What Are Meta Data and Meta Tags?
Adding meta data to a web page is an important part of ‘on-page’ SEO (Search Engine Optimization) for your website. This meta data helps to tell the search engines what your website or any given web page is about, and sometimes more importantly, can show well-written relevant information about your website in the search engine results to the human person doing the searching.
The meta data are stored within the following ‘meta tags‘
- Page Title
- Page Description
There are a few other less used meta tags, but we won’t discuss those since they are far less important when it comes to SEO.
Meta tags are stored within the header of your website for search engines to crawl so they know what your web page is about in addition to crawling your content. The meta tags are not displayed visibly for your website visitors, but are there solely for search engines, and for the benefit of your website visibility within search engines.
Example of meta tags in your website’s header:
<head> <meta name="description" content="This is an example of a meta description. This will often show up in search results."> </head>
Meta Data Character Limits
There are character limits associated with each type of meta tag (how many characters you can put into the metatags before exceeding the limit or just running out of space). This is because search engines like Google, Yahoo, Bing and such have a particular algorithm they use, and any data that falls outside of the usable character limitation is ignored, and in fact perhaps may even be counter productive when trying to get good search engine rankings. Think of it like cropping an image, where anything outside of the crop area is discarded and considered useless.
Known Meta Data Character Limitations:
- Page Title: 70 chars
- Page Description: 159 chars
- Keywords: exact limit unknown, but thought to be around 10 Keyword phrases or 120 chars (separated by commas)
Search Engine Algorithms
The actual algorithms used by search engines and the weight of each meta tag in relation to it’s influence on search engine results is different for each search engine, and is generally quite a mystery…and is constantly changing. So to optimize your website for search engines it is recommended to use current best practices at any given time based on the knowledge of experienced SEO Experts. Usually a little research on the internet will yield some good SEO advice (some good links to SEO advice provided below).
Some Basic SEO Advice
Is there value in using the Keywords meta tag?
As of 2009 Google (and more recently Bing) both ignore the Keyword meta tag, but at least Google uses the Page Description meta tag. So it’s a good idea to focus on a thoughtful and well-written Page Description.
Even though some search engines like Google ignore the Keyword meta tag, many other search engines and directories do not ignore Keywords, so if time allows go ahead and optimize the Keyword meta tag for your most important web pages.
- Spend more time on adding quality original content to your website, and less time worrying about optimizing meta tags. This is because more and more lately the search engines are using content rather than meta tags to influence web page ranking.
- Spend a little time to create a well-written Page Description for each page/post of your website that contains some of your Primary Keywords that are also embedded within your page content.
- Even though Google ignores the Keyword meta tag, many other search engines do not ignore Keywords, so if time allows go ahead and optimize the Keyword meta tag for your most important web pages.
- Having a succinct list of keywords can also serve to help you when creating your content so that you intentionally use some of those keywords, and particularly helps you to use your primary Keywords (the first couple of keywords in your list that are the real focus of your page).
- For your Keyword meta tag use keywords that are found within your page content (otherwise don’t bother using those keywords as they’ll serve no purpose).
- Keywords can be made up of phrases of words that are separated by commas. So put in phrases to help make your keywords more meaningful, and to make your keywords less competitive, as shown below.
(very broad and highly competitive keyword)
website design company Denver
(more narrow keyword, though still competitive it is not as competitive)