually do not use the meta keywords tag on my pages (as it is not usually very important), but it can and may help you out some if there are many different ways to say your product names and you are not creative enough to cover the permutations in your page copy. Usually it is better to cover the permutations in your page copy with sections like alternate part numbers, etc.
If you use the meta keywords tag, it should be unique for each page you place it on. The keywords tag is a good place to put common misspellings, synonyms, and alternate versions of a word.
Sample Uses of the Meta Keywords Tag
- If you optimized a page for the keyword phrase dropshipping, you may want to include the word dropshipping in your keywords tag, although if the term is that competitive, keyword tags are not likely to matter.
- Some items are model 15-M or 15M or Cannon 15-M or Cannon 15M.
- Prescription is often mistyped as perscription.
If a term is competitive, it is going to need to occur in your page copy and/or inbound link text for you to rank well for it.
Meta Description Tag
The meta description tag has varying levels of relevancy in different search engines. Many search engines still support it and display it in their search results. It is recommended to try and get multiple versions of your main keywords and your main keywords themselves in this tag a few times.
This tag should be between a sentence to a paragraph and not visually appear keyword-stuffed. The sentences should read well to the human eye since this tag is still used in many search results pages. If you write a compelling description, it could boost your click-through rates and, thus, deliver you more targeted traffic.
Many search engines will use the meta description as part of the page abstract if the exact search term that was searched for is found in the meta description tag. Additionally, it sometimes appears in search results if the search engine cannot extract meaningful content from the page copy or if the algorithm feels the meta description will provide a more useful presentation.
A good page title and description within the search results could mean that a number two or three listing gets more traffic than a number one listing. The meta description tag can often be used to help craft a good search presentation for your most popular keywords.
Meta Tags Are Not Art
Some people try to make meta tags sound like an art form. They are not. There are multiple tags which tell a search engine when to revisit or what language it is in. These tags are usually irrelevant and ignored.
The only useful meta tags other than the description and keywords tags are those tags used to PREVENT search engines from indexing your content. Since we usually want our content seen, I only wrote about the tags I typically use.
The Truth about Meta Tags
Meta tags are only one small part of search engine algorithms. In major search engines, each of the following is typically far more important than meta tags:
- link popularity and link reputation
- site age
- page title
- page copy
Meta description tags are still important because they help you differentiate yourself from the competition and boost your clickthrough rates.
Robots Exclusion Standard
When primitive robots were first created, some of them would crash servers by requesting too many pages too quickly. A robots exclusion standard was crafted to allow you to tell any robot (or all of them) that you do not want some of your pages indexed or that you do not want your links followed. You can do this by creating a robots.txt file that gets placed in the root of your web site. The goal is to tell the robots where NOT to go. The official robots exclusion protocol document is located at the following URL, http://www.robotstxt.org/wc/exclusion.html
You do not need to use a robots.txt file. By default search engines will index your site. The robot.txt file goes in the root level of your domain using robots.txt as the file name.
This allows all robots to index everything:
This disallows all robots to your site:
You also can disallow a folder or a single file in the robots txt file. This disallows a folder:
This disallows a file:
One problem many dynamic sites have is sending search engines multiple URLs with nearly identical content. If you have products in different sizes and colors or other small differences, it is likely you could generate lots of near-duplicate content which will prevent search engines from fully indexing your sites.
If you place your variables at the start of your URLs then you can easily block all of
the sorting options using only a few disallow lines. For example:
The above would block search engines from indexing any URLs that start with
‘cart.php?size’ or ‘cart.php?color’. Notice how there is no trailing slash at the end of
the above disallow lines. That means the engines will not index anything that starts
with that in the URL. If there were a trailing slash, search engines would only block
a specific folder.
If the sort options were at the end of the URL, you would either need to create an exceptionally long robots.txt file or place the robots noindex meta tags inside the sort pages. You also can specify any specific user agent, such as Googlebot, instead of using the asterisk wild card. Many bad bots will ignore your robots txt files and/or harvest the blocked information so you do not want to use robots.txt to block individuals from finding confidential information.
Googlebot also supports wildcards in the robots.txt. For example:
The above would stop Googlebot from reading any URL that includes the string ‘sort=’ no matter where that string occurs in the URL. In 2006 Yahoo! also added robots.txt wildcard support.