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Meta Tags vs. Keywords: Your Site's Visibility

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"There are many charlatans in, on and around the internet. We suffered through 3 "experts" in web design and set-up before finding John Waveris and Invisible Gold."

Peter A. Howe,
President
Thermal Dynamix, Inc.

Meta Tags vs. Keywords: Your Site's Visibility

One of the things that attracts businesses and individuals to the internet is the unbelievably cost efficient and direct way of communicating with their customer base. Compared to the cost of renting out a space, paying for utilities, and developing materials for the printer, creating a web site is astronomically cheaper, so in an effort to be heard you might have set out to create a website.

Unfortunately, millions of other people have had the same idea as you.

Website owners have a difficult question to answer: "in a never-ending ocean of web pages, how do I attract those surfing on the information superhighway to my website?" The solution isn't a silver bullet and requires a lot of effort on your part, but those of you willing to make the journey will find this article to be helpful in attracting users to your website.


META Tags: Description, Keywords, and <TITLE>

META tags were originally used in the <HEAD> tag of an HTML document to help search engines find your site. Within a META tag, you can define two variables: description and keywords. The description is used to describe the content of your website while keywords are a list of terms, separated by commas that highlight important information in your page. For instance, if you were to create a website using these META tags, they might look like this:

<META name="description" content="This page is about how to use META tags">

<META name="keywords" content="meta tags, search engines, help, tutorial, increasing traffic">

META tags are not displayed to individuals surfing the web and are used by very few search engines as a sole means of ranking web pages. In the past, using META keywords would help search engines find your site easier and list it on their results page according to its visibility. However, META keyword abuse became popular when website owners realized they could use META keywords completely unrelated to their web page's subject matter to bring traffic to their site. After realizing that website owners were using keywords such as "football" for pages on gardening homes, just about every major search engine such as Google, Yahoo, Bing, and AOL dropped support for META keywords and instead use bots to determine the relevance of a site to a users search.

The abuse of META keywords became such an issue that the United States made it punishable by up to 20 years to use keywords as a means of luring minors to "potentially offensive material." META keywords have become somewhat unnecessary since search engines have taken steps to curb keyword abuse. It is not recommended that you take the time to craft elaborate META keywords for your website.

As the effectiveness and use of the META keyword tag has declined, the <TITLE> and META description tag have become more important. While major search engines don't use META description and <TITLE> as the sole means of indexing websites, search engines such as Google have admitted to using them as a means of identifying the content of a page. The META description tag (<META name="description" content="insert your description of the page here>) and <TITLE> tag are also unseen by the public and can be used to help search engine crawlers (bots that catalogue your website's information) to find you, consequently increasing the visibility of your website.

Do not falsify the information in your description in other words, if your page is about basketball, don't write "This page is about baseball and the techniques a first baseman will use to be successful." META description and META keyword abuse is why the importance of META tags has declined. For a more in-depth analysis on this issue, please consider reading Andrew Goodman's An End to Metatags.
META Tags: Description, Keywords, and <TITLE>

Implementing META Tags Manually & in Invisible Gold

Implementing META Tags Manually & in Invisible Gold
Meta tags should appear in the <HEAD> of your HTML document. You can copy and paste the following code and insert your own information into the appropriate spaces.

<HEAD>
<TITLE> </TITLE>
<META name="description" content="">
<META name="keywords" content="">
</HEAD>

Invisible Gold users can relish in the comfort of knowing that IG automatically assigns titles to your pages. However, if you want to edit the title of a page, follow the steps below:

1. Click on system
2. Click on the page whose title you wish to edit
3. Click on system settings
4. Edit the title

Make the title and description a good one because when your website appears in a search engine, both the title and description will be displayed.

META Keywords vs. Keywords

We have gone over how META keywords used to be a tool web developers used to attract search engines and subsequently users to their website. While it is a technique that is being phased out, knowing the difference between META keywords and "keywords" used in search engines is must for bringing more traffic to your website.

Keywords are the terms individuals use when searching on engines such as Google, Yahoo, or Bing. If I were to search for a 2008 Ford Mustang, I might use the keywords "Ford Mustang 2008 Sports Car Reviews." In the past, if a web developer put <META name="keywords" content="ford, mustang, meta, tags, guide"> in the <HEAD> of their HTML, they might have attracted a search engine user to their site, but with the decline of META keywords, such abuse is nearly impossible.

While META keywords have become obsolete, knowing what keywords Internet users are using is essential to driving traffic to your site.

Increasing Your Rank: Wordtracker.com & Alternatives

Very few things are as valuable as knowing how people are getting to your website and what the majority of people out there are searching for when using search engines like Google. To find out what keywords people are using when they perform their searches, you can use programs like Word Tracker to target a particular audience.

Word Tracker provides statistics on what terms people are using, how many times a month they are used, as well as how to discover untapped markets based on this information. There is a seven day free trial and if you enjoy the service, you can sign up for an annual subscription at $329 or a monthly subscription at $59.

Google offers an alternative to Word Tracker known as Google Adwords. You can type in a keyword or phrase and get a report on how many times it is used in a month and how much competition is related to a particular keyword.

Using Keyword Knowledge: Bringing Traffic to Your Site Using Content

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The number one way to bring traffic to your website isn't through keywords, title tags, or descriptions. In order to drive more people to your website, you need to bite the bullet and put in a lot of work on a regular basis to provide fresh and insightful content that approaches issues that consumers want to see addressed.

Keyword data can help you target an audience and stand out in the search engines by creating content related to your website, and also meeting the needs of an audience on the Internet. For instance, say we are a website based on covering all things related to techno music; what I might do is type "techno music" into the keyword box to obtain a report on how many searches it gets.

According to the search, there are over 1.2 million searches for "techno music" on Google. As we can see by the Advertiser Competition tab, a lot of websites receive hits based on these keywords. In order to make yourself develop a following, it might be wiser to look and develop content for more niche searches, such as "dj techno music" which has 12,100 searches on a monthly basis. Looking for a niche and developing material catered to them will establish a foundation of followers for your website.

An arena where there is less competition will allow you to grab the attention of the search engines a lot easier. Developing content for something as vague as "techno music" means you will be competing against a large base and will most likely be lost amongst a crowd of other websites. Developing content for "The best disco techno of 2008" might land you more hits and fill a gap in consumer needs that your site will become known for in the future.

Increasing your Rank: Google Sitemaps

META tags aren't the only way to increase your ranking in search engines.

Google Sitemaps is a list of the pages on your website. By creating and submitting a sitemap to a search engine like Google, you will make page crawling for search engine bots even easier, ensuring that the information on your website is listed in a user search.

Sitemaps are extremely important for websites with dynamic content such as Flash. New sites will also benefit from a sitemap submission by drawing attention to itself by shouting "I exist!" For more information on sitemaps, please visit Google's Sitemap page on how to get started.

A combination of META tags, a sitemap, and keyword research will allow you to craft and implement an effective strategy for bringing more traffic to your website. With search engines such as Google and Bing updating their technologies in the near future, there is the possibility of these techniques becoming antiquated, but for now, these are some of the most effective means of making your presence known on the web.



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