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The Truth About Meta Tags

By Andrea Morgan

As virtually all website owners know, although meta tags are not essential, most websites have a minimum of three; a title meta tag, a keyword meta tag, and a description meta tag.

The title tag, as you would assume, contains the website title. The title need not be the same as the headline a visitor to the site actually sees. For example, the headline at the top of a website might read, "The College Information Page" while the title in the meta tag might say "Online Colleges, Online Degrees, and College Admission". In fact, there is a very good reason why a website owner would want a different title in the meta tag than on the website itself.

The reason is that the on page title is there for the visitor who has already reached the site, while the title in the meta tag is used to influence the search engines and prospective visitors. Selecting a good title for use in the title meta tag is, in fact, very important.

If you doubt it, do a simple experiment. Pick a search term, any search term, and see which websites come up in the top 10 in Google or Yahoo. Then view their title meta tags. Almost without exception, you'll find the search term.

Google, Yahoo, and MSN seem to ignore the keyword meta tag, perhaps because of the way it has been misused in the past. However, webmasters should not ignore the keyword tag because many of the smaller search engines and numerous directories factor it into their indexing and/or ranking algorithms.

The description meta tag does not factor into search engine rankings. But, some search engines and directories use the copy in the tag to describe the site to potential visitors. As a result, the difference between gaining and losing a visitor may be what your description tag says about your site.

Unfortunately, for many website owners, meta tags are an afterthought. And even many of the so-called search engine optimization gurus don't seem to understand their value. I hope that now you do.

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