Are Metatags Useful? Metatags and SEO
Have metatags totally outgrown they’re welcome? In the early days of SEO, metatags were part of the marketing goldrush. But that was back in the days when you could actually fool a search engine spider with ridiculous amounts of keyword jamming or adding a long list of keyphrases at the bottom of a page. Amazing to think that these tactics ever worked. Metatags worked in a similar fashion: instead of creating a list of links, you could “hide” these words within metatags.
This practice worked for a time – even after keyword jamming got a site instantly banned. But metatags were used and abused much like keyphrases in content. Website owners thought they were being sly by adding unrelated keywords in metatags. Metatag spam became popular with some site owners. Some even added adult-themed tags that might be flagged if they were contained in on-page content. These practices basically ruined metatags for everybody because metatags are no longer an effective SEO tool.
How Effective are Metatags?
This is not to say that Metatags are useless, just that they’re not way to fool savvy search engine spiders. Like on-page content, metatag keywords must be topic specific. Meta keywords need to be on topic. So, to take this post as an example, the metatag keywords should be: metatag, SEO, keyphrases…all things that are mentioned in the content. If you think you’re going to fool a spider by adding something unrelated, think again. The fact is that most search engines basically ignore meta keywords and those keywords that are content-specific will only help ranking in a marginal way.
Really what will help ranking this page most is the fact that I’ve written the words SEO, keywords, and metatags in the content itself – as well as placing the words metatag and SEO in the title. That should be your main concern, and meta keywords will just reinforce what you’ve already written in the content. In some cases you can add a different spelling (such as meta tags, two words), but as only a dwindling few search engines support meta keywords, it’s really just not that big a deal. The likelihood that this will significantly help your traffic is pretty small.
The main way that metatags help you is in how a site is displayed in a search engine. So you’re not necessarily going to shoot up in the rankings, but a well-conceived metatags could make it more likely that someone will click your link wherever it comes up in the results. For instance, the meta description for this post could be: “Learn how to use metatags and how metatags affect SEO.” It’s a good, concise description and someone looking specifically for that information might be more inclined to click the link.
There are some other useful metatags, but probably no so much from the SEO standpoint. In fact, they are the anti-SEO. A meta robots tag, which includes the tag “No Index” is useful if you don’t want a particular page to be indexed. For example, maybe you don’t want a page that’s under construction to be listed in search engines. The robot tag will tell search engine spiders to lay off. However you could also use the robots.txt protocol to block a site from search engines. The meta robots tag is best used when blocking an individual page within a larger site. Otherwise, you would have to add the robots meta tag for every page on the site. Not quite practical.
Some other uses of metatags are to add author name, date (if it’s not a blog), or copyright information. Again, this won’t necessarily have any affect on ranking, but it can be an aid to individual surfers looking at the page source – especially where copyright information is concerned. If you’re very concerned about copyright information, you should just put this right on the page so there’s no question who owns the copyright. A copyright metatag should just reinforce what already exists on the page.
What it comes down to is metatags – when used properly, not as spam – can help in a marginal way. Basically, if you’re very concerned about a particular phrase being indexed, you should put this phrase in the content, while keeping this phrase 5 percent or lower of the overall text. The big guns like Google are going to ignore meta keywords, but as Google also indexes other search engines, your ranking in one small search engine could (a very light could) affect your ranking in the larger engines. All in all, it’s something you should add to a page but don’t expect any magic solution.
You could read this and come away thinking that metatags are basically a waste of time. Not true. The meta description tag is enormously important for the majority of search engines. Look how individual pages are ranking with and without meta description tags. Meta description tags offer a concise and useful description of every page on your site. But if you’re hoping for some sly, back-door solution to SEO, other metatags are not going to significantly increase your ranking.