Meta information is “information about information.” When used in web page code, meta information is used to describe the type of information found on the page.
There are three meta tags used in Web page code whose usage is frequently misunderstood and commonly misused.
These three meta tags are the HTML title tag, the description meta tag and the keywords meta tag. If you want to learn about other meta tags, see Important HTML Meta Tags. Some people might argue that the HTML title tag is not really a meta tag, but because it does not appear in the content of a Web page, it is viewed as being a meta tag by search engine algorithms.
The first rule for the three tags is that each one should be unique and should not be duplicated anywhere in a web site. For reasons unknown, Google has been dumping some Web sites into their supplemental result database when the site uses the same meta tags on multiple pages, so it is important to assure that each of these meta tags used in your site is unique. Pages relegated to the supplemental result database rarely show up in most Google searches, so it behooves you to make sure that each of these three tags is unique. It can be very difficult to get pages out of supplemental results, and an “ounce of prevention” is clearly worthwhile.
HTML Title Tag Guidelines
The HTML title tag is the most important page element for defining the page’s keyword theme. You have about 60 characters that you can use for the title tag. Keep the text in the HTML title tag short and focused on the keyword theme for the page. The keyword theme is the search phrase for which you wish to see the page rank well. The keyword theme should ideally appear multiple times in the page content. The first 2 or 3 words on the left side of the HTML title tag hold more relevance than words on the right side. If you wish to add the company name, put it on the right side. It is much more important for users to find your Web page using search keywords. Users will not search for your company name unless they already know who you are. Focus your keyword themes on the products and services you offer.
Description Meta Tag Guidelines
You can use up to 200 characters for the description meta tag. The description meta tag will not help much with better rankings, but it is a great marketing tool. With most search engines, the description meta tag shows up as the description for the page, so using it is a great way to convince users to click on your link rather than one of the other nine pages listed in the search results. Also, many search engines–including Google, MSN and Yahoo—will highlight the words used in a search, which helps to draw atention to your page’s listing in the search results. When developing the text for the description meta tag, think about the search phrase someone might use when they find the page in a search engine and focus the text to indicate that your page most likely has the answer or the solution they seek.
Keywords Meta Tag Guidelines
The keywords meta tag will not affect your rankings with the major search engines, but it can help with smaller search engines. Its use is completely optional. None of the major search engines have used it for ranking purposes for at least 6 or 7 years. You can use up to about 200 characters for this meta tag. The general rule is that it should only contain words and phrases found in the content of the page. Stuffing the keywords meta tag with phrases not found on the page can sometimes result in a spam penalty, so do not use any words or phrases not found on the page. Separate each keyword phrase in the keywords meta tag with a comma. If you have several pages that would normally use the same set of keyword phrases, just rearrange the order of the phrases.