How important are Meta Tags, are they dead yet?
I was helping my father with his web site today and his web designer posed the question ‘how important are the meta tags these days’ and that set me to thinking. I know that I do not spend nearly as much time worrying about them, crafting them and updating them as I once did.
The truth of the matter is they are not nearly as important as they once were and therefore it is important to remember this when working out how much time and money you should allocate to this task. Once upon a time meta tags were a primary factor for search engines however the meta keywords tag and meta description tags are no longer the primary factor for the modern search engine.
Whilst they are no longer the main factor in classifying indexing, titling and describe your site they should not be left out and are still important. Well some of them in any case, whilst others thankfully are irrelevant.
So lets start with what meta tags are and what they were supposed to be for. Their are a number of meta tags. The primary ones we will look at are the Meta Keywords and the Meta Description tag. A little later in the article I will cover several others. A meta description tag is supposed to be the brief and concise summary of your page’s content. The meta keyword tag is supposed to be a summary list of the most important words on your page. When they were originally introduced they were supposed to be a way of making it easier to find relevant content online. It was supposed to work as a partnership between web site owners and the search engines.
The problem is web masters tend to try and do anything it takes to get visitors to their web site, at any cost sometimes. Inevitably what happened is web designers and webmasters started to abuse the technology and used techniques such as ‘keyword spamming’. As a result the emphasis on meta tags has been seriously decreased in the importance of search engine algorithms.
In regards to the keyword tag, lets keep it simple. It is dead, it is useless, a waste of space and your time. I do not say this flippantly, I mean it categorically! None of the major search engines make use of keyword technology, most have not since 2002. I very much doubt even any of the minor indexes use it. So I really have no idea why the keyword myth perpetuates. Save yourself the time and effort, it was a bad idea in the first place in any case.
What you have left from the old days of the meta tag is the meta description tag. This is still important. If you do not use one then Google will simply do its best to describe your page by using a section of your page., they may choose to do this in any case however it is still utilized by the engine in some form. It is thought to be especially important when it comes to the ‘related sites’ functionality. The other major indexes also make heavy use of the description tag including Yahoo and Live Search.
The final tag I will cover here is absolutely critical. You need to be an absolute fool not to make use of it as its importance runs far beyond search engine placement and optimisation. This is your sites “Title” tag. It is imperative that you make good use of your sites Title tag, and do not use the same title on every single page of your website.
There are some other meta tags which the search engines do utilise with Yahoo and Google introducing several in 1995/1996. These give you control over search engine robots behaviour. Read the related links to find out more.
You can find out more on the history and usage of the meta tag here:
The definitive list of meta tags and attributes can be found here along with descriptions and functions here: http://w3schools.com/tags/tag_meta.asp
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