How to Choose Good Keywords and META Tags

Last week I wrote about some key points that came out of a website review I completed recently.

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.

But 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 always an 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.

‘Search terms’ and ‘keywords’ are almost the same thing. But search terms are what searchers type into the search engines and keywords are what you focus your posts around.

So a search term might be ‘how to set up a home business’ and the general keyword you might use to target that search term would be ‘home business’.

You could choose to target the keyword ‘how to set up a home business’ – the exact search term – and this would be called a ‘long-tail keyword’.

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 Ads.

(If you don’t have a Google Ads account you can use this great tool – it’s free for 30 searches a month: Jaaxy.)

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

The 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 a Google ads ad, and keep to less than 150 characters.

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. Google appears not to refer to them currently, but Bing does – and Bing has around 30% of the search market currently.

Other search engines use the keywords tag as well, so it’s definitely worth filling it out.

If you’re using WordPress you can insert them through one of the SEO plugins: Yoast and the All-in-one-SEO pack are two well-known and good ones.

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.

Updated 24th December, 2018:

This article was originally written in 2010 – several centuries ago in Internet terms!

None-the-less, the underlying message is still correct and the emphasis on quality content is as important today as ever.

In fact, the search engines are now smart enough to know how your page is laid out and whether your spelling and use of grammar is correct – so getting quality into all elements of your page should be your primary focus.

Finally, I referred to the Google Ads Keyword Planner earlier. While it may seem logical to use Google’s keyword tool to find good keywords for your content, it does have its limitations, and for some time now I’ve used Jaaxy.

I’ve reviewed Jaaxy here – you may want to take a look if you’re struggling to get the search results placings you want.


Martin Malden

Martin Malden
Owner – WealthyDragon

Website owner: Martin has been working online since 2006 and focuses on two areas: 1) affiliate marketing and 2) designing and building websites based on WordPress. He has his own WordPress agency, and serves clients in Hong Kong, Australia and the UK.