For anyone looking to save on SEO, here are some basic guidelines for configuration of your META data:
Purpose: To title & summarize the content of a web page.
SEO Impact: It’s one of the most important things to configure properly. Well-written TITLE tags can generate first-page rankings on their own if your search market isn’t very competitive. Either way, you are selling your site short if your TITLE tags aren’t up to par.
Character length: Since search engines give the most consideration towards the first 15-20 characters of a TITLE, and their attention span trails off significantly after that, it doesn’t help you to write one that is longer than 60 characters.
Format: The usual format of a TITLE is a brief description of the page that emphasizes a keyword phrase but also is specific enough that it accurately describes the contents of the page. Quite often, the name of the business or website is also added to the end of the TITLE. Dashes (“-“), pipes (“|”), and commas (“,”) are all recognized separator characters by the search engines. It doesn’t really matter which one you use; pipes look the best, while commas can save you characters.
- For a home page: Community Name Real Estate | Business Name
- For an ‘About’ page: About Business Name
- For a featured property page: Address Of Property | Community Name Real Estate | Business Name
Purpose: To describe at greater length the contents of a web page.
SEO Impact: The search engines will often pull the META description from a page and use it in the search results if the page is displayed in the search results. It represents an opportunity to explain to search engine users why the page should be visited. It also enables you to provide text content for pages that don’t contain much of anything that the search engines can read. For example, for an image gallery, the description that shows up in the search engine results wouldn’t be very useful to users if the META description isn’t configured because images do not accurately describe their own content the way that a page of text content can. It’s also helpful to configure a META description for text content heavy pages (like an “About Us” page), because it gives you an opportunity to convince a search engine user as to why they need to read the content.
Character length: Since Google caps what they will display in the search engine results at 160 characters, it doesn’t make sense to have it go much longer than that. None of the major search engines display more than 200 characters in the search results.
Format: Describe the content on a page honestly, but also try and pitch the page; remember, this is your chance to entice the search engine user to visit your site when it appears naturally in the results! It also never hurts to reinforce the keywords that you’re targeting for a specific page in the META description, but remember that the emphasis should be on accurately describing the page and enticing clickthrough.
- For a home page: Business Name specializes in City real estate, assisting buyers and sellers throughout County. Access the MLS, receive a free home evaluation, and subscribe to daily home listings updates.
- For a “Free Home Evaluation” form page: Want to know how much your City home is worth? Let the professionals at Business Name provide you with a free evaluation of your home’s value.
Purpose: A legacy page tag from when you used to be able to just tell the search engines what you wanted to rank for and they would believe you regardless of whether your site was relevant or not.
SEO Impact: Virtually none. The only major search engine that even bothers reading it is Yahoo, and even they don’t weigh it much when configuring their search index. The best use of the tag is for common misspellings of words, and maybe the most relevant keyword for any particular page.
Format: If you even bother to configure it, use commas to separate the keywords you’re entering.
Character length: 2-3 keywords at most
- For a homepage: community real estate, misspelling of community real estate
- For an “About Us” page: business name, misspelling of business name
- Depending on your content management system, META data on your site may not be editable. If that’s the case, you might have to coordinate META data changes with your web host provider.
- Unless you have advanced knowledge about SEO best practices, using this guide to configure META data yourself is no substitute for having an SEO expert configure your META data.
This post comes from a recent conversation I had with a client earlier this week. He attended a SEO conference sponsored by his brokerage earlier in the month and wanted to implement some of the strategies discussed. One of the main issues we discussed was the value of Title Tags, Meta Keywords, and Meta Descriptions.
Since you all are reading this blog clearly you are ahead of the curve and I am guessing already know where to find and review them. You all can skip this next paragraph.
For the beginners I’ll give you the quick break down. Title Tags are seen at the very top of your browser, above File, Edit, View, and History. They are usually three or phrases separated by a comma or other break. Meta Keywords and Descriptions can be found by viewing the Page Source. They too are usually at the top of the source code. – At least they should be!
The best example I have about Tags can be taken from my high school years. It is an example I use at least once a week, but I think gives a fairly good idea about tags and how they should be written and implemented. Remember in High School when your teacher assigned a book to read over the weekend? I don’t know about you but I wasn’t going to spend my hard earned weekend reading Frankenstein; instead, I went to the nearest Barnes & Noble and picked up the Cliff Notes version. For those unfamiliar with Cliff Notes they are basically a thirty page pamphlet that breaks down an entire book into just the most important parts. I was able to get the subject matter and overall theme of Frankenstein by only reading those thirty pages instead of the entire book. This is a good way to think about Tags.
The search engines are reading your tags before they read the actual page so by going in and taking a hard look at what they are saying is going to give the search engines a good idea of what the page is basically about. If your Tags say one thing, but the page says something different the search engines are going to put little value on the page. This leads to a low search results. Take a look at this post about evaluating your website. It should help you rethink not only your Tags, but your site as well.
Creating and implementing Tags is worth more then a single post so over the next few weeks I’ll dive into more detail, but I will leave you with this – Don’t SPAM in your Tags. Having every keyword in there repeat over and over again is going to be of little value and could keep the search engines from reading the rest of your page.