Meta-Tags Are Dead - The End of An Era of Deception
In 1996 I wrote “The Meta-Tag and Title Guide to Success.” The free ebook was the first of it kind, and while it only reached about 3,500 people, I received testimonial after testimonial about how my ebook on Meta-Tags helped many people get top rankings.
But even with that said, I can’t believe that in late 2006 people are still promoting their search engine marketing services by calling up my clients and telling them that they don’t have meta-tags, so that means that their site isn’t optimized for search engines. For one it upsets me that someone would outright lie to my clients while trying to make me look bad, and at the same time it just bugs me that people are still hooked on the meta-tag buzzword.
It’s over folks. Meta-Tags are Dead. They’re dead in the sense that search engine marketers are using them. What I mean by this is that the Meta-Tag functions themselves are still somewhat useful (for instance the “No ODP” tag) but that Meta-Tags as a selling point for what people need in order to be optimized… that’s dead.
It’s a lie. It’s a buzzword by marketers looking to score a sale with the millions of people who don’t know how to market their websites, and could quite frankly care less. These site owners have heard rumblings of “Meta-Tags” before, so their ears perk up when someone solicits them with how they’re going to help them optimize their site. But it’s all a lie.
In the mid 90’s search engines needed us. They needed as much unique content as they could index. The search engine technology was not nearly as sophisticated as it is today. It was much harder and much more expensive to go out and index the web. Meta-Tags were created to help the web developers help the search engines understand exactly what the page was about and how it should be automatically categorized.
The problems came early on because a few became rampant abusers by putting very popular keywords in their Meta-Tags. People searching anything from Britney Spears to El Nińo were suddenly whisked away to porn sites with multiple pop ups. Some were even sued for using trademarked terms in their Meta-tags.
Meta-Tags in their early days were the inspiration of what would eventually become “cloaking” and consequently both technologies were frowned upon from the search engines. Not because the technologies weren’t useful, but simply because of the abuse of search engine spammers.
In September of 2002, Andrew Goodman of Traffick.com wrote in an essay about meta tags, "If somebody would just declare the end of the metatag era, full stop, it would make it easier on everyone." This quote is found yet again on an article by Danny Sullivan of SearchEngineWatch.com in October of 2002 where Sullivan talks specifically about the “Death of a Meta Tag” in reference to the keyword tag. He goes into more detail about the rise and fall of the tag and explains simply that in his opinion the keyword tags are “just a waste of time.”
Today, the Meta-Description tag when used by search engines as a description for your web page are not only a waste of time in my opinion, but they can actually be a detriment for the user.
When the user is searching, they are actually having a conversation in their head whereas they are asking questions and reading for the answers on the search results pages.
A description tag can get in the way of what they are looking for. Here’s why.
When you search Google and Yahoo the results are displayed by showing the search term within the description of the search result for each listing. Usually that search result includes an excerpt of the page content that actually shows that keyword phrase being used.
The exception is that some sites are showing Open Directory Project descriptions which most people agree, hurt more than help. This is why it has become so important to use the new “NO ODP” tag which Google and MSN now support.
The reason why the “No ODP” tag is so important is because the description used by ODP and likely any description you write is not nearly as good as showing the search result with an actual excerpt of the page with the keyword someone searched for in that excerpt.
Not only is the excerpt with the keyword phrase the user searched for going to give the user an insight as to what site they are about to visit, but the site description written about the page probably isn’t as good as the actual content.
We know from our experience with Google Adwords that having a keyword in the title and even in the text of the ad will bring us a better click through ratio. Why not consider this fact when dealing with your natural rankings? People want to see that keyword in the Title and the relation it is used in the actual content excerpt (description) of the site.
Some people will spend thousands of dollars having great content written for their site, but when it comes to Meta-Descriptions, those are an afterthought, and likely not nearly as compelling as the excerpt that actually contains the words that the user is searching for.
Plus most site owners are lazy and will simply cut-and-paste the same lame site description over and over for every single page of their site, regardless of the unique content for each of those pages.
Once people click your listing, they only give you about 10 seconds or less to answer their question with the content on your page or they simply click back to the search engine to look again. If your meta-description indicates that the page might have an answer to the question in their head but the content of that particular page does not match, then they’re gone anyway.
And finally, when it comes to keyword phrases, we all know that not everybody searches the same. Some people might search for “Tulsa Homes” while other people search for “Homes in Tulsa” and yet others search for Tulsa Home Builders, Tulsa Real Estate, Tulsa Realty, Tulsa Realtors, Tulsa Housing and a hundred varieties thereof.
Exactly which keyword phrase are you going to write into your custom meta-description tag? How can your short little description possibly cover all of the potential combinations that your web page content actually provides to the search engines, and thus the excerpts typically used in the descriptions?
Ultimately the use of Meta-Descriptions in 99% of the cases that I can imagine is going to be nothing but a detriment. They are a waste of time, money and while “Meta-Tags” are still the buzzword of the day for scammers, spammers and “buzz-word marketers,” the experienced and serious developers should know better. Meta-Tags (as hyped up as a sales gimmick by optimization marketers) are dead.
About The Author
Tony D. Baker is Oklahoma’s leading Internet marketing expert with over 1000 clients and over 10 years of Internet marketing experience. As an author and public speaker, Baker has written several ebooks and has spoken at conferences throughout the United States. Baker is also the host of the popular Xeal Internet Marketing Radio Show which is aired across 13 states on 1170KFAQ, Sunday nights at 8pm. You can find out more about Tony at www.Xeal.com .