Introduction to Meta Tags
Every web site in existence is built on what is called HTML code. Within a HTML based web page is the ability to use what are called meta tags. How these tags are used has become a major part of most web site optimizing efforts. Whether or not the use of these tags actually has helped these companies or individuals in their efforts is another story all together. In the majority of cases, it probably did not. Actually, the use of meta tags in the area of web site optimization is the most abused, most misunderstood and most talked about. Over the last five years, meta tags have been sold as a magical solution to high rankings by many confused web developers and "snake oil" salesman.
The truth is that meta tags do play an important role in the game of web site optimization if used properly. The effectiveness meta tags is limited to their involvement with the rest of your web sites' elements. To reach high rankings, you need to pull all of the available optimizing resources together. I decided early that it was best to research what everyone else was teaching or preaching about website optimization - including meta tags - before I began writing. I wanted to get an idea of how far behind our current experts were, and who was teaching proper methods. I downloaded over 500 pages on the subject via the Internet and began to read through all of it. I quickly realized that virtually every single published report was similar to all of the rest. Every single company, individual or consultant was copying his report from another and putting a new spin on it to make it appear to be original.
After reading about one third of the documents, I threw them all away. I saw no value in reading on. Every page and report was identical. What we now have is thousands of experts sharing and stealing the same material. One example that really blew me away was a published book on search engine optimization that I recently scanned through. It was nothing more then all of the same reports available online in a printed form. I could immediately tell by the way many topics were labeled. It also read like a series of reports. There was no real beginning and no real end. The whole book was a jumbled mess of repetitive nonsense. The two incompetent authors apparently just downloaded hundreds of reports and decided to compile them into a book.
The finished product covers the same topics over and over again. The worst part is that much of it is inaccurate. Its like a story that is told 100 times by 100 different people. It always changes and evolves into something further away from the truth each time. These so called experts that are writing reports (and books) have no clue as to what they are writing about. With web site optimization, it cant change every other day. It has to stay the way it is until the search engines decide to put a new spin on it. When they change the criteria of a spider, the optimization methods must change with them.
How to view your title tag and meta tags
Your title tag and your meta tags exists in the HTML code of a web site. Their function is to direct your web browser on a number of different topics. The HTML code of a web site is like a cars engine -nothing could even begin to work without it and its all under the hood, out of sight. What we are going to do is walk through each of the tags and explain exactly how each functions, both to search engine and site users.
The first thing we need to do though is learn how to view your source code. This will allow you to see all your HTML tags, including your title tag and your meta tags. Here is what you do. First, point you mouse at the web page you want to view and click the right button. Earlier, I showed you how to view any image on a web page. In that example, you would point the cursor at an image and right click.
To view your pages' source code, you do not want your mouse cursor on any links or graphics. On some web pages, this can be a challenge. Some pages have so many graphics and links that everywhere you point your mouse, the page contains an image or link. Just try to point it in an area where there is nothing but background color. After you right click, scroll down to "view source" and left click. What you will see next should be a note pad that will display your HTML source code.
You are now examining the HTML code of the web page that you are on. You can do this on any page that you choose on anybody’s web site, including your own. You can examine their code and determine how their site is set up. Now that you can view the HTML, we are going to move on and discuss what these tags should say to begin optimizing your web pages.
Title Tag Optimization
Your title tag is by far the most important tag on your web site from an optimizing stand point.
Actually, in my professional opinion, the title tag is probably the single most important element of your web site along with your keyword rich text. This will be contrary to what many others are trying to teach these days. Most will tell you that your meta tags are the web optimizing hidden secret to success. Sorry, they are wrong. If meta tags were the answer, everyone would be ranked number one.
Every single web site on the Internet is loaded with meta tags. These are sites ranked from dead last place to the number one position. Meta tags are not the answer but just a small piece of a very big pie. However, the title tag is much more important. From a search engine view point, it is one of the most powerful componets of your site.
This tag actually allows you to place a title on any web page, and is an important direct link to your keywords. It will be viewed by the spiders and the page visitors alike. The title tag does not actually fall into the meta family, however because it is a tag, it is often confused with meta tags.
What you place in the title tag should be only one thing - the exact keyword you used for the page that you are trying to optimize. That’s it. Every single web page must have its own title tag.
The title tag works hand in hand with your keywords like no other element in web site optimization. It is the very first thing that a search engine displays on a search return. Try it out. Search for any topic on Google.com. When Google displays the search result, the very first line is the title tag. You can view any page you choose and I assure you that the title tag will match the top line on the search result. This title tag is almost like a master keyword.
After learning this, some people will start to think that they can just use their title tag alone and get top rankings on search terms. The funny thing is that in some really off the wall topics, it may work. The title tag is that powerful. However if the search term is even remotely common, it will need the pages' keywords and all of the other elements to reach the top.
Once again, make sure that in your title tag area, you copy your chosen keyword for each page. This is a must for web site optimization. If your title tag does not match, you can throw every other effort away.
Meta Description Strategies
The Meta Description tag is has some value with certain search engines as to how your site will be described in a search for your company name or domain name. This is an example in which the searcher does not use an exact keyword. This occurs when someone searches for your exact company name. This is the only time you will see a search engine really using something from the meta family other then the title tag. It is a good idea to place some informative and inviting text in this tag line about your company. Lets look at a good Meta Description tag I made for our Widget website.
Widget warehouse USA in the number one dealer of widgets in the world. We carry the most complete selection of widgets available on the Internet for purchase. At Widget Warehouse we are your one stop shop for all your widget needs. At Widget Warehouse, customer service is our number one priority. If you plan on buying a blue Widget, red Widget or green Widget, shop on line with confidence in our totally secure shopping cart. Nobody sell more Widgets then Widget Warehouse!
This Meta description uses my chosen Keyword quite a bit and describes my web site well. Unlike the Meta Keywords, using your Keyword here is helpful and will help your rankings.
Meta Keyword Strategies
Meta keywords are one of the most abused tags in business of HTML and search engine optimization today.
Meta keywords have been sold to many as the cure all to top search engine positioning problems. Meta tags still rank number one (even today) when it comes to conning the public into buying search engine positioning services. It quick and easy to throw a hundred meta tags onto a site and claim that it is now optimized. Unfortunately, meta tag keywords just do not have that kind of power.
Years ago, I believe that search engines did give much more weight to Meta tags. Originally, search engine designers thought that this would give web site programmers the ability to tell the spider where to index the pages from a category standpoint. If site position was not so valuable to businesses, this may have actually worked. As with anything, as soon as search engine optimization became a large-scale moneymaker, it was exploited. Eventually, it became a massive problem where sites could rank based on irrelevant meta tag keywords, and actually receive traffic. A web site could have nothing to do with Elvis Presley, but if its meta tags contained his name, it would receive a boatload of traffic. However, this was starting to piss a lot of copyright and trademark owners off, and soon meta tag lawsuits began to appear.
My opinion on the results of this is purely speculation. In order to rectify this problem, search engines decided the only way to allow someone to achieve ranking on a web page was to make sure that the page was truly based on that topic.
What is not speculation however is the fact that meta tags no longer carry any weight with search engines. They have not in quite a long time. With the new search engine criteria that we are seeing today, it all about what your page says. In the past, people would stick words like Ford in their Meta keyword line to gain traffic on that search term even if they weren’t selling Ford automobiles.
Presently, that method will no longer work. As you have already learned, your chosen keyword must be present on you page in a multitude of areas. Because of these new set of rules, if you decide to try to capitalize on another companies name or trademark, it will be openly seen.
This will leave you wide open to scrutiny and the legal responsibility of infringing on another company’s intellectual property.
Today, I give Meta keywords very little consideration when I optimize a web site.
I wouldn’t skip them all together. There are a few minor search engines that still use meta tags when ranking web sites. However, none of the larger, more popular search engines do. The basic rule to follow for Meta keywords is to simply use your pages keyword or keywords phrase. Thats it. You need to only place it once in there. There is no need to bombard this tag will all kinds of key phrases. It will not do you any good, and may even damage your rankings. Once is enough. If you decide to stick anything else in there, make sure those words can be found on your body text, or you may actually be penalized.
Alt Tag Optimization Strategies
Alt tags seem to have much more weight then they used to when it comes to optimization.
It is really up to you if you choose to use Alt tags on your web site. It is not mandatory. At this point, the overall strategy should be fairly clear. Use your key word or key phrase in your Alt tags. Its that simple.
One neat little trick that the optimizing software program SpyderOpts uses is to name each Alt Tag the Keyword and then add a unique number after it. This prevents the a spamming effect of having every image named the exact same.
Adding some different characters to each one allows you to include your keyword but also make each Alt Tag unique. Try it, it seems to work well.
Submitting Your Website
Now that your site is built properly, it is time to submit it to be indexed. One common approach is the use of automated submission software. We highly advise against this method and suggest performing manual submissions. Many search engines lately seem to be ignoring sites submitted with software. Doing it manually should only take a few moments and is well worth it. It should take roughly anywhere from 1 week to 3 months for the site to be indexed. Below are links to the major search engines that you should submit to. Once you get indexed by these, you will be in indexed by the rest.
(Search engines that also use this database- Looksmart)
The Open Directory Project (DMOZ)
(Search engines that also use this database- Ask Jeeves, Lycos, Netscape )
(Search engines that also use this database- Lycos)
(Search engines that also use this database- Yahoo)
(Search engines that also use this database- AOL, Excite, MSN, Overture)
Link Exchange & Link Relevancy
Having another site linked to yours is almost vital when it comes to getting your site indexed.
Some search engines wont even consider your site if there is not at least one outside link pointing to it. If you have to, have someone that owns an indexed site place a hidden link to your site.
Having a link point to your site also helps in getting spider traffic. If the site that has a link to yours is already indexed, you will also receive a visit from the spiders that visit their site. This is a really fast way to get indexed.
Search Engine Optimization Scams
It seems that last years water purifier sellers are now selling SEO this year. There are a number on SEO scams in the works today.
Here are just a few to look out for.
1. "Let me charge you monthly for your optimized pages" scam
Don’t fall for this one. You should only pay once for your site to be optimized, not on a continuing basis.
2. "Let me host your optimized pages" scam.
This one is even worse. Do not let anyone host (hold hostage) your website pages. If you ever miss a payment, you are done. Pages disappear. Also beware of what we call the “scare tactic”. This is someone telling you that it is safer to host your optimize pages elsewhere. This is done to scare you into letting them control your web pages on a pay-per month basis. Don’t buy into it.