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Understanding How Meta Tags And Title Tags Impact SEO

Apr 24, 2008
Meta tags contain information about a website. To the SEO (search engine optimization) industry, meta tags and title tags are critical to assist with search engine rankings. Think of these tags as your way to help influence how you define the topic of an individual webpage.

Understanding Search Engine Results:

When you go to a site such as Google and perform a search for a keyword phrase, the site returns ten (10) results and each result entry has 3 sections:

1. Title of the page (title tag)
2. Description (meta description or snippet of text)
3. Destination URL (address of the webpage)

Let's review how meta tags and title can influence search engine results. Title tags are technically a different tag, but for purposes of illustration, we'll group them under meta tags

What are meta tags?

Most commonly, there are three types of meta tags that a SEO expert will focus on:

1. title tags
2. meta description
3. meta keyword

Tip: To review meta tags for a page type "Ctrl + u" when your Internet browser window is open (Firefox only).

Title Tags:

Title tags are the words seen on the top left hand corner of your internet browser. For example, visit http://CNN.com and look in the top left hand corner. You'll see the text "CNN.com - Breaking News, U.S., World, Weather, Entertainment & Video News." This text is the title tag and it help identifies to the search engines what your page is about. There is a character limit on how much text a search engine will read. As a best practice be specific, but descriptive and try to keep the title tag under 100 characters or 10-12 words.

Meta Description Tags:

The meta description is a text statement that gives an abstract about what the page is about. Search engines can only read about 255 characters, so most descriptions are limited to 1-2 sentences. What is significant about the meta description tag is the potential opportunity to influence how your page appears in a search engine. The 1-2 lines of text under the title of a page in a search engine can be influenced by the meta description tag.

Tip: PDF's do not have meta descriptions. To influence the text in a search engine result, focus on the first visible text available. The first text phrase on the PDF will act as a substitute for a meta description tag.

Meta Keyword Tags:

What keywords are important within your page's content? The meta keyword tag is an opportunity to highlight and reinforce important of keyword phrases. Meta keyword tags should be less than 500 characters.

The Role of Keyword Research:

An SEO professional conducts keyword research to get a magnitude of what keywords are popular among search engine users. This information is useful to incorporate these keyword phrases into the webpage's content. The webpage's content and keyword research play a role in guiding the SEO professional towards what information should be included within meta tags on a given page.

Creating Meta Tags Onsite or Outsource?

Depending on your industry, time constraints and budget will influence the decision to perform keyword research and create meta tags in-house or to outsource to a professional search engine optimization agency. As a benchmark, do you currently rank in the top 30 results (pages 1-3) in a search engine for a keyword phrase you think a customer would type in? The more competitive the industry, the more benefit you will find consulting with an SEO firm.

Many search engine optimization agencies recommend conducting in depth keyword research, followed by implementation of keyword phrases into existing content. Modifying the webpage's content by incorporating popular keyword phrases will help improve the page's ability to rank for a given keyword phrase. The process is completed with the creation of meta tags and title tags as a compliment to the on page content. The result will be a circular process that leverages descriptive on page content to help identify to the search engines what your site is about.
About the Author
Keith Hanks is an Account Manager at Atlanta search engine optimization agency TwentySix2 Marketing. He has a passion for Atlanta SEO agency services and Atlant web design services.
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