Choosing Keywords and META Tags

by Martin Malden

KeywordsLast week I wrote about some key points that came out of a website review I completed recently (see it here)

One of the things I delivered as part of that review was a set of META tags for each page on the site, so I figured I’d explain how I went about that.

A heck of a lot of META tags have been defined and you certainly don’t need to use all of them. Probably the three most important ones are: Title, Description and Keywords.

There are also tags that tell the search engines whether or not to index your page, whether or not to follow links on the page, whether or not to keep a copy of your page in their archives, how soon they should re-crawl the page and a whole lot more.

You can use these tags if you specifically want the search engines to do something other than the default.

So there’s no need, for example, to specify that a page should be indexed. It will be indexed by default. Only if you do not want it to be indexed do you need to specify this.

Turning, then, to the three I referred to earlier: these are all based on the keywords your page is focused around.

So before we get into them in more detail let’s look at generating keywords.

Generating Keywords

There’s an ongoing argument about whether or not the search engines rely on keywords – meaning the META keywords – but the fact still remains you need to think in terms of them.

Or, more specifically, what someone searching for what your page is about might type into the search engines – the search term they might use.

When you type in a search term and look at the results you’ll see that whenever a word you typed in appears in the results it’s made bold.

And, since your eyes are naturally drawn to the bolded words, you’re more likely to click on those links first.

Therefore, you want to come up with a title tag that contains the words that people searching for your page have typed in.

Many people will tell you that you need to do your keyword research first (and exhaustively) and then write your article around whatever you came up with.

I have to admit that I do the exact opposite 🙂

I work out what message I want to give and then write the article to give it.

Having got the article to the point where my message is clear I then turn to keywords.

Most times the keywords just jump out at me but, where they don’t, and if I’m really stuck, I copy the article into a static web page on my admin site and open up Google Adwords.

In Adwords I go to the keyword tool, type in the URL of the page I’ve just uploaded and search for keyword suggestions.

The Adwords tool analyses the page and produces a list of keywords that people searching for the kind of information on the page have typed in.

I can then pick terms from the list to use in my Title, Keywords and Description tags.

Let me pause here and clarify what these tags are:

The Title and Description tags are best illustrated in this picture:

Title and Description examples

The keywords are simply the search terms that people may type in to find what you’re writing about. You should only use a few of these and keep them focused. 8 – 10 is plenty.

Using Your Keywords

OK, so having got my keywords I then go back to the article and review what I’ve written in order to get them into the headers (H tags) and my opening paragraphs in the article itself.

Be careful here not to alter the way your article reads – make sure it still reads well to humans! Using this approach means you should only need to make minor modifications – if any.

I also come up with a META title that contains the most appropriate search term from the list.

The META title doesn’t need to be perfectly grammatical, so keep it short (less that 60 characters) and get your keywords (search term) as close to the beginning as possible.

I then write a META description that contains at least one of the keywords, but also entices people to click through to the article. Think of it as an Adwords ad.

And finally I select four or five of the keywords from the list to insert in my META keywords tag. Yes – I do use META keywords, despite all the claims that they’re a waste of space.

I then paste these three META tags (plus any others I’m using) into the source code of my web page between the HEAD and /HEAD tags.

And that’s it.

To make it even easier you can use one of the many online META tag generator services to generate the code for you. The one I use is here.

Alternatively, if you’re using WordPress you can insert them via the All-in-one-SEO pack plugin or in the custom SEO fields (if you’re using Thesis).

As I mentioned in last week’s article: getting your META tags properly set up and in sync with the content on your page is an important part of on-page SEO, but the overall coding of your site is becoming increasingly important too.

So make sure you’ve got both well set up.

Cheers,

Martin Malden

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