Basic Search Engine Optimization Techniques

In this section, I discuss basic search engine optimization techniques that every search engine optimizer should know about.

What Are Meta Tags?

Meta tags are hidden HTML tags used to describe the contents of a webpage. There are numerous Meta tags, but for search engine optimization purposes I will only concentrate on the two most popular Meta tags; Meta description and Meta keywords.

Here is a sample set of Meta tags:


<TITLE>page title goes here</TITLE>

<META NAME="description" CONTENT="page description goes here.">

<META NAME="keywords" CONTENT="keyword 1, keyword 2, keyword 3, etc.">



What Is A Meta Description Tag?

Some search engines extract the contents of the Meta description tag to use as the search result description. The Meta description tag is often misused with misleading or even false descriptions of a page. As a result, the relevancy of search results is often compromised. So search engines have begun to de-emphasize the importance and even totally ignore the contents of this tag.

Some search engines, such as Google, AllTheWeb, AltaVista and Inktomi, do still extract the contents of the Meta description tag to use as the description in its search results. So I highly recommend including a keyword-rich Meta description tag in every single webpage. But if the Meta description tag is missing, the search engine will usually extract a description from the first couple of lines of the main body text.

In general, search engines will index the first 135-249 characters of the Meta description tag contents.

The description should be descriptive and sell the page to search engine users, so they click on your link. So put some effort into creating descriptions that are keyword-rich (for search engines to rank) and enticing to search engine users.

What Is A Meta Keywords Tag?

The contents of a Meta keywords tag is used to help define the important keywords in a webpage. It sounds good in theory. But in practice the Meta keywords tag is often misused by webmasters who stuff it with excessive or irrelevant keywords. So much so that virtually all search engines now ignore the contents of the Meta keywords tag.

Inktomi is the only search engine that I know of that indexes the Meta keywords tag. The only notable major search engine that Inktomi provides results for is MSN. And most of the top rankings in MSN are provided, not by Inktomi, but by MSN itself, Overture, and the LookSmart Directory.

As such, I do not recommend wasting time with the Meta keywords tag.

If you decide to use the Meta keywords tag, I recommend you only include one or two important keyword phrases. Also make sure you include any keyword phrases in Meta keywords tag in the main body text.

Should You Separate Keywords In The Meta Keywords Tag With Commas?

I've included this topic, because there was a time when all search engines indexed the contents of the Meta keywords tag, and with Yahoo! expected to add Inktomi-powered listings to its search engine, the Meta keywords tag may well make a difference again.

The question of separating keywords is one that crops up regularly, and one that I have wondered about myself.

Here's an example that separates the keywords with commas:

<META NAME="keywords" CONTENT="search engine, marketing, tips.">

Some search engine optimizers recommend leaving out the commas in order to create more keyword combinations for the search engines to index, as illustrated below:

<META NAME="keywords" CONTENT="search engine marketing tips.">

Here are some keyword combinations created from the above example:

  • search engine marketing
  • marketing tips
  • search engine marketing tips

Personally I have used commas to separate the keywords in the past. The reason is because this is the original technique, and most of the top ranked webpages I have examined still use this technique.

I have yet to find conclusive proof that one technique is better than the other, so I can't recommend one or the other. I suggest you try both techniques to see if which, if any, produces better results.

In case you're wondering, I no longer include meta keywords tag in my webpages. I just don't feel it is worth the effort anymore.