Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Tonsils & The Death of Tags

"The report of my death was an exaggeration." ~ Mark Twain, American Humorist & Writer, (1835-1910)
Mega tags are bits of information inserted into the HEAD area of your web pages. We talked about probably the most important tag just last week. All these tags are for search engines and have an impact on your rankings.

Or do they?

Many pundits, bloggers and search gurus have been calling meta tags dead for years. Claiming all engines, specifically Google ignores them. Of course, everyone loves a good controversial post... right?

Is it true?

Ummm... I'll get to that, but before I bloviate let's first review the most used meta tags:
Title Tag - "Tonsils & The Death of Tags - CVoD" /TITLE
For more on this tag read the CVod issue "Name This Plant Page" The title tag is what the engines use for the clickable title of your page in your listing. It's also the text that appears in the reverse bar of someones browser when they view the web page.
Keywords Tag - "meta tags, death of meta tags, keywords"/META
These are only seen by the engines. When creating them focus on just a handful of relevant phrases, and don't repeat them - that's considered web spam. Think of the phrase that best describes your pages theme or subject matter. Remember... this is the phrase you want your page listed under. Here's the rub... only a few search engines actually rely on these. (I'll get to this later)
Description Tag - "Meta tags... once powerful now useless... or so they say. I say they are not dead yet."/META
This tells the engines a description of your page. I suggest no more than 200 words in a compelling sentence and please include your keyword phrases.

Ideally, Google will use this description in the listing of the search engines results... but that's no longer a given. Some engines use a keyword rich sentence in the body copy, while others only use the first sentence or so. The way I look at it... if it gets used, good. If not, so be it. Either way the writing of the description helps me reaffirm whether I chose the proper keyword phrase.
Robots Tag - "index,follow" /META
For more on this tag read the CVod issue
Do You Follow or No Follow?
In short this tag lets you specify to the engines whether a particular page should be indexed or NOT be indexed. The INDEX directive specifies if an indexing robot should index the page - or not, and the FOLLOW directive specifies if a robot is to follow links on the page - or not.

Now for the postmortem... are these aforementioned tags dead?

Of course not. The Robots tag is essential and the Title tag could be the most important factor in being ranked under your chosen keyword phrase.

But the Keyword and Description tags?

Ummm, let's just say that if they were seen as body parts... they'd be described in today's SEO landscape as the appendix and the tonsils. Still a part of the body, but not indispensable.

I don't believe the gurus that say they are useless, no longer relevant and they should be forgotten. While it’s true that the engines are concentrating more on other page and code criteria making these meta tags less essential, by no means does it mean they are irrelevant.

Truth be told, well-written, optimized, formatted content IS more important than your Keywords tag. But so what? Do both.

Do you take out a healthy appendix?

Heck no. Actually, the tonsils AND appendix are important parts of the immune system that protect the body from dangerous microbes in our food. They are perceived as useless but they are indeed a functional part of your overall immune system.

In other words, the sum is greater than the component parts, eh?

Keep including your tags.

In my world the well-crafted and unique Description and Keywords meta tags should still be a part of your overall organic search strategy... AND should continue to be until Google says they are seen as a negative.

The bloggers will still opine their demise... however, this death is just another exaggeration.