META Used for SEO

by HeadMaster
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meta-in-htmlThis is a simple explanation and guide on using “META data” to inform search engines of the content of your website and pages within your website.

The major search engines of today (Google, Yahoo, and Bing) look at more than the words on a web page on your website to make a determination as to its subject. Since the early 1990’s, search engines have looked at what is called META data, contained within the code of a website, as a reference to a specific web page’s topic in addition to the wording on the page. One of the definitions of “meta” is, “beyond.” Therefore, META data means something like “beyond data.”

Search engines have become far more sophisticated since the early days of the Internet and some of the early search engines such as Hotbot, Altavista and Dogpile are not nearly as relevant today as they once were. The most widely used search engine today, by far, is Google, though there are two others of note in Yahoo and Bing.

Back in the early days of Internet search engines, a META category called, “keywords,” allowed the web developer to list keywords that would be used to find the specific webpage. Quickly the practice began to be abused, with webmasters using massive lists of keywords that may or may not even apply to the page. Google was one of, if not the first, to begin ignoring the META Keywords category since it had become more of a wish list of what the owner of the website wanted to rank for instead of an objective list of relevant keywords that the page was about. Some websites would list the same set of keywords for every page on their entire website, which was more due to ignorance on how the feature was supposed to be used. So Google simply scrapped it as a factor.

The META category that Google does still consider a factor is the “META Description” if listed on a website. The usual way to add this in code form is:

<meta name=”description” content=”This is an example of a meta description. This will often show up in search results.”>

It is a description of the subject of a page. Like the “keywords” category, it is also often used improperly. I’ve often taken on a new client and when I begin to go through the pages of their site I see that this category has been used like a list of keywords, with one word followed by a comma followed by many others. Instead of doing that, a META Description category should include two to three sentences that define the page. UPDATE: Google recently increased the number of characters it shows of a meta description. Up until recently, the maximum allowable characters in the meta description tag stood at 160. Now, it’s up to 320. You want to use all of that length so that your listing takes up more room in Google’s search results and because it gives you more opportunity to provide Google with wording and description of your content for that page/post.

If the page is about ways to make more money on the Internet for example, the META Description could be listed as:

Tips to make more money on the Internet. An article about earning money through websites, social media, and search engine optimization. Information for people looking to earn more income through online resources without investing a lot of money up front or spending a lot of time before generating revenue.

It is okay to repeat a word or two one time, but don’t go beyond that and avoid that practice as a general rule. Repeating a word more than twice is usually going to have a negative impact as it appears search engines, especially Google, see that as spam or too aggressive. So use this content to tell search engines what the page is about, but don’t go beyond that. You cannot game the system by using the same word repeatedly or by using a list of keywords. You will only hurt your website’s ability to rank that way. When used correctly, the META Description feature can be a factor in helping your website rank higher for relevant searches. When used inappropriately, it can hurt or have no impact.

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