Meta tags are a series of words, sentences and phrases used in the code of a site to help with the Search Engine Optimization. If you are using a Content Management System, you can add these parts to your site through mostly easy interfaces. In other words, you don’t need to be able to read to work in code to add these important parts to your site.
It is best to make them all page specific.
Not all meta tags are equal. At one time the meta tag named Keywords was very important. Now they are useless. However, it is still a good exercise to go through to come up with your meta tag keywords in order to use them in different ways than originally intended. I will cover this below in the keywords section.
Meta Tags: Page Titles, Page Descriptions, Keywords
Each page ideally should have its own Title Tag and Description Tag.
See towards the end for instructions on getting a character count in Word.
A. Title Tag – Limit: 65-70 characters with spaces
The Title Tag is what you see at the top of the browser window bar. An example of this is can be seen on this particular blog post page: Meta tags and how they are used – ZagDesign Blog Character count with spaces=48
A better example is what you see on one of my regular site pages, such as my About page: ZagDesign About – Janet Zagoria – Northern California Web Design, Development & Marketing/Internet Strategies Character count with spaces=109
Note: You don’t need to repeat words. If someone is searching for a Web Developer, the search engines see both the word Web and Develop[ment] AND will put together that combo for “Web Developer”.
You can put more than 65-70 characters but there is the limit to what usually displays in that top bar (will be different limits in different browsers). The search engines will pick up what is in the Title Tag and use it in its algorithms (mathematical way they calculate your ranking).
The Title Tag is also used when someone bookmarks your page. For this reason, make sure the important words are at the beginning.
Keep in mind on Tablets and Smart Phones, title tags are not usually displayed for space or only the first few characters are displayed. However, the title would be used in bookmarking on those devices.
B. Meta Description – Limit: Roughly 155 characters with spaces (keep below 160)
The description is what most search engines will display when giving the result of a search by someone.
It needs to be coherent sentence/phrases with spaces where appropriate because it is displayed in search engines results as the words that follow your linked name to your site and your URL (or sometimes vice versa).
Use a sentence that will entice the reader to click from the search. Give people a reason to click on your link rather than stating “the facts.”
Using the example above, on my About page the description reads: Janet Zagoria, owner of ZagDesign, has a background in fine and commercial art, advertising, photography, project management, classroom teaching and one-to-one training. Character count with spaces=169
C. Meta Keywords – Limit 256 characters with spaces
These words are not seen on your Web pages – they are placed in the code for Search Engines to use, maybe. Google & Yahoo have not used keyword meta tags from the code on Web pages for ranking for years. Maybe some other search engines do. No harm done if you add them to the page but develop them for use in your text.
First, let’s look at the concept behind developing keywords:
Create the most important words for any particular page. If your site is about your honey bee business but this page is about clothing and gear to use with collecting honey, you would want phrases such as beekeeping supplies, protective gear, beekeeping equipment, canvas beekeeping gloves, hobby honey collector. If you are selling beeswax candles but not on this page, you would reserve candles, etc. for the page the product is on.
For the keyword meta tag
Use single words and phrases. Words and phrases are separated with commas, no spaces. Spaces go between words in a phrase only. A space is considered a character and search engines don’t need them around the commas.
Once you have used any word, you do not need to repeat it.
If you list a word in the plural, you don’t need to list it in the singular.
It is best for any page you create to have their own keywords. Repetition from page to page is recommended for the best keywords. In other words, as in the honey bee business above, the words honey and bee would be repeated form page to page but not candles, if it doesn’t make sense for a particular page.
Note: Caps are not necessary for keywords but should be used in the Description as you would in any sentence and in the title tags for better readability.
Keywords for other uses
The text on a page should theoretically match the title + description + keywords. This is where you can use the keywords you developed in sentences that make sense. But, don’t repeat phrases or words too much. (No more than 5 times.)
In this example, for my About page, I would certainly want to have the words/phrases:
graphic design, photography, publishing, product design, Web design, marketing, technology
The phrases above repeat the word “design” but it makes sense for this page. In the keyword meta tag, you don’t need to repeat the word “design”.
To get a character count in Word:
Put your words in a blank Word doc
Make sure there are no returns above or below your words
Go to Tools>Word count (in menu at top of page)
Window pops up and shows you word and character count
Look at only character count with spaces for the title tag and description tag