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What are Meta Tags?

A meta tag is a html tag which sits in the head tag, and gives information about the
page. The below meta tag describes what the page is about, the keywords associated
with the content of the page and who is the author. A meta tag can also describe other
information about the page using the http-equiv attribute instead of the name attribute.
It often sits below the title tag.

Examples of the name attribute meta tag :

“<meta name="description" content="Free Web tutorials" />
<meta name="keywords" content="HTML,CSS,XML,JavaScript" />
<meta name="author" content="Hege Refsnes" />”


Common Usage

For search engine visibility, research suggests that “the most common uses for meta tags
are the keyword and description attribute values” (Thurow 2008, p.72). The following
focuses on those.

Keywords Meta Tags

The keyword meta tag is controversial due to its abuse over the years. Authors ‘keyword
stuffed’, where they crammed the same word into the meta tag, or used irrelevant but
popular search words to boost rankings. Because of this, it is a common thought that
search engines do not place weight on the keyword meta tag.

Keyword stuffing can get a site banned or fined.

If using the keywords meta tag, choose words which appear in the main text as well. If
they do not, it will raise an issue about relevancy and combined with other factors may
result in a lower ranking. Choose keywords based on your prior research and use the
same ones in your title, file names, content, etc.

Should I Use It?

Ultimately, it is up to you if you choose to use the keywords meta tag. Whilst it used to
be a popular inclusion in the past, research shows that at present, it may not help with
search engine optimisation.

The Description Tag

Of the different meta tag values, this one is considered the most important for SEO. It
must accurately describe the page and should be different for each page within the site.
It should not contain marketing jargon and should include the researched keywords.
Some search engines will display the description from the meta tag in the listing and
some will display snippets from the page content.

Thurow (2008. pp.73) suggests some points to keep in mind when writing the

      Use less than 200 words
      Base it on 4 or 5 keywords
      Avoid too many filler words
      Do not repeat the title tag exactly the same as it may appear to be keyword
      stuffing to the search engine spiders
      Encourage viewers to click on the link by including “learn more about’” in the
      It must be written as a sentence, not just a string of words.
      Include the most important words at the start
      Unless the business is a well known, well branded company, or the company
      name includes keywords, it doesn’t need to be included in the meta tag

“<meta name=”description” content= “Gourmet herbal teas at wholesale prices. Also
offering black, oolong, green and iced teas. Organic tea importer offering decaffeinated
herbal teas and other herbal blends.”/>”

(Thurow, 2008, p.75)

Should I Use It?

Yes. Research shows that the description meta tag can improve a site’s visibility,
especially if you follow the points listed above. Some search engines will also use it to
describe the site in the listing, so it’s important to write it well.

If You Want to Know More

Each search engine has its own formula it follows when placing weight on elements in
order to rank the site. This is constantly changing. Thurow (2008, pp.7-8) suggests that it
would be impossible to know the exact formula a search engine is using at any given

Common viewpoints are that “Title tag text and body text are considered primary text
by the search engines because all the search engines index this text and place weight on
it. Meta-tag content is considered secondary text because not all search engines use this
information to determine relevancy.” (Thurow 2008, p.39).

Placing incorrectly spelled words as keywords will not help as Thurow (2008, pp. 76)
suggests that unless the incorrectly spelled word is in the body text too, it is pointless.

“It is not recommended to use the meta robots tag as the search engines often ignore it.
If you need to control the search engine robots, use a robots.txt file” (West, 2011,
A robots.txt file is a separate folder which sits in the root directory and contains code
which can tell the spider what pages to index, amongst other things. This file will
automatically be viewed first, before the spider indexes the page.

For a thorough list of meta tag attribute values, see:

Keywords are what people use to find your website and services on the internet. They
are the single most important factor that will determine your success in the SEO
campaign. The correct use of the right keywords placed throughout your website plays
a huge role in helping your site rank higher in search results.

Search engines are continually analyzing, crawling and indexing the text on websites.
Therefore it is important to write the most relevant text for your website and decorate
the content with the right keywords in order to improve your page ranking in various
search engine results.


The best way to choose keywords for your site is to think about what perspective
customers would search for if they were looking for your product or service. For
example. If my client is a local Florist in Ashgrove Brisbane I would use keywords such as
“ Ashgrove Florist“ or “Flowers Brisbane”. There are many services online for keyword
research that will aid you in finding the most searched keywords for your niche. Some
examples are: Google ad words key tool, Digital point keyword selection and Nichebot.
It is also important when choosing your keywords to focus on a specific location, region,
or country suited to your target audience.


To attract more searches to your site it is necessary to place the most relevant and
important keyword in your website content, HTML and code tags. Search Engines give
higher relevance to certain words and phrase within the HTML documents so it is
essential you put your keywords in the right places.

Some of the best places to put important keyword phrases are:

       Page title
       In headings
       As links
       In bold text
       In the first 25 words on the page
       In the file name (i.e. the URL)
       META tags
       Body Text
       <H1>, <strong> Tag
       Alt text / Alt Tag
       Title Attributes
       Anchor Text
       Table Summery

The more places you can reasonably put your keywords, the easier you will be found.
Remember not to go overboard and place them everywhere in your website. This
practice is called “keyword stuffing” and search engines do not look kindly upon this
practice. You should place no more than two or three related keyword phrases per page
for best optimization results.

A Title tag is a piece of HTML code that describes specific web pages content. It appears
as the words that you see at the top of your browser window in the blue space. Most
search engines index the contents of the title tag which makes it one of the most
important factors in achieving high search engine rankings.

Your title tag should contain a representation of your core keywords of your most
important products and services. To allow search engines to utilize this information
effectively title tags should generally span no less than six words and no more than
twelve including spaces, hyphens, commas etc. Using important keywords at the start of
the title tag and less important keywords towards the end of the tag will be of great help
in getting good ranks. The title tag must be free from spelling and punctuation errors
and look like a natural sentence.

What is Alternative Text?

Alternative text is contained within the IMG tag. When an image is not displayed, the alt
text will be displayed in its place. Or in terms of a user with a screen reader, read aloud.
Since search engine spiders cannot view graphics, they cannot ‘read’ the image without
the alt text.


<img src=”images/rose.jpg” height=”300” width=”300” alt=”Bouquet of red roses held
by bride”/>

“Alternative text will appear in the place of graphic images if your visitors are using a
text-only browser. People with disabilities may also use screen readers which translate
the contents of a page into Braille or into speech. The only way graphic images can be
“read” is by placing alternative text inside your sites graphic images” (Thurow, 2008, p.

Points to consider:

Describe the image accurately and succinctly using proper sentence structure
Do not repeat the same words over and over

Be aware that Internet Explorer will display the alt text when the mouse hovers over the

If the image is one that doesn’t require alt text and its use would actually create
confusion, use alt=””, rather than not including alt text at all. An example is if an ‘image
spacer’ has been used to change the way the page displays, but has no relevance at all
to the content

Britsios’ research shows how alt text should be used in different circumstances:

“If a search button is a magnifying glass or binoculars, its alt text should be ’search’ or
’find’ not ’magnifying glass’ or ’binoculars’

If an image is meant to convey the literal contents of the image, then a description is

If it is meant to convey data, then that data is what is appropriate

(Britsios, 2007,

Will Alternative Text Improve Site Visibility?

Similar to the use of the keyword meta tag, there are conflicting ideas of whether or not
alternative text assists search engine optimisation, due to its abuse in the past. Authors
crammed it with repetitive words or statements, or irrelevant words to increase site
rankings. In her study, Nobels (2005,
nobles/how-important-i.php) suggests that some search engines don’t consider or place
any weight on alt text now. However, even if that is the case, it doesn’t mean they
won’t start to again in the future.

To conclude, some search engines may place weight on the alt text, while others won’t.
To cater for all search engines and to adhere to legal requirements, make sure to include
correct alt text within the site, for both seo and accessibility.

What is a search engine? There are many different types of search engines including
image search engines, engines that answer questions and of course web search engines.

The three current major search engines are Yahoo, Bing and Google. Google has become
so popular as to have been accepted into popular culture.

Common goals for a search engine are to search for site based on relevancy and
popularity in an attempt to bring the user the closest to what it is they are after. The
words typed into the search box are called “key words.” Each search engine scans the
web for these key words contained within pages in different ways. Google is listed to be
the top of the most used search engines on multiple websites.

One of the best ways to get your site listed in a search engine such as Google or Yahoo is
to be linked from a site that gets many hits. But what if you don't have those kind of
connections? There are other options for increasing your search engine visibility. Search
engine optimisation of your website has a lot to do with organisation. While different
engines search for different things, there are a few common areas that are used to pick
these keywords.

Links on your own web site to pages within it are picked up by the search engines.
Titling the pages of your site correctly can go a long way. The names of your html files
and site directories also make a difference. Using a dash – is the web equivalent of using
a space and allows the search engines to reach the individual words of your title. Using
and underscore _ doesn't count as a space. This also applies to your domain name if you
are lucky enough to get one that contains good keywords for your topic. Make sure to
use names that describe the content which you are presenting to the reader.

Alternate text is not only important for screen readers and broken images. It can also
help your site to be picked up by image searches. Search engines can't see your images
so this is the best way to get them noticed.

The less clutter in your code, the better the search engines can scan for keywords within
it. Heading tags are more likely to be used for keywords than paragraph text though
both are used. Using CSS instead of tables to organise your designs can not only speed
up your loading times but keep the search engines from getting caught up in messy

Other possible optimisers include adding fresh content on a regular basis and having
high enough quality content that reader come back for more or recommend your site to

You can also directly submit your web site to the main search engines using these links:

Lastly, you can include a file called robots.txt in your site upload which gives instructions
to search engines. For more information on robots.txt and how to use it go see: .