The use of metadata by search engines, including meta keywords, has changed extensively throughout the years.
While many of the rules regarding metadata remain the same, it is now an area of lesser importance when it comes to SEO. That said, meta tag optimization is still an important aspect of search engine optimization, so it is important to employ many of these so-called "deprecated" techniques to ensure high SERP rankings
Following these rules pertaining to metadata can help ensure a site's high ranking in search results. While Google does not use metadata for site rankings, there still are search engines that do. A variety of websites and syndication services also rely on metadata. Furthermore, Google even pulls your site's description from your metadata for use in the SERPs.
While meta tag optimization is still useful, it's important to note that there is no reason to stress out over metadata. This article is meant to serve as an informational piece on how metadata is used today as well as noting its much greater historical importance. Feel free to comment, however, on your thoughts and feelings (particularly on the modern usage of meta tags and meta data in SEO.)
What is Metadata? What are Meta Tags?
Metadata provides information about a site. This information gives search engines clues regarding what a site is about. Since metadata is hidden away in a site's markup, visitors can't see it, but search engines can. There are several types of metadata, but we're going to talk about the three most important parts that make up meta tag optimization: meta keywords, meta descriptions, and the robot tag.
Meta descriptions are actually one of the few things that visitors will see, but they won't see it on your site. Here is an example:
Bob has a site about sports cars and in his meta description, he has written, "The ultimate guide to European and American sports cars."
When someone searches on Google for the term "sports cars," Bob's site may show up in the results. If it does, the listing will show his meta description. In short, meta descriptions tell people what a site is about before they even visit it.
What Do Meta Keywords Do?
Meta keywords work very similar to meta descriptions, but instead of telling Internet users what a site is about, it tells the search engine. Here is an example:
Lisa's site is about Georgia peaches. In her meta keywords, she has written, "Georgia peaches, peaches from Georgia, peach orchards" By writing these keywords, Lisa is telling search engines that her site is about Georgia peaches, peaches from Georgia, and peach orchards. Annette searches in a search engine for the term "peaches from Georgia." Since Lisa's site has this phrase in its meta keywords, the search engine may show Lisa's website to Annette in the search listings.
Why You Need Meta Data
Meta information is very important to a site's well being when it comes to SEO. The part of SEO that deals with metadata is known as meta tag optimization. Many people say that you don't need meta keywords because "Google doesn't use metadata in their algorithm and since Google is the most popular search engine, there's no need to use them." That is a myth. While there is no argument that Google is the most popular search engine in the world, Google also reportedly does not use metadata as a way to weigh sites. Still, it's a bad idea to ignore meta tag optimization.
- Other search engines use meta keywords in their algorithms and although they won't make up the larger portion of a site's traffic, it is traffic the site may not be getting if it didn't have meta keywords.
- Google doesn't care about meta keywords at all, so no sites will be penalized by Google for having meta keywords.
- Meta tags are easy to add. It's as simple as adding a tiny bit of HTML right after your <head> tag. Many content management systems even do all the work for you. Those using something like Wordpress are blessed with the number of plug-ins available that help out with metadata.
- Google uses meta descriptions to give searchers more information about your site. Without a meta description, Google will hand-pick something from the site it feels is relevant to what the searcher is looking for. While this can be helpful, having a clean and well-written meta description can really entice searchers that YOUR site is the one they are looking for. While it has no impact on a site's ranking, it can help click-through rates.
How to Add Metadata
Each site has a main page or an index page. In the file for this page, a web developer or site admin, should is to look for the open head tag: <head>. Right after this tag, the site admin should enter their metadata. The following example shows what metadata should look like:
There are a few easily fixable problems that people run into when they are optimizing their metadata. For example, sometimes metadata is set up to disallow search engines from indexing a site. There are a few reasons webmasters set their sites up to block search engine, but those creating websites for SEO purposes should make sure search engines are NOT blocked.
If a website isn't being indexed in the search engines, generally the first thing a webmaster will do is make sure their robots tag is not blocking search engines. By default, if a site does NOT have a robot tag, search engines will index it. Many webmasters write a robot tag that essentially says "allow search engines to index this", but this is unnecessary as search engines will only avoid indexing a site if there is a robot tag that disallows them from doing so. (Or if it's been blacklisted, but that's a whole different issue.)
Another problem that people run into is giving search engines too much information. Sites are allowed a max of 10 keywords in their metadata. Here's an example:
Lisa's site has three meta keywords which are "Georgia peaches, peaches from Georgia, peach orchards." Gina, who is Lisa's competition has 12 keywords which are "peaches from Georgia, Georgia peaches, peach orchards, peach orchard, peaches, Georgia, Georgia peaches, Gina's peach stand, juicy peaches, peaches from the south, ripe peaches, fresh peaches"
Because Gina has more than 10 keywords and Lisa has only 3, Lisa stands a better chance of doing well in the search engine. The same rule applies to meta descriptions, except web developers are allowed a max of 150 characters for meta descriptions. Remember that it's 150 characters and not 150 words. While this isn't one of the biggest SEO mistakes a web developer can make, it still can negatively affect search engine rankings.
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A web directory or link directory is an online list or catalog of websites. That is, it is a directory on the World Wide Web of (all or part of) the World Wide Web. Historically, directories typically listed entries on people or businesses, and their contact information; such directories are still in use today. A web directory includes entries about websites, including links to those websites, organized into categories and subcategories. Besides a link, each entry may include the title of the website, and a description of its contents. In most web directories, the entries are about whole websites, rather than individual pages within them (called "deep links"). Websites are often limited to inclusion in only a few categories. There are two ways to find information on the Web: by searching or browsing. Web directories provide links in a structured list to make browsing easier. Many web directories combine searching and browsing by providing a search engine to search the directory. Unlike search engines, which base results on a database of entries gathered automatically by web crawler, most web directories are built manually by human editors. Many web directories allow site owners to submit their site for inclusion, and have editors review submissions for fitness. Web directories may be general in scope, or limited to particular subjects or fields. Entries may be listed for free, or by paid submission (meaning the site owner must pay to have his or her website listed). RSS directories are similar to web directories, but contain collections of RSS feeds, instead of links to web sites. During the early development of the web, there was a list of webservers edited by Tim Berners-Lee and hosted on the CERN webserver. One historical snapshot from 1992 remains. He also created the World Wide Web Virtual Library, which is the oldest web directory. Most of the directories are general in scope and list websites across a wide range of categories, regions and languages. But some niche directories focus on restricted regions, single languages, or specialist sectors. One type of niche directory with a large number of sites in existence is the shopping directory. Shopping directories specialize in the listing of retail e-commerce sites. Examples of well-known general web directories are Yahoo! Directory (shut down at the end of 2014) and DMOZ (shut down on March 14, 2017). DMOZ was significant due to its extensive categorization and large number of listings and its free availability for use by other directories and search engines. However, a debate over the quality of directories and databases still continues, as search engines use ODP's content without real integration, and some experiment using clustering. There have been many attempts to make building web directories easier, such as using automated submission of related links by script, or any number of available PHP portals and programs. Recently, social software techniques have spawned new efforts of categorization, with Amazon.com adding tagging to their product pages. Directories have various features in their listings, often depending upon the price paid for inclusion: A human-edited directory is created and maintained by editors who add links based on the policies particular to that directory. Human-edited directories are often targeted by SEOs on the basis that links from reputable sources will improve rankings in the major search engines. Some directories may prevent search engines from rating a displayed link by using redirects, nofollow attributes, or other techniques. Many human-edited directories, including DMOZ, World Wide Web Virtual Library, JoeAnt, Business.com and Jasmine Directory, are edited by volunteers, who are often experts in particular categories. These directories are sometimes criticized due to long delays in approving submissions, or for rigid organizational structures and disputes among volunteer editors. In response to these criticisms, some volunteer-edited directories have adopted wiki technology, to allow broader community participation in editing the directory (at the risk of introducing lower-quality, less objective entries). Another direction taken by some web directories is the paid for inclusion model. This method enables the directory to offer timely inclusion for submissions and generally fewer listings as a result of the paid model. They often offer additional listing options to further enhance listings, including features listings and additional links to inner pages of the listed website. These options typically have an additional fee associated but offer significant help and visibility to sites and/or their inside pages. Today submission of websites to web directories is considered a common SEO (search engine optimization) technique to get back-links for the submitted website. One distinctive feature of 'directory submission' is that it cannot be fully automated like search engine submissions. Manual directory submission is a tedious and time-consuming job and is often outsourced by webmasters. Bid for Position directories, also known as bidding web directories, are paid-for-inclusion web directories where the listings of websites in the directory are ordered according to their bid amount. They are special in that the more a person pays, the higher up the list of websites in the directory they go. With the higher listing, the website becomes more visible and increases the chances that visitors who browse the directory will click on the listing.
Link building is one of the most highly regarded SEO methods. Many companies that offer SEO services highlight their back linking service since this is very critical to your overall visibility online. Link building is done in many ways. It is either a mutual agreement between websites to include each other's links on either websites. One of the most important forms of link building is when a third party site links back to you. This means your content is reliable and relevant. It also means that the niche that you are targeting is responding to your content. For a website to recognize your quality will be beneficial for your page ranking.Once you have established your site online, you will see how powerful SEO is and how necessary it is to utilize these tools as part of your marketing to establish a really strong web presence. Take advantage of link building and start creating relevant information that matters to the world.