Tuesday, November 27, 2007

How to Create Search Engine Friendly Title and META Tags (Part 1)

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How to Create Search Engine
Friendly Title and META Tags (Part 1)

By Kalena Jordan (c) 2007

In this article, I'm going to show you step-by-step how to create search engine optimized Titles and META Tags.

  The TITLE Element

TITLE elements, (commonly called TITLE Tags), are one of the most important factors that search engines "look" at when it comes to determining the relevancy of a web page against a search query. In their ranking algorithms, nearly all the major search engines attribute a high relevancy weíght to the content of the TITLE tag.

In the HTML code of a web site, TITLE tags look like this one (for a fictional florist):

<TITLE>Miami Florists - beautiful floral creations made to order.</TITLE>

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To view the HTML code of any site, choose "View, Source" from your browser toolbar or right clíck anywhere on the page and choose "view source code".

  The META Description Tag

META Description Tags are designed to describe the content of web pages. Search engine robots will gather up this information when indexing web sites and often use it when referencing web pages in the search listings.

While not all search engines continue to utilize the META Description Tag, a majority of search engines rely on the content of this tag (together with a site's visible content) to provide information about a site that they can match with search queries. It is therefore important for webmasters to include keywords and phrases in the META description that they would expect searchers to use to find their site content.

In the HTML code of a web site, a sample META Description Tag looks like this:

<META name="description" content="Miami Florists create beautiful floral bouquets, arrangements, tributes and displays for all occasions, including weddings, Valentines Day, parties and corporate events. Deliveries throughout Florida.">

You can view the META Description Tag of a site by viewing the source code.

  The META Keywords Tag

While only indexed by a small handful of search engines these days, the META Keywords Tag is still worth including within a site's HTML code, if only to provide those search engines with as much information as possible about site content.

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In the HTML code of a web site, a sample META Keywords Tag looks like this:

<META name="keywords" content="flowers, roses, weddings bouquets, florists, floral arrangements, flower deliveries, Valentines Day gifts, Christmas decorations, Mother's Day, tributes, wreaths, clutches, sprays, in sympathy, funerals, corporate functions, parties, floral displays, Miami, Florida">

The current lack of support for the META Keywords Tag by so many search engines can be attributed to increasing sp@m abuse by ignorant webmasters. These webmasters thought the keyword tag was a good place to stuff hundreds of keywords in the hope of achieving a higher search ranking, thereby "sp@mming" the search engines with useless, non-relevant data. This prompted many search engines to filter out the META Keywords Tag or lower its importance within the ranking algorithm.

You can view the META Keywords Tag of a site by viewing the source code.

  Create Your Optimized Tags

Now, it's time to create optimized TITLE and META Tags for your site. Let's start with the TITLE Tag for your Home Page.

  Create Your TITLE Tag

Take the líst of target keywords and phrases that you want your web site to be found for in search engines. You should have already allocated them to the appropriate pages of your site to be optimized. I use a spreadsheet for this purpose, but you should use whatever works for you.

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Now, open a text file in Notepad or something similar. If you like, you can use an existing sample TITLE Tag as your template. Let's say our existing Title is:

<TITLE>Miami Florists - beautiful floral creations made to order.</TITLE>

Now take your líst of keywords for the home page and put them in order of importance, with the ones you want to rank highest for at the top. For our fictional florist these are:

- florists Miami
- florists Florida
- wedding bouquets

Now you are simply going to combine these keywords into a sentence or short blurb so they make the best use of the keyword real estate available. Always try to use as few words as possible in your Title Tags, because each additional keyword dilutes the ranking relevancy of all the others.

In this case, I would initially combine the keywords as follows:

Florists in Miami Florida specializing in wedding bouquets

Notice how I've got the keywords in the correct order for the search queries? I've tried to include the most important keywords towards the start of the tag. There was no need for me to repeat the keyword "Florists" more than once because the sentence I've used covers both "Florists Miami" and "Florists Florida". Most search engines will ignore "in" as a stop word, so it shouldn't matter that we've included it.

Although it's tempting to put a comma between Miami and Florida, on some search engines commas act as a keyword separator, so we don't want to use one here because we don't want "Florists' and "Florida" to be separated.

Now, there is just one problem with this draft Title. Our 3rd keyword phrase 'wedding bouquets" is right at the end of the sentence, meaning it may lose some relevancy weíght (search engines consider keywords closer to the start of the tag as the most important). How do we fix this? Let's try this:

Florists in Miami Florida - wedding bouquets a specialty.

We don't want to use a period after "Florida" for the same reason that we don't use a comma. But a hyphen should not make a difference to search engines yet still allow the sentence to read logically to a searcher. So now we have our three target keyword phrases covered in a very short space.

In fact, the above sentence now covers the following keyword combinations:

- florists Miami
- florists Florida
- florists in Miami
- florists in Florida
- florists in Miami Florida
- wedding bouquets
- Miami wedding bouquets
- Florida wedding bouquets

When integrating your keywords, remember that their order is important. If you want your site to have the best possible chance of being found for the search query "Miami florists", you need to put the keywords in that exact order and not "florists Miami", because the spider searches the keywords in exact order. Unless they are stop words, also try to avoid using extra words between your keywords.

If you wanted to, you could integrate your company name into the Title tag, but (unless your company name is super short or includes a keyword), don't sacrifice a keyword to do so. Instead, try placing the company name at the end of the tag so you can be sure that all your important keywords will be indexed first.

In the case of our florist, let's imagine their name was Funky Florists. We could easily accommodate the name into the beginning of our optimized Title as follows:

<TITLE>Funky Florists in Miami Florida - wedding bouquets a specialty.</TITLE>

It may reduce the keyword relevancy impact very slightly, but including your company name enables you to brand your page, which may be more important to you.

The content of the Title Tag is also what gets saved in a person's Favorite's líst when they bookmark your site, so having your company name included is worth considering from a branding perspective.

In Part 2 of this article, I will show you how to create your optimized META Description and META Keywords Tags.

About The Author
Article by Kalena Jordan, one of the first search engine optimization experts in Australia, who is well known and respected in the industry, particularly in the U.S. As well as running a daily Search Engine Advice Column, Kalena manages Search Engine College - an online training institution offering instructor-led short courses and downloadable self-study courses in Search Engine Optimization and other Search Engine Marketing subjects.

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