Optimizing Your HTML Tags

» “Tag! You’re It!”

Not getting the search engine results you were expecting for your site. Buried in the boondocks of SERPs and looking for a way up the PR ladder? Well, time to give some thought to optimizing your HTML Title and Meta Tags. “My what?” you ask.

First, HTML and XHTML are the coding languages site designers use to get your site noticed by search engine spiders — those little digital crawlers sent out from the various search engines to evaluate, assess and ultimately, rank your site. Your site’s Title Tag is a key part of the crawlers’ evaluations of what your site is all about. Meta Tags are little descriptions of your site. It’s the text that shows up on the SERPs directly under your Title Tag text when Google, Yahoo! or some other SE sends a spider to your site for a quick look.

See the captions for additional information.

So, why are Title and Meta Tags so crucial to your PR? Well, today’s SEs use a variety of criteria to evaluate your site and assign it a page rank. One of the factors that’s part of the evaluation is your Title Tag, which provides a few words that capture the essence of what your site’s all about. Sell balloon bouquets on line? Then balloon bouquets should definitely be a part of your Title Tag text. It says a lot to SE spiders about what your site does — its raison d’etre. The Title Tag is the single-most critical tag in your HTML coding and, as such, the choice of key words you enter into this little line of code can make a big difference in how SE spiders view your site.

If the key words in your Title Tag are broad, i.e., law, food, games, etc., the SE spider is going to make certain assumptions about the site — assumptions that may not be accurate or beneficial to drawing traffic to your site. You don’t want spiders making assumptions about your site, so be specific in the key words you enter in your Title Tag, i.e., divorce law, Thai food recipes, children’s word games and so on. The more specific you can be, the better, as far as SE spiders are concerned.

Your Title Tag text should include:

  • an overview or summary of your site and its purpose
  • the most effective key words (based on key word research)
  • a little sales pitch, if you can include critical key words
  • key words in some kind of order that makes sense to an SE crawler, i.e. web site design, hosting services, e-commerce solutions, etc. Those key words, in that sequence, tell the spiders what this site does. No assumptions necessary.

Now, your site’s Meta Description Tag is your chance to pitch a potential visitor to stop by your site because it offers just what the user is looking for. Meta Description Tags don’t receive the same weight as Title Tags, primarily because it is a small bit of self-promotion. Nonetheless, while Description Tags may not be as heavily weighted by SE algos, they are heavily weighted by searchers looking for a site like yours. In fact, Google a common key word — chocolate, for instance — and check the content in each site’s Description Tag. You’ll notice immediately that some descriptions are better written and actually make sense, luring users to visit those sites.

Other sites’ Description Tags are nothing more than a list of key words — chocolate, chocolate candy, Swiss chocolate, and so on. Okay, okay, we get the idea — it’s a chocolate site. But that Description Tag content isn’t too sweet, appealing more to the SE spider than to a potential visitor. Use your site’s Description Tags to appeal to a human being, not a digital crawler. And sell a little, to bring in that site traffic. It may not do much to boost your page rank, but it will do a lot to make your site stand out from the crowd — and that’s not too bad for a few key words in brackets.

So, to make the most of your Meta Description Tag(s) follow these simple guidelines:

  • Don’t run long. Keep it short and to the point. What does your site offer and why should a visitor stop by the cyber shop? Anything more than 30 words and you’re too long on the verbiage.
  • Don’t use the same key words over and over. Spiders get the idea, so you don’t need to repeat a key word or phrase more than once for impact.
  • Write your Description Tag text to appeal to a human brain rather than a digital brain. Think of it is a short, little sell piece. It should be tight and compelling.
  • Check for errors. A simple typo may change the spider’s perception of your site from one that sells mics (as in microphones) to one that sells mice (as in rodents).
  • Work in key words so they sound like a natural part of your site description. Position your most important key words ahead of secondary key words.
  • Create several Meta Description Tags, one for each page if the content differs. There’s no rule against it, and you might pick up some additional notice by spiders, placing your site on SERPs for a number of different query words (the words entered by the user to initiate a search).
  • Experiment. If your Description Tag text isn’t pulling in the high-quality, motivated visitors you’re looking for, conduct a little more research on key words, rewrite the site’s description and track results, better or worse.

If you aren’t sure about just how to optimize your HTML Tags, hire a consultant to do some key word research for you and develop the golden list of key words you want to use in your Tags and site text. It may cost you a few bucks, but it will also bring in more visitors and more highly-motivated buyers — quantity and quality. And all that from tinkering with a few HTML Tags. It’s definitely worth your time and/or money to get it right.

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