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Meta Tags and Search Ranking


29. July 2009 18:46

There are a number of meta tags that can be used on web pages, this post focuses on the two most misunderstood meta tags: meta keywords and meta description.

The Meta Keywords Tag

A lot of newcomers to search engine optimisation (SEO) believe that optimising a website involves writing a long list of keywords that describe your business, products and services which are then added to the website's meta keywords tags.  This was indeed the original idea behind the meta keywords tag, but over time this system was abused by webmasters "stuffing" the meta keywords tag with as many keywords as possible in order to improve their search engine ranking.  This led a lot of search engines reducing the influence of meta keywords or ignoring them completely. 
John Mueller of Google Webmaster Central stated:

"we generally ignore the contents of the "keywords" meta tag. As with other possible meta tags, feel free to place it on your pages if you can use it for other purposes - it won't count against you."

The Meta Description Tag

This meta tag is used to describe or summarise the page contents, it generally doesn't influence a web page's search engine ranking, but Google for instance may use its contents to create the description displayed in the Google search results.  Google state:
"While the use of a description meta tag is optional and will have no effect on your rankings, a good description can result in a better snippet, which in turn can help to improve the quality and quantity of visitors from our search results."

Conclusion

Meta keywords and meta description tags are optional tags and have limited benefit especially in terms of SEO.  We recommend you don't spend too much time writing them, instead spend that time writing more content for your website or improving existing content.  If you do want to include them focus on the meta tags for the most important pages of your website.

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