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Search Engine Placement Tutorials

"Writing Meta Tags for Higher Search Engine Placement and Better Descriptions"


The meta tags for "keywords" and "description" are two of the keys to improve search engine placement or position. They are not keys on all the search engines, two exceptions being the Excite and Lycos search engines.

Since the writing of this article Excite now uses the keywords meta tag.

Matching the words in the users query to words in the title keywords and description meta tags is how most of the major search engines determine placement or ranking of the results. There are many other keys as well but in one way or another these three along with repeating them in the text on the page are important keys on most engines.

Choosing keywords that will be used often for a query for a product/service or topic and repeating the keywords several times in the text on the page results in higher position. Notice it says ON not IN. If you can't see it on the page it will or should penalize you for reasons stated often throughout these articles on search engine placement, of course, meta tags and the "alt" in images being the lone exceptions to the rule.

"How do I choose my keywords," you ask? I start by making a list of any words I can think of. Next, I ask a friend, colleague or a client familiar with the topic for the words they would use. I like to do this because they will be prevalent among the users looking for information on that particular topic. I write down the new ones they give me however, if they repeat a word or phrase I thought of I put two check marks beside them. Lastly, I ask someone who hasn't got a clue about the topic putting one check mark beside those.

Why the check marks? I do this to put a value on the words and phrases. Keep in mind you have limits to the amount of characters you can use in both your keyword and description meta tags. I suggest 800 characters for the keywords and no more then 180 for the description. I know the known limit is 1024 but unless you want to write separate tags for each engine start with 800 because each search engine has different limits and 800 works on all of them. For descriptions keeping it to 180 characters will cover all engines as well.

There are four other web resources I know of for Choosing Keywords for queries. I've listed them on the Search Engine Placement page.

Since the writing of this article I am now using the keywords tool on GOTO.com. There is an excellent resource at http://www.selfpromotion.com/pageprep.t

I also run the keyword and keyword phrases through WebPosition Agent. This gives me the sites with the highest positions on 10 of the most important search engines. Once the mission is complete I check through the top ten eliminating the irrelevant sites.

I pay special attention to the repeated keywords on the spamdexed sites because this is a good clue as to the most important keywords. These will be the hardest to get a higher placement for. Why else would they employ these tactics? WebPosition will also let me know which words or phrases returned no pages. Easy to be #1 in a contest with yourself.

Now you're ready to start writing the <meta tags> right? Nope, you should write the title first! Why? If you make your title out of the keyword phrases you'll place higher. Frequency of a phrase or grouping of keywords in the meta tags, title and at the beginning of the document are the path to the top of the search engines.

I got the title for this page by putting two of the phrases together with a keyword made into a statement using "and" to make the two phrases into a coherent statement.

Writing the Meta Tags

I write meta tags by first putting the phrases with the highest priority first and then copy (faster then typing for me) the keywords and shorter phrases using the clipboard in my html editor. I do this as quickly as I possibly can with little care taken for spelling! Hugh? I don't know about you but when I'm at a search engine I'm in a rush to get the information and get out of there. Aren't you?

This carelessness results in spelling errors and keystroke errors because your brain is working faster then your fingers either that or I'm dyslexic, take your pick. After I have the three or four Keyword phrases entered I go back and check for errors.

Any errors I find I cut them and place them at the end. Replace the errors and I'm ready to continue. Why do I leave them in and place them at the end. I leave them in because when a user is at the search engine, also in a hurry to move on, she/he'll possibly make the same errors resulting in a match for the query.

I place them at the end so if I go over my character limit they are easy to find and remove. Space permitting, I'll add other variations and misspelled words to form phrases. If I go over the limit I have to make some choices and decide whether to leave in the spelling errors or remove some other keywords.

Here are some tools I use for checking and counting the characters in meta tags:

Super Note Tab

Great little freeware text editor with search and replace, a clipboard notebook and best of all a character ruler across the top which makes keeping track of the number of characters in your metas etc. a breeze for even a mathematics dunce like The T Man!!;) If you're ready to get rid of that wysiwyg this one has features that makes hand coding pages a breeze.

Meta Medic

NorthernWebs Meta Medic this is the free resource. The paid version looks like something we should invest in but by generating our own keywords we continue to pick up a few more things we can pass on. The fine people at NorthernWebs are a good lot and deserve your patronage for providing this great resource and fine Search Engine Tutorial.

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Search Engine Optimization and Placement Resources
General Info | Keywords | Meta tags | Robot.txt
 SEO Tools 

Search Engine Secrets Index
Excite | Lycos | Yahoo | InfoSeek | AltaVista
WebCrawler | Hotbot | Secrets Update

Alliances in the Secrets Index
 ODP | LookSmart | Google |  GOTO
Direct Hit & Ask Jeeves

Spamdex Page of Shame | Writing Killer Meta Tags


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