I remember the good ol’ days of search engine optimization before Page Rank and all those annoying quality indicators. It was a simpler day when all you needed to get into the top ten was cram variations of the same keyword phrases into the Keyword and Title tag. Then you could get extra fancy and create some incredibly repetitive description tag like: “Widget Emporium has red widgets, blue widgets, camping widgets, car widgets, and more. Stop by today to get more widgets, widgets, widgets”. Yes it really was that easy at first, but today’s search engine isn’t as naive as it was in the early days. From the looks of a lot of sites I’ve been reviewing lately they didn’t get the memo.
If it was 1997, and judging by the stock market’s performance it just might be, the era of stuffing keywords into meta tags is long over. The Keyword tag has been ignored by Google for years. Some of my colleagues believe it helps in Yahoo. Frankly, I’ve started leaving it out all together and my sites still show up in the top 10.
As for the Description tag, its use for ranking is nominal at best, but it is still quite useful. When someone sees your website in the search engine rankings, the Description tag is often used as the snippet under the link. Yes, there are exceptions like pulling a description from DMOZ but generally speaking the Description tag is used. Think of this tag as an opportunity to convince the surfer your website is exactly where they want to visit.
So what is useful? We already discussed the handy but not rank worthy Description tag and the virtually worthless Keyword tag. The last one, and one of the more important tags on your site, is the Title tag. Not only is this one used for ranking, but it also shows up as the link that people click on when they find your site in the search engines. Combine a compelling Title with a persuasive Description tag and you’re one step closer to getting that person off the search engine and onto your web site. Plus, it helps with your ranking, so always use this tag and make it unique!
SEO is about doing a lot of little things right that add up to a big leap in the search engine rankings. Make sure to keep an eye on the little things that matter like the Title and Description tags and spend little to no time with the lowly Keyword tag.