Many people think meta tags are the magic solution to ranking well. Create the perfect combination with the perfect keyword density and presto! Well, that is far from being true - there is more to SEO than good meta tags and there are also many off-page factors. However, it does help to have highly optimized Meta tags.
What are Meta Tags?
Meta tags are parts of an HTML document that are used for you to describe the page content for search engines. Meta tags are placed within the head area of an HTML file and with the exception of the Title tag; your visitors do not see them as part of the viewable area of the page.
How to write meta tags correctly:
Why are Meta Tags important?
The primary reason they are considered important in search engine positioning is that you have some ability to direct how your pages are described, categorized and indexed by various search engines. Don't be misled; creating the perfect Meta tags does not mean you will zoom to the top of the pack; many search engines do not assign much value to the majority of Meta tags.
Which search engines support Meta Tags?
Crawler-based search engines have the ability to utilize the meta tags; however, not all of them do so. Most will support one tag or the other but rarely does a search engine support them all. Crawler based search engines include: Google™, Teoma, Alta Vista, Inktomi, AllTheWeb and others. Directory based search properties like Yahoo Directory and Open Directory do not spider your pages; they rely on the description you supply to them when you submit your page.
How to write a good title tag
The title tag is not really a meta tag; however it does appear in the head area of your page along with the various meta tags and it is the most valuable tool to describe your page to the search engines. It is an extraordinarily important factor in how search engines rank and list your web site.
What search engines use the Title tag?
Just about all major search engines use the title tag in some way and many use it to compose their listing. When creating the title for each page you want to include your primary search terms or keywords and create a concise description of the page in general. The title tag is also used as the text to describe your page when someone adds it to his or her favorites list and it displays in the title bar of their browser, so, it is important to make it clear and descriptive.
Guidelines to writing a good title:
Create a title that is between 4 and 12 words. Remember, this is a guideline and not a rule. Each search engine has different maximum values for the title area. In any case, try not to exceed 63 characters because sometimes your title will be truncated.
Always use your keyword(s) in the title and aim for a keyword density of 20-35%. Example: Your keyword is "widgets". Your title could be: "Buy widgets at ABC Widgets Company" and since we used widgets twice within 6 words the density is 33%. This may not always be possible if you are targeting more than one keyword.
The important thing is to make certain your title is highly descriptive of your page but try not to dilute the effectiveness of your keyword by adding too many other words.
Don't use just the Company Name. Think "keywords" when writing the title. Try to put your keywords as close to the beginning as possible.
The Meta Description Tag
The Meta description tag allows you to write a short description of the page, however, it is not fully supported by search engines.
What search engines use the Meta Description?
Of the major search engines: AltaVista, AllTheWeb and Teoma make most use of the tag. Google™ automatically creates its own description from content snipets. Others may support it partially. Directories (like Yahoo Directory) are not search engines and they rely on the description you supply when you submit.
Guidelines to writing a good Meta Description:
Limit the total description to approximately 200 to 250 characters. Although some search engines may support more when indexing the page, they may only display a smaller quantity of characters.
Use at least one of your keywords near the beginning of the description.
Using 12 to 24 words total (and not exceeding the character limit) seems to be a good range for most search engines.