Do I Still Need to Worry about META Tags?

“META tags? Huh? What are those?” you might ask. The following are examples:

<meta name=”description” content=”An awesomely succinct description here”>
<meta name=”keywords” content=”Hi, I’m a useless tag!”>
<meta name=”author” content=”Your name here, if you’re not afraid of identity theft”>
<meta http-equiv=”content-type” content=”text/html;charset=UTF-8 (but who uses this, anyway?)”>
Many thanks to W3Schools.com for this code sample. (The comments in the content blanks are all my own opinions, though. LOL)

For most modern web designers, the esoteric meta tag fell just a little bit before our time. Tucked away in the head section of our HTML documents, these little snippets of code, like talismans, were supposed to help search engines find and index our sites, and therefore supposed to help potential visitors find us a lot more easily.

But these days, meta tags don’t quite function that way anymore. Most modern browsers don’t pay much attention to them, and neither do many search engines. So, the question remains: Are they worth even including in our webpages anymore?

The Verdict: Sorta-Kinda

Meta tags have not lost all their effectiveness, according to this article at SearchEngineWatch.com. Some search engines still do pay attention to them. But just making detailed meta tags is not the be-all and end-all SEO strategy it used to be. Nowadays, it’s far better to combine a selective use of meta tags with other strategies, like blogrolls, affiliate programs, content keywording, topsites listings, ad programs, and the like.

Meta Description: Think Twitter-Length

For your description, write a short, one- or two-sentence summary of your site, and leave it at that. No need for long-winded, essay-question-esque responses! (Ha, I need this advice more than anybody, LOL.) Since the content in meta description tags may or may not all be picked up by a search engine (depending on character limits per individual search engine), you want to make sure the content in the tag is as short and sweet as possible.

Meta Keywords: “Meh”

The meta “keywords” tag used to be of all importance, and you used to stuff it full of all the keywords you thought people would search for and find your site with. These days…don’t bother even typing in <meta name=”keywords”> into your code.

Why? It’s vastly easier on you (and more intuitive for modern search engines) if you just use the keywords a whole lot in the text of your website. For instance, if your site is about beaded jewelry, use “beaded” and “jewelry” a lot in your content. Search engines will still find you, and maybe find you a lot more easily than they would if your site’s content had very few actual usages of your ideal search terms.

Meta Author and Meta Content-Type: Don’t Bother

I’ve never known either of these tags to make much of a difference in search engines or browsers either one. (In fact, it may be dangerous for you to put your real name in such a prominent place in your source code.) Plus, the content-type, while it may have mattered in the past for older browsers, likely doesn’t matter as much anymore with more modern browsers being used. My advice: don’t worry about either of these.

Use Your Title Tag As Well!

Don’t forget your <title> tag! Though it’s not a true meta tag, it will remind your users of what site they’re looking at when they look through their browser tabs. Also, many search engines search your title tags first, even before they search your content, so it’s well worth writing at least something between <title> and </title>.

Make it short and descriptive, like your meta description tag, and you’ll be well on your way to having a site that people actually visit. (Y’know, why we spend hours before a screen typing and clicking, blinking our bloodshot eyes in a vain attempt for rest? LOL)

Summary

META tags aren’t something to lose sleep over anymore, but some of them might be helpful supplements to your other SEO strategies for making your site known. Simply craft a meta description, spiff up your title tag with appropriate text, and you’ll be set in terms of META tags.

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