This is the third article in a series of articles on Duplicate Content in the floral industry. Topics in this series include: Title tags, Meta tags, Product Info, URL Bad Habits & Identifying Your Duplicate Content.
In my last post, we covered the importance of the <title> tag. Duplicate <title> tags will significantly impair the crawling and indexing of your site. We also looked at the basic structure of the code used to display a web page.
<html> <— Tells the browser this page has HTML information
<head> <— The beginning of the head section of the page
<title>Title of the page</title>
<meta …. /> <— Information about your page, and instructions on how the page should be handled
</head> <— Head section is all done
<body> <— Beginning of the body section
… text and images for the page …
</body> <— End of the body section
</html> <— End of the HTML content of the page
Meta tags are an opportunity to feed information directly to the search engine bots that crawl your site. Meta tags are often comically abused or painfully neglected, and site owners miss out on the limited value they can offer. If you look at the source code of a typical florist website you will likely find that all the pages have the same meta information – and that the information is generic, off topic and/or useless.
The sign of an over-eager and under-educated web designer is the frequent use of fictional meta tags, or out-dated (and ignored) attempts at bot manipulation like “revisit-after” or “expire” – as if Google will crawl your site your schedule instead of theirs 🙂 The truly funny aspect of this glorified code bloat is that the average florist website is updated 3-4 times per year; but we really want Google crawling it every 3 days!
No tag in the history of the interweb has been more abused, maligned and misunderstood than the Keyword tag. Once the darling of spammers everywhere, this tag is most often cast aside like a spurned lover no longer of use, destined to spend eternity branded with a scarlet letter. (“S” for spam, or “u” for useless?) In truth, the Keyword meta tag still maintains some value for holding synonyms and common mis-spellings of words related to the topic of the page in question.
The Description meta tag is another frequently missed opportunity. What should be a well-written description of the contents of the page, in sentence form, is often just a messy attempt at including generic and often off-topic keywords and repeated verbatim across every page of the site. The point I hope you’re getting by now is that you have three opportunities to present a clear signal to the search engines regarding the topic and content of your web pages. By repeating generic or poorly thought out text in these tags you are saying: “All the pages on my site are about exactly the same bit of nonsense.” Clearly, this not what Google wants to serve up to their users 🙂
We’ll cover more on other useful tags in the future.
Meta tags let you feed information about your page to the search engines. The two meta tags that are of any use for search engine optimization are “Description” and “Keywords.” While their impact on ranking is not as high as some other elements, misuse can carry a heavy price. Feeding the same generic keyword list and the same generic description (often combined with the same title!) is the best way to tell a search engine: “All my pages are the same – just ignore them!”
Shockingly, writing quality title and meta tag content takes a bit of time and effort. Most things do. Take the easy way out and you’ll quickly find you’re suffering for it.