Natural Search Blog


Resurrection of the Meta Keywords Tag

Danny Sullivan did a great, comprehensive examination of current status of the Meta Keywords tag, and his testing showed that both Ask and Yahoo will still use content in that tag as a relevancy signal. Both Google and Microsoft Live do not. His clear outline of the history, common questions, and contemporary testing of the factor were really helpful.

However, I think there’s still a case where Google may be using the Meta Keywords tag… (more…)

Nouveau Meta Tags for SEO

Back in the earliest days of search optimization, meta tags were a great channel for placing keywords for the search engines to associate with your pages. A meta tag does just what it sounds like — they are the html tags built to hold metadata (or, “data describing the data”) about pages. In terms of SEO, the main meta tags people refer to are the Keywords and Description meta tags. Meta tags are not visible to endusers looking at the page, but the meta tag content would be collected by search engines and used to rank a page — it was really convenient if you wanted to pass synonyms, misspellings, and various term stems along with the specific keywords.

Classic Meta Tags - people used to pack keywords into metatags

Immediately after people realized that meta tags could allow a page to be found more relevant in the major search engines, unscrupulous people began abusing the tags by passing keywords that had little or nothing to do with the content of their sites, and the search engines began to reduce using that content for a keyword association ranking factor because it couldn’t be trusted. Eventually, search engines pretty well dropped using them for ranking altogether and newer search engines didn’t bother to use them at all, leading Danny Sullivan to declare the death of the metatags in 2002.

Fast forward to 2006, and the situation has changed yet again. Your meta tag content can once again directly affect your pages’ rankings in the SERPs!

(more…)

Robots Meta Tag Not Well Documented by Search Engines

Those of us who do SEO have been increasingly pleased with the various search engines for providing or allowing tools and protocols to allow us to help direct, control, and manage how our sites are indexed. However, the search engines still have a significant need to keep much of their workings a secret out of fear of being exploited by ruthless black-hats who will seek to improve page rankings for keywords regardless of appropriateness. This often leaves the rest of us with tools that can be used in some limited cases, but there’s little or no documentation to tell us how those tools operate functionally in the complex real world. The Robots META tag is a case in point.

The idea behind the protocol was simple, and convenient. It’s sometimes hard to use a robots.txt file to manage all the types of pages delivered up by large, dynamic sites. So, what could be better than using a tag directly on a page to tell the SE whether to spider and index the page or not?  Here’s how the tag should look, if you wanted a page to NOT be indexed, and for links found on it to NOT be crawled:

<meta content=”noindex,nofollow” name=”ROBOTS”>

Alternatively, here’s the tag if you wanted to expressly tell the bot to index the page and crawl the links on it:

<meta content=”index,follow” name=”ROBOTS”>

But, what if you wanted the page to not be indexed, while you still wanted the links to be spidered? Or, what if you needed the page indexed, but the links not followed? The major search engines don’t clearly describe how they treat these combinations, and the effects may not be what you’d otherwise expect. Read on and I’ll explain how using this simple protocol with the odd combos had some undesirable effects.

(more…)

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