When our clients are working with their sites content, one of the most frequent questions asked of our Project Managers is how to enter the meta data for a page. In fact, I overheard Jason answering this very question the other day and thought he did a great job explaining all the issues. We call this a Code Green internally. Great job, Jason!
Weve set up our CMS to make this a very easy step and to empower our clients to be able to optimize their content for search engines without embarking upon a lengthy and expensive search engine optimization consultation relationship (something we dont really offer, anyway) unless its absolutely necessary.
In the image below, youll see the basic edit screen for this particular blog post. Ive captured an image specifically of the contents of the Meta Data tab in order to explain the fields and make a few basic suggestions as to how to think about each one. (For more in-depth coverage of these issues, please read Erics two Web Smart newsletters on thee subject, How to Do SEO and How to Do SEO, Part 2. Otherwise, read on…)
The meta title is the primary information that a search engine will look at when indexing and valuing the authority or relevance of a web page. It will appear at the top left of your browser for the page currently being viewed, and as the linked title in a search result snippet. In the case of this blog post, the meta title is Creating an Effective Meta Title and Description. The meta title should be different from the page title (Your Meta Data for this post) and should be the main subject of the pages content, or its “thesis statement.” In creating a meta title, you should consider other factors as well, such as specific industry jargon, the effectiveness of competitors meta titles, location (for local businesses) and the likelihood that a phrase might actually be queried in a search engine. Also, your company name or domain name is not necessary to duplicate and include in the meta title. The meta title is helpful for identifying the subject of a page using terms that a person who does not yet know about that page might search for.
The meta description is another way in which to identify the subject of a page. However, the content of the meta description field will be evaluated by the search engine and used to populate the text of the result snippet when that page turns up in a list of search results. If the description field is duplicate content, empty or otherwise deemed irrelevant, the search engine will likely extract content from the page itself to populate the search result snippet. Since this post has not been indexed by Google yet, Ive included a screenshot below of the search result for my query of strategic web partnership, which returns our site and uses the meta description Newfangled is a strategic web partner helping internet-savvy, mid-sized advertising agencies stay Web Smart, rather than pulling content from that page for the snippet. You can learn more about creating good meta descriptions from this SEOBook video.
Remember that the meta data is content too, but just not visible in the same way as your pages general content. However, it is very visible to search engines. To that point, here is a screenshot of the page source for Newfangled.com, which shows how the meta data appears to a search engine:
The meta keywords field was originally intended to be used to assemble any relevant keywords that should be associated by subject with a web page. However, in the early days of the web, the keywords field would often be used to associate as many possible keywords, regardless of relevance, with a page in order to force it to perform well in search engine search results. This was because the success of the pages search performance was being evaluated without regard to intent. Consequently, search engine algorithms have since been adapted to regard this data significantly less than before. It poses no harm to a web page to use this field, but it will not be the most effective tool for optimizing your content for search engines.