Your Web pages have HTML tags that tell the browser how to display the page. Many of these tags control things like color, size and emphasis of text. A few of them, though, don’t display directly, but are cues to programs that process the page about its content.
Search engines use these meta tags in their effort to discern the meaning of your pages. This issue deals with meta tags, and how they can be used to your advantage. Setting meta tags is the business of your Webmaster, but it’s useful for you to understand what’s good to do and what’s not good to do.
The most important tag for search result position is the title tag. It’s displayed in the extreme upper left-hand corner of the page. Site visitors may or may not notice it, but the search engines absolutely do, including Google. Choose an important term that’s central to the narrative on the page, and make that the first word of the title tag. Then, if you can work that term into the title tag again, that’s a good idea.
You’ll see that many sites waste the value of the title tag by using it for their domain name. You’ll already get a very high ranking for your domain name. As an example, if your page is about canvas shoes, then a title tag of “Canvas Shoes: Shoes.com–The Finest Canvas Shoes” is a way to work the term into the title tag twice.
Note that this needs to be a term that’s central to the narrative that’s on the page.
There’s also a description meta tag. This provides a summary of the page, that may be used for the summary that the search engine presents to a searcher. Here it’s good to have a summary of the content of the page, again using that important search term that you used in the title.
Each important page on your site should have a unique description tag, so that the search engines are given cues to the differences in content between your pages. Google will notice if your descriptions are all the same, and then your descriptions will be given less weight as indicating content of the page.
The final meta tag of interest is the keyword tag. This provides a list of important keywords that describe the page. The most common mistake here is to list every word that’s possible relevant to the topic of the site. Don’t do that; instead, list just three or four important terms that appear in the narrative on the page.
The Bottom Line
Meta tags are another tool you can use to help your site get good position in search engine results. The approach to use is based on understanding how search engines use meta tags to assess the meaning of each page, and helping them find the actual topic of the page.