Title Tags, Meta Descriptions and Keywords

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Just when I finally stopped getting the dreaded “Do I need commas or no commas in my Meta keyword tag” question, there’s been a new stream of Meta tag questions being asked at the forum and in my email box.

I’m not sure of the reason for the sudden interest, but it’s probably because people are starting to worry about other engines besides Google now. I have written articles about all of the tags, but it seems like a brief summary is probably in order.

It’s important to note that there’s a big difference between Title tags, Meta description tags and Meta keywords tags. First of all, the Title tag is *not* a Meta tag. So if you see/hear me say something about Meta tags, I’m by no means talking about the Title tag.

Title tags are extremely important towards your goal of achieving high search engine rankings. What you write in these tags can indeed affect how your site ranks in all the major engines. (See the recently updated “All About Title Tags” here: <http://www.highrankings.com/allabouttitles.htm>.) You should always work your major phrases into the Title tags on your pages, and make sure that each page of your site uses a unique tag.

Meta description tags, on the other hand, don’t actually appear to affect your rankings in the search engines. Still, they are very worthwhile to use because they allow you to control the description of your listing in some engines for some search queries. (See my past newsletter article, “Getting a Great Google Description,” at <http://www.highrankings.com/issue094.htm#seo>.) The gist of that article is that your Meta description will show in the search results only *if* it happens to use the exact phrase that has been queried at the search engine. So use this tag for marketing purposes, i.e., to entice people to click on *your* link as opposed to the other 10 in the search results.

Meta keywords tags are a different animal altogether. Google, for one, doesn’t pay any attention to it. I’ve tested this myself, and am 100% positive that Google doesn’t index the words placed in the Meta keywords tag. Yahoo (and all of its search properties) plus Teoma/Ask Jeeves, do look at the Meta keywords tag, and do index its contents. BUT, and this is a huge BUT, that doesn’t mean that filling this tag the same keywords you’ve optimized your page for will boost it in the rankings.

Let me say that again.

Just because Yahoo knows what words you’ve put in the Meta keywords tag does not mean that the words you put in there will give your page a boost.

To me it’s common sense.

Let’s say you’ve optimized a page for “black hat SEOs.” So, you’ve used that phrase in your Title tag, you’ve written your content about black hat SEOs, and you’ve got some links pointing to the page that use “black hat SEOs” in the clickable portion of the link. Do you really think that also adding “black hat SEOs” to your Meta keywords tag would be just the thing it needs to get it found for that phrase in Yahoo? I don’t. Maybe, just maybe if 2 sites were identical except one had the phrase “black hat SEOs” in the Meta keywords tag, that one would show first, but 2 sites are never identical. (Plus the engines are always trying to put a stop to duplicate content.)

Does this mean you shouldn’t use the Meta keywords tag? No, not at all. You certainly don’t *have to* use it, as it shouldn’t affect your rankings for the keyword phrases that matter to you most; however, you could still use it for phrases that are somewhat obscure and just don’t belong visibly on your page. I talked about this a couple of years ago in this article: “No Meta Keywords” <http://www.highrankings.com/issue029.htm#seo>. I really think that misspellings and technical synonyms are the best (and possibly only) use for this tag.

As to the age-old comma/no comma question (and I actually did get this one asked today!), it makes no difference. Commas are seemingly invisible to search engines, so it’s pretty much the same thing to them whether you use them or not!

I hope this helps clear up some of the confusion about Meta tags, and to also clarify that when I say that Meta tags are dead that I’m most definitely not talking about Title tags, as they are not a Meta tag. And I’m not talking about the marketing value of a Meta description tag. Certainly, if it makes you feel good to use your Meta keywords tag and put your main keyword phrases in there, then more power to you. It won’t hurt anything, and who knows…maybe that page that fits the “all else being equal” scenario will show up one day and you’ll have them beat by a Meta keyword!

Jill Whalen of High Rankings is an internationally recognized search engine optimization consultant and host of the free weekly High Rankings Advisor search engine marketing newsletter.

She specializes in search engine optimization, SEO consultations and seminars. Jill’s handbook, “The Nitty-gritty of Writing for the Search Engines” teaches business owners how and where to place relevant keyword phrases on their Web sites so that they make sense to users and gain high rankings in the major search engines

Title Tags, Meta Descriptions and Keywords
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