Do Meta Tags Help SEO?

by Gary on June 13, 2007 · 9 comments

in SEO Basics

There was a time when the meta tags used to rule the roost of search engine placement. Put some keywords in the keywords meta tag, put a nice description in the description tag, and a nice title in the title tag, and you were almost done.

Not any more. In fact if you center your SEO efforts only around the meta tags, you not only get poorly ranked you also sometimes get penalised for using deceptive keywords and description (if that’s what you’re doing). The search engines these days give more importance to your actual content.

But it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use the meta tags at all. There are two tags that still make a difference and they are, the title tag and the description tag. And they are important because search engines like Google and Yahoo use your title as a hyperlink when your website appears on the search result pages and below this hyperlink appears the text that you have included in your description meta tag.

The title of your page should, must, contain the keywords that carry the essence of your page. They must have the keywords you think the search engine users will use to search for your website. Multiple studies have shown that people click those links more that contain the keywords and expressions they have just used as search terms.

Your description tag acts as an important nudge because it just appears beneath the hyperlink. Most users read your text description before clicking the link and a bad description can easily turn them off no matter how interesting and relevant your title sounds.

So is the keywords tag totally irrelevant? I don’t think so. There are many search engines, probably the smaller ones, that use this tag. I read somewhere that among the known search engines only perhaps Inktomi is using the keywords meta tag. The primary reason why all the major search engines stopped noticing the keywords meta tag was its exploitation. Keep this tag simple and put only those keywords there that are relevant to the particular page. Don’t use more than 9 keywords.

You don’t need to bother about a bunch of other tags used primarily for the SEO purpose. Just focus on the tags mentioned above in the following manner:

  • Use 5-10 words in the title tag
  • Use 9-12 keywords in your keywords tag
  • Use around 160 characters, including spaces, in your description tag.

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