SEO Basics — Part 1 Getting a basic handle on Search Engine Optimization 01 April 2010 Writing your Keywords and Meta Description So what is meta-data? Meta-data, in a nutshell, is information about information. Meta-data is usually hidden from the user, but helps with many common programmatic functions. Say you search a site for an image of “birds.” Well, a list of associated ‘keywords’ are attached to that image to help facilitate searches. Words like, pigeon, seagull, birds, bird, flock, etc., may all be words a typical site user might type into the search field. The search term is queried against the database in order to return images that might pertain to your search. Search engines use the same concept to index your web pages. Most search engines run an automated ‘indexing’ application commonly known as a ‘spyder’ that searches the Internet for new sites. Among other pieces of data about the sites, they search for keywords and description meta-tags. This is one of the reasons people can find your site on search engines. The rules pertaining to each search engine is slightly different, for example, the number of keywords they will except, etc., but all of them have one thing in common, which is that without your even submitting your site, ‘spyder’ software is constantly cruising the Internet looking for new content and indexing it. Sites without meta-tags are often still indexed regardless, but including a `` and <meta-description> tag on your site will insure that the terms you most likely think your customer will search for, will result in your site being included on the search results. What you have to do, is imagine what words your customer or user might search for. For example, if you are an employment agency, ask yourself who your clients are. In this case employers and employees. Then think what terms a typical user interested in hiring an employment agency might search for. Words like “employment,” “temp-to-hire,” “staffing,” “recruiting,” etc., are all examples of keywords that we’d definitely want to include in this situation. The problem is that search engines, generally, don’t index more than 25 keywords per site page. And that’s never seems to be enough to be properly indexed online. So what’s the next step to this dilemma? The <meta-description tag>. The meta-Description tag is a simple description of the content of your site. Whenever you enter a search on your favorite search engine you will notice a small 25 word, brief description associated with the site. Often times these descriptions seem a bit odd, and grammatically incorrect. That is because the tag functions as another means to get those search terms you couldn’t fit into the <meta-keywords>, to still become part of the indexing of your site. So, if we couldn’t fit words about our location or some of the specific types of offerings associated with our employment site example, we might write a sentence that include those terms. We’d write sentences like “Filling positions in technology, sales, human resources and executive level employment.” Now we have effectively doubled the search terms associated with the site. Though it isn’t as important that the sentence be grammatically correct it should be helpful and meaningful. After all that’s the first paragraph a person will read about you. Below is an example of keyword and description formatting: <meta name="Keywords" content="keyword one, keyword two, keyword three,…"> Some might reason it best practice to have meta-tag keywords and descriptions on every page of your site. However, many search engines only search the ‘index’ page, or the default landing page of your site, then later might come back and look at the content of your pages. If you do decide to keyword your pages, don’t go overboard. Just one or two words that pertain to the content of the page is enough. Key-wording on secondary and tertiary page should pertain to the ‘key’ ideas of the page your are key-wording. Don’t be too clever! You want your key-wording and descriptions to be as honest and pertinent to the content as possible. Putting words in there that you think lots of people will search for will never bring you more traffic. In fact, often times it is detrimental. Certain words can even blacklist your site. So don’t be obsessed with keywords and think about the people you want to connect to first. Tip: Don’t be afraid to look at what your competition is doing. By viewing the source code on your browser you can look at the ‘keywords’ and ‘description’ meta tags to see what they are using. You will find the meta tag keywords and description somewhere between the <head> and </head> tags, towards the top of the page. Different search engines have different formulas for how they come up with their results. Many search engines are actually just paid advertisements. Your ranking can be based on how much you pay or on how many of their services you advertise on. People in the know, generally use the search engines that produce honest results. Google is considered one of the best for a reason. Google produces search results based purely on the value of the content, and how your online presence is cross referenced over the Internet. Google has driven the industry towards a library science methodology… And this is a very good thing… More on this later. Now getting getting yourself indexed is a good start, but what we are really after here is getting listed in that top 10 search results. The whole point of all this from both your standpoint and the search engines’ is to connect your site with the people looking for your offerings. In SEO basics — Part 2, I’ll explain just how to go about that. SEO Basics by Joseph Steck is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.