I used to work with a particular team of web designers, and could never be bothered to look up their phone number, so I’d just search their business name on Google.

The two lines that appeared in the search results under their web link read something like: “This web-design company is run by three lesbians.”

I did wonder whether that’s why they designed so many construction websites, and what the clients thought of me when I turned up to meetings!

Anyway, one day, I dared to tackle the web designers about it. “Why do you consider it good marketing to have that information included in your meta-description?” I asked.

It turned out it wasn’t true, and they didn’t even know that’s what it said! Some mischievous web developer had added it into the code without their knowledge.

I fell foul of a similar situation when I belonged to a particular business networking website, years ago. Just for fun, I’d written a profile in the form of a fake obituary, not realising that the first two lines would appear on a Google search for my name.

When people tried to find me, it read: “Jackie Barrie was today reported missing, presumed dead”. If they had clicked through to the full profile, they would have soon seen that it was a comedy piece. But I’ll never know how many calls I lost from people who didn’t look any further.

Happily, someone contacted me, full of shock and concern, and I quickly changed the description to something more suitable.

That kind of situation is not the only reason why meta-tags are important. They are one way of determining where your site appears in the search listings. (Meta = above. Meta-tags are text that appears in the code for search engines to read but not necessarily in the web text for human beings to read.)

Without getting too techie, here are 10 things you need to do (or get your web designers to do).

1. Do your keyword research and identify which keywords and phrases you want to be found for

2. Also visit your competitors’ websites and click View > Source to see what meta-tags they are trying to be found for

3. Don’t try to optimise each web page for all your keywords. Aim for one (or at most three) per page

4. Include your main keyword/s in the title tag (that’s the text that appears in the grey bar in the top of the browser window)

5. Also include your keywords in the page description (that’s the bit that shows in the search results but not necessarily on the website itself)

6. And in the main page heading, with the ‘H1 tag’

7. And as ‘alt tags’ for images (read by screen readers for poorly sighted site visitors)

8. Also repeat them within the first 250 words of copy (but without making it clumsy for human beings to read)

9. Make them bold so search engines realise they are important words e.g. as sub-headings (this helps humans to navigate and skim-read too)

10. And/or make them links, which is another way to tell search engines they are important. Don’t use ‘Click here’, use ‘More information about keywords’

I originally wrote this article for Fresh Business Thinking



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