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Meta Data Matters!

by | Apr 24, 2014

seo-magnetMany SEO "experts" claim to fully understand the algorithms that search engines use to deliver results. If these experts don't admit to even a little uncertainty, they're lying. The truth is that it's practically impossible to know all the factors (and the weight of those factors) that go into search results. The most anyone can do is to provide a best guess.

That being said, there are some basic tenets of SEO that you can pretty safely rely upon. These include, but DEFINITELY are not limited to:

  • Meta tags (our subject for today)
  • Title tags
  • On-page content
  • Site performance
  • Incoming links from other sites
  • Domain name
  • Sitemaps
  • Images and video
  • Regularly updated content

In doing research for this article, I found a great resource that may come in handy: the Google Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide. Depending on your tech knowledge, about 60% of this document might not make sense. But it's worth reading for the 40% that does make sense.

 

So, back to subject at hand: meta tags. As you'll notice, they were the first item in my list and that's because they're über important. They're no magic pill for rising to the first page in search results, but effective meta data certainly doesn't hurt.

In case you're unfamiliar with them, meta tags are information supplied within the code for your website. This information is visible to search engines, but not to actual humans reading a page of your website. There are essentially three you need to know:

  1. Title tags. Although these technically aren't meta tags under the strictest definition of the term, they're usually thrown into any discussion of meta data. Title tags give a name for a Web page. Make your title tags brief, relevant, and, ideally, include your top keyword.
  2. Description. Make it short; most authorities suggest keeping it around 150 characters. This tag tells the search engines what your website is about. It will also appear as the summary of your website in the search engine results, as you can see below:
  3. Keywords. Keyword research, used to establish the target search terms for your website, is a whole subject unto itself and one that I don't have the time to go into today. Let's assume you already have chosen the keywords (search terms) for your website. This is where you'll stick 'em, as well as finding ways to creatively work them into your on-page copy.

But I'm Not a Developer!

Of course you're not! You're great at selling real estate, not at building websites. However, it's important to know this stuff so you can be sure that your website provider is on top of their game. If you've got a custom-designed and built website, you can pretty much guarantee that meta tags have been considered and (at least somewhat) properly implemented. But what if you have a WordPress or other template-based website? You should be able to have some control over your meta tags – so it's an important question to ask your website provider.

We'll use WolfNet as an example, because I was on their blog yesterday trolling for content and noticed a post on this subject. They include automatically generated meta data for their websites. However, from within the WolfNet BackOffice, you can customize all three of the meta data fields we mentioned above. This offers the best of both worlds: "good enough" meta data if you don't want to mess with it OR the ability to change the meta data and make it great! 

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