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The basics of SEO – meta tags

We are not, and I repeat, not an SEO company. In fact it’s fair to say we’ve had a healthy disregard for the blackhat boys that have loitered on the fringes of our industry since the dawn of search engines. However, there are some standard best practices around meta tags that we all should adhere to and here’s our stock best-practice list.

Despite some difference of opinion we’re going to focus on Title and Description only. The rest are too easy to fiddle and are mostly ignored by search engines. In fact, it’s fair to say that if you are bending the SEO rules most of what you will do is ignored. These meta tags appear in the head of your page.

The idea, of course, is to have your site displayed when a user is searching for what you have to offer. Having the finest meta data around won’t accomplish that, but not properly implementing these tags can definitely get in the way of your success.

Title – 60 characters please

This is frequently the linked text that appears in your page’s entry in the SERPs (search engine results pages). As such, it’s the first opportunity to grab the user’s attention and show him what your page is about. If the title seems to match the information he’s searching for, he’s that much closer to clicking through to view your page. Use that to your advantage. Don’t stuff it full of keywords – the bloke who told you how to do that (was it down the pub?) is clueless and rather dangerous … he’s probably the same bloke who told you to register dozens of pointless domain names (another subject for another time, maybe).

Write it in English (if that’s your intended audience language) and carefully craft it to include some of the key phrases and words that potential customers may tag onto.

Description – 150 characters please

This may not appear in the SERPs listing. The meta description is a brief description of what the page is about. This is an opportunity to show the users specifically what your page deals with, hopefully enticing them to visit. You should put some thought into the description, make it relevant to your page’s topic, and above all, write it for the user, not for the search engine. A mention of your main keyword won’t affect your ranking a bit – the description is strictly for the user.

It’s important that your description is accurate in the context of your page, and the use of your main keyword is recommended (3 keywords maximum, and even that can sometimes appear spammy). Google sees this as a suggestion, however, and if their algorithm decides it can find something more pertinent it may do so.

 

Important Note
Just as each page on your site should be unique, so should your title and description. You really need to avoid repeating or leaving blank these two vital tags. There are over 200 ranking factors considered by Google’s ranking algorithm, so this is just one step.

Simpler than you thought? Of course it is.

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