There is often a lot of confusion about what meta tags are and why they are important on a web page or in the scope of a web site.

In case you’re wondering what the keyword and description meta tags are, here’s a quick primer.

Most web pages contain “Meta Data” – which is information that is not visible to the person that is reading the web page, but is available to search engine robots and other machines that process the web pages.

The two most popularly known meta tags are the keywords and the description tags, which look like the following:

<meta name="keywords" content="web design, web
    development, social media">

<meta name="description" content="Absolute Marketing
    Group's web team offers web design, development
    and social media services">

In the past (several years ago) it was very important to accurately use both of those meta tags on all web pages in order to ensure decent search engine ranking for the topics discussed on web sites. That is not true anymore, and hasn’t been for some time.

Google ignores the keywords tag

In these current days on the web, both tags should still be used, but they won’t have a huge weight in how your site ranks in the search engines. This goes especially for the keywords meta tag.

Google does not use the keywords meta tag at all, for example, when determining how to rank web pages in their search engine. This means that you could spend hours stuffing keywords into the meta tags, and Google will ignore it. Who knows? They might even penalize for stuffing keywords that are completely unrelated to the page content.

Google does still pay attention to the description tag, however. They sometimes will use the description tag as the description below the title of the page when your pages show up in the search engine results. In fact, this is a great way to control the description of your web pages when your web site is ranked in Google’s search engine.

Bing and Yahoo?

Ok, so that gives us an idea of how Google handles the Keyword and Description meta tags, but how about Bing? They are an up-and-coming search engine that could gain more market share over time.

Bing has some good optimization tips available to the public that outline a their usage of the description and keywords meta tags. They have a pretty similar stated usage of the description meta tag – it gets used as a description or caption when your web pages appear in the search engine rankings. Bing, however, states that the keyword tag does still have a little bit of weight, but not much by the sound of it. Basically, they say you should use your keywords meta tag to list keywords that are directly related to the content on the page, no more, no less.

Yahoo? They are similar to Bing in that they use the description tag in a lot of places when presenting your web pages in the search results. They also do not completely ignore the meta keywords tag, but it holds very little weight in the main scope of things related to SEO.

How should you regard meta tags on your site?

The description and keywords meta tags are not the best place to spend a lot of time when optimizing your web site for the search engines. The most important factors are the actual readable content on the pages, the title tags and the incoming links to your web site.

The meta tags should be regarded as SEO support – they are not a major factor, but you should pay attention to them if your time and budget allows.

The most important of the two would be the description meta tag. Make sure that each page has a description meta tag that describes the web site or the content of the page accurately. The description tag most likely contains the text that will appear under the page title when you site appears in the search engine rankings for various engines.

The keywords tag is the least important. You could probably go without it in most cases and still get good search results in major search engines, as long as you have an excellent focus on writing great content and creating incoming links to your web site.

If you do have time to manage the keywords meta tags on your site, make sure that you are not stuffing the keywords meta tag with keywords that are not relevant to your web site. You should only put keywords in the keywords meta tag that are directly related to the content on the site.

Absolute Marketing Group can help you work towards your SEO goals if you need help. We have a Fargo-Moorhead based web design team that can help you do everything you read about on our web site. Contact us today if you need help with your next web project.