META Tags are Dead. Long Live META Tags!
Possibly the number one thing that will get you laughed out of search engine circles is claiming that META tags (specifically the Description and Keywords tags) are still important for ranking well.
Here are just a few examples:
- Just yesterday Rand criticized horrible information in the Kansas City Star’s Steps to Build Web Traffic, including “You need to have key words or meta tags on every page of the site. Meta tags are the key phrases that search engines look for.”
- Tony at Xeal Inc. says that the META Description “can actually be a detriment for the user.”
- Heck, even I’m on record calling a search marketer “borderline criminal” who claimed in a proposal, among other things, that META tags are key to ranking well.
However, I have now built a steady stream of evidence to the contrary — namely that the META Description can be vital to ranking well.
Hear me out.
What I’ve seen specifically is that Google leans heavily on the Description tag to determine if a page is unique or not. If you have a site where the vast majority of pages all have the same Description, or no Description at all, you might encounter a couple of problems:
- The pages may not get indexed at all.
- The pages may get indexed, but only in the Supplemental index.
My evidence for this?
WFG’s, The Company of Women: This site has seven pages. Every page had the exact same Description and Keywords, and every page (except for the homepage) was in the Supplemental index. We changed both METAs, and the pages came out of Supplemental within days.
CreditorWeb.com: Same situation here, but with vastly more pages, and virtually all of them were Supplemental. When we changed the duplicate Descriptions to be unique to each page, however, the pages came right out.
Nursing Homes.com: Similar situation here, but with a twist. We launched thousands of new pages back in September and just like clockwork, Google began to crawl them all and add them to the index. Flash forward a few months, however, and the crawling had stopped almost entirely and nothing but the homepage was indexed. Turns out, only the homepage had a Description. Adding a unique Description for every page has had the unique effect (so far) of restoring to the Supplemental index pages that Google crawled back in September. Although it’s crawling thousands of pages a day, it’s still showing the old pages in Supplemental. Waiting to see if all the pages now have Descriptions maybe?
So if you’re having problems getting into the full index, or if you just want to avoid problems in the future, be sure that all your pages have a unique Description. It can be short, but just make sure it’s applicable and unique.