Future posts in the series will examine how to set up the meta tags by using the Joomla core, and with third-party SEF extensions.
What Are Meta Tags?
Meta tags are tags, or meta elements, that (mostly) contain information about the website or page which is not shown directly to the user.
This is what Wikipedia tells us about Meta Elements:
Meta elements are HTML or XHTML elements used to provide structured metadata about a Web page. Such elements must be placed as tags in the
headsection of an HTML or XHTML document. Meta elements can be used to specify page description, keywords and any other metadata not provided through the other
headelements and attributes.
The meta element has four valid attributes: content, http-equiv, name and scheme. Of these, only content is a required attribute.
What Meta Tags Should I Use?
There are a lot of meta tags available, but I will focus on those I know will give you something back in search engine visibility. Or that provide an enhanced user experience.
Recent discoveries by myself and my colleagues indicate that less is more when it comes to meta tags and other elements of your web pages. Removing unnecessary code from your HTML will increase the amount of unique content in each of your pages. This is beneficial for SEO, as Google and the other search engines look for unique, relevant content. Thus, removing unnecessary meta elements from your pages is a good thing.
Removing whitespace from your HTML can also increase your chances of ranking higher in the search engines. Just take a look at the source code of the Google.com front page..
This means you should remove anything not 100% related to improving your site search engine visibility.
The most important meta element is the TITLE tag. Not a META tag per se, it's often regarded as one. For the purpose of this post, I will include the title tag when talking about meta tags in general.
The <TITLE> tag is used as the title of the page in the browser. You can find it in the top bar of your browser window. It will also become the name of a bookmark to the page. Most importantly, it becomes the clickable link to the page in the search engines.
Personally, I think the TITLE tag should contain text which is as unique as possible. For my own site, I've decided not to include the name of the site, focusing on the actual article title, blog title etc. This makes the TITLE more unique.
The TITLE tag is used like this in the HTML:
- <title>The article title with Keyword included</title>
Google regards the TITLE tag as very important. I guess this is partly because of the prominent position the TITLE gets in the Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs). A good title will contain the targeted keyword(s) or phrase(s). It will also be selling your page to the reader. This, in turn, makes the user click the link to read the rest of the article.
If you're selling products, include the price in the TITLE tag. This way, you pre-qualify the customer before they arrive at your site, increasing the change that they buy from you.
The Description tag is also very important. A well formed description tag will more often than not be used as the descriptive text in the SERPs. Thus, it should contain your targeted keyword(s) or phrase(s) and sell your page effectively.
The tag may look like this:
<meta name="Description" content="JoomlaBlogger is a blog with tips, tutorials and news about Joomla CMS. 100% free content!" />
The Description should not be more than 150 characters long. By keeping it this short, the full text will show in the SERPs. If you're really into it, you can craft the length of your words and sentences in such a way as to control where the line breaks when showing in the Google Search Engine Result page. That's actually quite neat.
Remember that the description tag is the actual sales copy the user will read before deciding to click your link or not. Make sure the copy is correct, contains your keywords and is enthusiastically selling your product or service. At least, it should be a clear and concise excerpt on what to find on the page.
It's very important to include your keywords in the description. The keywords will be bolded in the search results, making the actual keyword stand out to the user. Preferrably the keyword has been used at least two times in the description.
Meta keywords are no longer important. Where they ever?
Matt Cutts, the Google guru, recently did a definite post on the subject. He concluded the keywords tag is not used by Google, and will most likely not be used in the future. Not exactly breaking news, but it's nevertheless good to get the information directly from the source.
There's only one reason to use the keywords meta tag field in Joomla. If you use the related articles tag or a cloud tag, these tags use the keywords meta tag field.
I don't see a reason to use this tag at all. It has no positive effect on SEO.
<meta name="author" content="Attitude" />
Robots meta tag
<meta name="robots" content="index, follow" />
The default Joomla generator tag is, in my opinion, not important at all. Also, it is one more thing giving away the fact that your site is made in Joomla. Removing the generator tag alone is not enough to hide that the site is built with Joomla, but it's a good start.