How many keywords and phrases should I put in my meta tags?

  • Creator013
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Post 3+ Months Ago

I've read a lot of posts about the importance of keywords and key phrases, and a lot of them give an estimate of keyword density within the content of the site. My issue is that the boss wants me to pack Meta tags full of both. Is there a guideline on how many keywords and phrases is too many, or not enough? I would like to be able to optimize our clients sites without over-stuffing them.
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Post 3+ Months Ago

  • Bigwebmaster
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Post 3+ Months Ago

Google really does not use the keyword meta tag, they have found that most sites just abuse that and they do not trust it. So no matter what you put in there it probably won't affect your rankings on Google. The description meta tag also isn't going to affect your rankings, however, Google will sometimes use what you have in the description meta tag for their snippets. So for example when you search for something in Google such as in this screenshot:

Attachments:
google-snippet.gif

A Google Snippet



You can see the part I highlighted there is the Google Snippet. If you make your description tag too long then your snippets will often be cut off so if you want your snippets to be optimized make sure your description tag is less than the max number of characters there. This could change over time, but I think the max is around 140 characters or so.

For the main title tag that shows up in the Google results that is taken from the title of your page and I think the max characters there is currently around 68 characters.

So my advice to you is to optimize the title of your pages and the meta description tag for the snippets as that can affect if your result in Google will actually get clicked. As far as the meta keyword tag I would generally not put much time into this at all, maybe just add 3 to 5 really important phrases that describe your page. You would be better off spending the time actually working on the content on your site though as compared to spending time on meta tags.

Also when it comes to keyword density for your content, I would not even look at this. Just write up great content that makes sense and that your visitors will love and the rest will fall right in place where you want it. What Google wants to do is to give results for the best possible content for any search a user puts in. So if you focus on creating high quality unique content that is extremely valuable to visitors, then you will in the end get great results from Google. Do not waste your time trying to get your keyword density right. If you are in it for the long run just create awesome content that is useful to your visitors.
  • Creator013
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Post 3+ Months Ago

Thanks. Now all I have to do is convince my boss that keyword stuffing is not the way to go, and work on content and descriptions for future optimization efforts.
  • joebert
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Post 3+ Months Ago

Quote:
You can see the part I highlighted there is the Google Snippet. If you make your description tag too long then your snippets will often be cut off so if you want your snippets to be optimized make sure your description tag is less than the max number of characters there. This could change over time, but I think the max is around 140 characters or so.

For the main title tag that shows up in the Google results that is taken from the title of your page and I think the max characters there is currently around 68 characters.


I've been wondering for, a long time, what the minimum length was after seeing a few dozen notices in Google Webmaster Tools -> Diagnostic -> HTML Suggestions about short meta descriptions. I never did find a solid answer.

I just decided to revisit this question and the best educated guess I can come up with for the minimum length is 50. I've come to this conclusion by doing a few things.

First I downloaded the list of short meta descriptions from Google Webmaster Tools using the aptly named Download this table link. I used the following formula I found in Open Office to determine the longest description length in the CSV file. Where # was the number of items in my CSV file.

Code: [ Select ]
=MAX(LEN(a1:a#))


That gave me 49, but I didn't know if it was just coincidence that it happened to be that close to 50.

So I logged into my sites MySQL database and used the following query to determine the minimum length of a description, limiting the results to only items with a length over 49.

SQL Code: [ Select ]
SELECT MIN(LENGTH(description))
FROM my_table
WHERE LENGTH(description) > 49
  1. SELECT MIN(LENGTH(description))
  2. FROM my_table
  3. WHERE LENGTH(description) > 49


This gave me 50. At this point I'm fairly sure the minimum length of a meta description is 50. However, I don't know if Google is aware of the item with that 50 character description. If Google isn't aware of that item, the number could be higher.

So, I pulled some of the items from the database with a length of 50 characters to see if there is any record of them in SERPs.

SQL Code: [ Select ]
SELECT * FROM my_table WHERE LENGTH(description) = 50 LIMIT 5


Then I plugged some of those descriptions into a search to see if they show up.

Code: [ Select ]
site:mysite.com "the description"


Sure enough, there are results for the description like that. I checked, and the date of the cached version of the page is from back in June, whereas the Last Updated date shown for the table in Webmaster Tools is dated two days before today. (about a month gap)

Quote:
Thanks. Now all I have to do is convince my boss that keyword stuffing is not the way to go, and work on content and descriptions for future optimization efforts.


Good luck. My experience with these people is they're always adamant that they know exactly what they're doing. I've had people go in behind my back after I've refused to do something I didn't agree with and do it themselves. A lot of these people know how to do the work they have you doing themselves, they just want plausible deniability when they get caught and banned from the indexes.
  • Creator013
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Post 3+ Months Ago

joebert wrote:
Quote:
Thanks. Now all I have to do is convince my boss that keyword stuffing is not the way to go, and work on content and descriptions for future optimization efforts.


Good luck. My experience with these people is they're always adamant that they know exactly what they're doing. I've had people go in behind my back after I've refused to do something I didn't agree with and do it themselves. A lot of these people know how to do the work they have you doing themselves, they just want plausible deniability when they get caught and banned from the indexes.


I don't know that I will have too difficult a time convincing her. She's been doing this a lot longer than I have, but we've been friends for years (we were in Girl Scouts together...feel free to laugh if you must). She hired me because she needs help, not just for the heck of it, and she is open to suggestions and listens to my opinion. But I'll be keeping my fingers crossed, just in case. lol
  • vetofunk
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Post 3+ Months Ago

If it helps, I had to actually send the president of a company this video:

http://www.mattcutts.com/blog/keywords- ... eb-search/

It's Matt Cutts telling you that Google doesn't use the keyword tag. That's right from the horse's mouth.

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