Writing Quality Meta Tags

© 1999 by Walt Howe and Delphi Forums Corp.
(last revised May 14, 1999)
The most important thing you can do is to write good quality meta tags for your page. The search engines use your description and keyword meta tags in their indexing process. Usually, the description that appears when a search engine finds your site is the description you write. If you don't write the description, it will pick up all the menu and navigation bar items from the top of your page as the description, which will do nothing to distinguish the page's contents.

The meta tags appear between the <head> and </head> tags of your page. Although there are many types of meta tags that can be used (see RDF and Dublin Core), the ones you always want to complete are the description and keyword tags. They look like this in the <head> portion:

<head>
<title>Always Include a Good Title Here</title>
<meta name="description" content="Write the description of your page here. ">
<meta name="keywords" content="list your keywords, separated by commas here">
</head>

The description should be short, but comprehensive and accurate. Keep it under 200 characters. Anything longer will not be listed by most search engines. Use good spelling and grammar, since it is the first impression of your page most people will see when using a search engine. Don't include false information to try to attract interest. Most search engines will delete your listing, if you do.

The keywords should include all the terms that people are likely to search for when looking for a page like yours, separated by commas. Include common synonyms, even if they don't appear elsewhere. For example, the metatags for this page on promotions includes the related terms publicity, advertising, and public relations, since people might use any of those to find a page like this. Include common phrases as well as single words. Searchers are learning that one of the effective ways to get good hits near the top of the list is to search for phrases, rather than or in addition to single words. Think what phrases match your contents that people are likely to search for. Think about including common misspellings, too. As warned above, don't include unrelated keywords to try to get hits; your listings are likely to be deleted, if you do.

The HotBot search engine will only match words exactly. If you use "widget" as a keyword, someone searching for "widgets" will not find it. It is a good idea to put different forms of words that people might search for in your list. Infoseek does not index your keywords at all, so make sure your text includes all the words you would use as keywords.

When you think you have your metatags in good shape, try visiting the Web Site Garage to check your page.

NOTE FOR DELPHI CUSTOM FORUM HOSTS: When you use the Delphi page templates, you do not have access to the head section to buiid the meta tags yourself. However, Delphi creates them for you. Go to your Control Center page (from your message board top menu). On the right side, look for the topic header "Promoting Your Forum" and click on the "Index and Categorize" link under it. That will bring up the blocks where you enter your description and keywords. Those will automatically be included in your meta tags. If you have a message board and chat room in your forum, it is a good idea to include "message board" and "chat" in your keywords.

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