In 1990s, META tag content was known as a secret weapon for top search engine positions. A META tag is an HTML tag that provides information about web page’s content, such as what HTML specifications a web page follows or a description of its content. META tags do not affect how a web page is displayed in a browser in other words these tags are mostly invisible to site’s visitors, but will be seen by search engines.
A number of different META tags are available that you can use to include page related information, but only two of them are important from SEO perspective: the keyword tag and the description tag.
Some search engines take the Keyword and the Description tags into consideration while ranking the sites for that keyword or phrase. META tags only have a limited effect on resulting high search engine rankings. Since search engines uses META tags information in some part of their ranking formula and while displaying the search results, it’s worth adding them.
The META tags look like:
<meta name="keywords" content="meta tags SEO">
<meta name="description" content="Roles of META Tags in Search Engine Rankings">
How to use the META keywords tag
The META keywords tag used to be an important way to get your page listed under specific keywords under the search engines. However, major search engines ignore keywords tag and it no longer has the importance it used to have. The META keywords tag should be placed in the <head> portion of a web page.
<meta name="keywords" content="put your keywords here" />
Optimizing Keywords META Tag
Concentrate on some specific keywords. Avoid using more than 3 keywords. Use keywords which are relevant to your page and target audience.
Repeating keywords does not add any value. Unnecessary keyword repetition may be considered as spam by search engines
<meta name="keywords" content="keyword 1, keyword 2, keyword 3">
<meta name="keywords" content="keyword1 keyword2 keyword3">
- Use space-separated keywords instead of comma separated ones, since it allows search engine to make combination of keywords into possible phrases.
- Putting in common misspellings of keywords that you spelt correctly in your content might be a good practice. However, some search engines penalize web pages that contain keywords that are not in the page itself.
How to use the META description tag
Although major search engines ignore the description META tag, we have to use it since smaller search engines use the description tag data and takes only 2 minutes to write it. The information in this tag is listed directly below the title tag on search engine results. As a result, a good description make a website stand out from other sites.
The META description tag looks like:
<meta name="description" content="content summary of the page">
Optimizing Description META Tag
- Give a relevant description since some search engines display this description in the search results.
- Use only targeted keywords.
- Restrict the number of words in this tag to 15 words.
- Place the most important phrase at the start of the description because some search engines may omit some parts of description.
- Do not repeat the HTML title tag content in the description META tag. If the title-tag content is automatically displayed as a hypertext link in a search engine result page, exact repetition as a description would not encourage people to click the link. When you think about your META description tags, you should think of them in terms of getting click troughs, not ranking.
Today, some search engines still look at META tags, but increasingly they put much more emphasis on both visible text on the page and "off-page factors" (popularity, linking structure of the Internet, etc.) to measure page relevance.
As a conclusion, optimizing the META tags might not sound important. However, it takes about 15-20 minutes to make a big difference if your competitors haven't optimized the tags as well as you have.