I am lending an SEO hand at my alma mater, the Art Institute of Atlanta. They do something called a WebRaising every year; it’s much like the concept of a barn-raising, but they build sites for nonprofits that have applied for the help.
This one is about meta-tags and the info you should have in the head tag, and what Google says it looks at and what it doesn’t care about.
When you are starting out in SEO and development, you can get a lot of different information on what kind of things you should have in the head tag of your site. I hope this helps in clearing up any confusion you might have.
Google and meta-tags
Over at the Official Google Webmaster Central Blog, there is a post that talks about meta-tags. It discusses what we should be using and what does us no good in SEO.> Answering more popular picks: meta tags and web search
Some of the things in the post:
|<title>Traditional Swiss cheese fondue recipes<title>||utilized by Google, accuracy is valuable to webmasters|
|<meta name=”description” content=”Cheese fondue is …”>||utilized by Google, can be shown in our search results|
|<meta name=”revisit-after” content=”14 days”>||not utilized by Google or other major search engines|
|<META name=”verify-v1″ content=”e8JG…Nw=” />||optional, for Google webmaster tools|
|<meta name=”GoogleBot” content=”noOdp”>||optional|
Metadata is one of those things that has a level of voodoo involved with it. There was a time in the Web when loading up the meta information was a surefire way to get your site ranked higher and to get it included on as many search results as possible.
With this in mind, it was ripe for abuse. Google saw that and let us know a while ago that it was putting less weight on metadata and then stopped putting any weight on some of the metadata at all.
This post on the Official Google Webmaster Central Blog from Matt Cutts: Google does not use the keyword meta tag in web ranking
Customizing for meta-tags
We can see that having the correct information in the header is a easy way to get a lot of on-site SEO juice for your WordPress blog. There are three ways to edit that info in WordPress:
- Editing the code in the files.
- Using a plug-in that will change the meta-tags.
- Using a template that allows for editing of the meta-tags.
If you are using a template for your WordPress blog that you did not create, there is a good chance that there are just the default metadata in the header. This doesn’t mean you can’t dive into the header.php file (under Dashboard > Presentation > Theme Editor) and add the data that you think work best for your blog.
But please don’t delete anything you don’t understand. This can really mess up how your blog looks or even whether it will work at all.
The easiest way to edit the info is to install one of a number of SEO/meta-tag plug-ins,. I have tried a bunch of them and have liked some and not others. The ones I can recommend trying:
- All in One SEO Pack I would not pay for the pro version of this one, but the free version works quite well.
- HeadSpace2 I haven’t used this one in a long time, but when I did, it worked really well.
- SEO Meta Tags This is the one on the list that I have used the least, but it looks good, and a lot of users love it.
The last way, and the one I am using, is a theme that has the ability to edit the meta-tags and other things in the head built into it. They usually do this with a theme manager page in your WordPress dashboard. The one I use is called Thesis Theme. It isn’t free, but I believe it is well worth the money for not only the metadata you can customize but for a whole list of other little (and big) things it will let you change on your site. Thesis is a great way to edit and upgrade the on-page SEO of your blog.
One thing to keep in mind, whether you add the information by hand or use a plug-in/theme: Make the data relevant to your blog. Otherwise, you could run the risk of your site getting flagged as spam and get banned from the index.
If you aren’t on a WordPress blog or just like to hand-code your site, I haven’t left you out in all of this! Google Webmaster Central: Meta tags has a post that lays out the code and what information should go into the meta-tags to help you get the biggest SEO help for your site.
Do you have the metadata in your blog? Have they helped your SEO? Did I miss a plug-in or site that has good info on the topic? Drop a comment and let me know.