Search Engine OptimizationLast June I posted an entry called SEO – Sorting it Out, in which I talked about some general terms relating to search engine optimization,  i.e. the difference between sponsored and organic search, submitting your site to search engines, etc. I thought it might be a good idea to revisit the topic and offer some more information that you will find useful.

The Keyword Meta Tag – Does it Still Count?

The keyword meta tag, after years of abuse, has lost its significance. In fact, according to Matt Cutts, Google’s own search quality specialist, Google disregards it completely.

While less rigid than Google regarding the use of the keyword meta tag, Bing still acknowledges that it’s not as important as it used to be. According to Bing’s Webmaster Center blog:

The <meta> tag’s keyword attribute is not the page rank panacea it once was back in the prehistoric days of Internet search. It was abused far too much and lost most of its cachet. But there’s no need to ignore the tag. Take advantage of all legitimate opportunities to score keyword credit, even when the payoff is relatively low. Fill in this tag’s text with relevant keywords and phrases that describe that page’s content.

So what’s the verdict? While there is certainly no harm in using the keyword meta tag, my advice is focus on keyword rich content and don’t worry about the keyword meta tag. But remember, your content should make sense to humans first. Context matters.

Use the Tools

Yes, the big players in the search universe make all the rules. But they don’t keep them a secret. In fact, both Google and Bing make their suggestions and protocols very public. So if you’re a hands on type and want to know more about search engine best practices, here are a few musts:

  • use google analytics – this is a bit of code inserted into the pages of your website that allows google to track user interaction with your site. The data generated is pretty detailed and can help you tweak your site to increase traffic… and it’s free. Find out more here:
  • use webmaster tools – both Google ( and Bing ( offer these tools. These tips come straight from the horse’s mouth. Doesn’t it make sense to use them?
  • understand the <title> and <description> meta tags– each page of your site should have its own unique title and description. These two elements combined make up the snippet you usually see in the SERP (Search Engine Results Page). This is not the place to be verbose. The title tag should be limited to 70 characters and the description tag to 150, give or take.

    The google snippet

    The way the snippet appears in the search results page

  • use an xml sitemap – most people are familiar with the html site map. That’s the page on a website usually found by clicking the Sitemap link. It presents the user with a visual representation of the site’s page structure.  The xml version is not visible to users. It is uploaded to the root directory of the web server. It gives the search spiders a quick snapshot view of the site’s structure thus making it easier for the search robots to crawl and index your site. Both Google and Bing recommend using an xml sitemap.

What if This is All Too Technical for Me?

Fair question. Especially given that these recommendations are only a small part of good optimization. If you are not the hands on type then make sure the individual or company you are hiring to build your website thoroughly understands and is planning to implement all of the above.

Are all of these recommendations in place on your website? Was it discussed before development began?