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SEO Basics: Meta Data

Meta tags are located between the opening and closing head tags of a page’s source code. The three types of tags that are examined by search engine crawlers are the Description, Keyword, and Robots.

Descriptions

  • More so than any other aspect of SEO, meta descriptions effect WHAT is displayed for your site’s search engine listing rather than WHERE the listing displays for a given search (ranking). This is the paragraph that is displayed below the link to your site (see highlighted example below). Descriptions should be written to express both your site as a whole as well as the content of the specific page. DDT Bing Search ResultsDescriptions should be limited to a maximum of 250 characters. Also be aware that most search engines initially display only a portion of the description (typically two lines). Entries exceeding the initial display limit will be cut off with an ellipsis (…) and the search engine user will have to expand the window to see the full entry.

Keywords

  • Once a cornerstone of determining search result rankings, the internet’s exponential growth and exploitation of keywords have greatly minimized the value most search engines place on these tags. In fact, many search engines now completely ignore them. Despite this, they are still recognized by some crawlers and configuration should be included in a detailed optimization strategy.DDT Meta DataKeywords should be individually tailored to describe the specific content of each page. Evaluate your site to determine what words and phrases are emphasized in the content (focus on headings and other page section indicators). Limit the number of entries to a maximum of 20 words or phrases, separating each with a comma.

    Ensure you always follow the golden rule of setting up keywords: Don’t Be Repetitive. The limited number of search engines that still evaluate keyword content penalize sites that are repetitive. This is done to deter people from attempting to artificially inflate page rankings. Duplicate content in the keywords of different pages is acceptable; however, the same word or phrase should not be used within one page keyword meta tag.

Robots

  • The last important element of meta data that should be noted is the Robots tag. The information in this tag provides instructions to crawlers on how to handle pages on the site. If you want every page of your site to be explored, you need not specify anything – by default crawlers will follow all internal links and index each page. If you have pages you do not want the general public to be made aware of, such as an administrative portal login, you can specify “noindex” in the robots section. This will prevent the search engine from indexing the page – eliminating the possiblility of it being displayed in search results.

Written by

David is an avid social entrepreneur and Boston sports fanatic. He founded Diversified Data Technologies way back in 2009 and stuck around to see it grow. His party quarks include unnecessary dancing and being an overly hospitable host. When looking, he can be found capturing the twitterverse at @DLanphear, being professional on LinkedIn, or bouncing around town with Foursquare.

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