So far all of the mistakes in this series have concerned some aspect of your website that can annoy or deter customers. This next mistake is more likely to ensure that your site never makes it onto their radar. It has to do with META data, the sometimes invisible information that can have a huge impact on the success of your site.
Mistake #9: Mangling Your META Data
A website is a complex undertaking. You’ve got obvious things like design and structure to contend with, and not-so-obvious things like code and browser compatibility to worry about. Then there’s the META data, snippets of information that aren’t necessarily visible on your site but will impact where your site shows up in search results and whether a searcher will be compelled to visit it.
For the purpose of this article, we’re going to talk about three specific tags, even though there are all kinds of META tags that you can (and probably shouldn’t) use. We’re focusing on these three because they’re the most relevant to your site’s success and because most people have at least a passing acquaintance with them.
Taming The Title Tag
This is technically not a META tag but most people lump it into the same category and since it’s an important part of your search listing, we’re going to lump it in, too. The only place a title tag is visible on your site is across the top of the browser bar. But its effect is really felt in search listings.
A poorly written title tag can prevent your site from being listed effectively in search results, which means your site will never cross paths with potential customers. You’ll never get the chance to win or lose that customer at all if you don’t write title tags that contain the keywords people are looking for.
It’s important to write your page titles so that they reflect the important keywords and content of the page. That means don’t waste space with generic words like “About Us”, and don’t repeat your titles across multiple pages.
Think of your page title like a book title. If all you had to judge your book by was the title on the cover, would it be interesting enough to pick up and explore? Same for the title of your web page. Is it unique and relevant enough to interest someone in clicking and going further?
Don’t make the common mistake of cramming keywords into every available character space. Island vacation, island vacations, cheap island vacations, vacations on an island isn’t exactly inspiring. Affordable island vacations at luxury oceanside resorts gets closer to encouraging visions of swaying palm trees.
Doing The Description Tag
The description tag is only – but not always – visible in search results. You can’t see it from your web site unless you’re looking at the code. And not every search engines will display it every time. But it can be incredibly helpful at pulling searchers to your site and giving you more space to address important keywords.
The description tag is often abused in much the same way as the title tag. People use it to cram keywords in there, expecting it to boost rankings. Not only will that not improve your site’s ranking in search results, but it can turn searchers off by looking spammy and unprofessional.
If you’re selling crystal jewelry and your description reads like a keyword eruption… crystal jewelry, colorful crystal jewelry, crystal jewelry necklaces, buy crystal jewelry, fine jewelry, discounted crystal jewelry gifts… it makes one wonder whether said jewelry didn’t accidentally fall off the back of a truck, if you get our drift.
If your title tag is like the title of a book, then think of your description like the blurb on the back cover. The title was interesting enough to make you look for more, and the description will determine whether you’re compelled to turn another page.
Killing The Keyword Tag
SEOs everywhere are pulling out fistfuls of hair thinking OMG, keyword tags are so 1992, why are we still talking about them? Well, we’re talking about them because people are still using them.
Keyword tags are a leftover from the days when you could legitimately cram a bunch of keywords into one space and search engines would use them to figure out what your page was about. But those days are so, so long ago that anyone still using a keyword tag is simply wasting time.
Keyword tags don’t and never did show up anywhere either on your site or in search results. Therefore, they have no power to compel or dissuade searchers from visiting your site.
These days, search engines don’t bother to use them either – for precisely the reason that people used them to cram in a bunch of (sometimes irrelevant) keywords.
Having a keyword tag will not harm your site. But if you’re spending time creating or updating it, you’re wasting time that you could otherwise put into the myriad other things that could improve your site and its listing in search results. So our only piece of advice here is: don’t bother.
Title and META tags are far from a make-it-or-break it strategy, but they are one useful tool in your arsenal of web marketing strategies, so be wise and use them effectively.
Are you capitalizing on META information on your site? How are you making sure those tags work for you?
Read More In The “Rookie Mistakes” Series
- Rookie Mistake 1: Annoy Customers With Your Contact Form
- Rookie Mistake 2: Use Bad Photography
- Rookie Mistake 3: Bad Links
- Rookie Mistake 4: Dead Links Pointing To Your Site
- Rookie Mistake 5: Forgetting You’re Not A Rock Star
- Rookie Mistake 6: Too Much (Useless) Information
- Rookie Mistake 7: Dizzy Background
- Rookie Mistake 8: Misusing Technology
- Rookie Mistake 9: Mangling Your META Data
- Rookie Mistake 10: No Call To Action