There is more to a web page than meets the eye. Behind the information that a normal
user sees, there is information that can be read by software that tells it how to
display the page and how the page is structured.
Meta tags are instructions to search engine spiders or robots that visit your web
page to tell it how your page is structured and what it is about. The terms spiders
or robots are used to describe software that is used to automatically scan through
web sites, without any human intervention.
The important meta tags
Title meta tag: This meta tag is very important as it defines what is shown in the
search results page. When you click on the search results and go to the web page
it is also what is shown on the upper top left corner of browsers such as Internet
Explorer or Mozilla Firefox.
Description meta tag: This meta tag is used to give a concise description of the
contents of the web page. When available, the contents of this meta tag is shown
on search results, just below the title information as shown here. If there is no
description meta tag available, the search engine chooses other text from the web
page containing the keywords being searched.
Keywords meta tag: This meta tag is intended to be a summary of the keywords used
on this web page. This information is solely for the use of search engines and is
not seen by the user. Some web page designers stuff a lot of keywords here that are
not actually reflected in the contents of the web page to mislead search engines.
As a result, major search engines like Google now ignore the contents of this meta
Robots meta tag: Web designers can control the parts of the web page that are “visible”
to the robots that visit a site from a search engine by using this meta tag. For
example it can be used to direct a search engine robot to index a web page but not
to follow links from that page. This meta tag is not essential but is considered
Author meta tag: This meta tag is generally used for brand building and is not significant
when it comes to search engines.
Summary: What are meta tags?
The title and description meta tags are both very important. Search engines use the
page title in ranking a web page for a particular keyword of phrase. It is also used
in search results. The description of a web page has less bearing on position on
search engines but is used on the display of the search results.
Web page Content
Web page content is very important in influencing the position on the results page
of a search engine. They generally look for the following factors when analysing
a web page for the most important keywords.
Headings Search engines give importance to the words used on the headings on a web
page. This is used by the programming language used to create web pages (HTML) to
make heading in the text stand out. It is a good idea to make sure that the web page
content makes good use of headings.
Keyword prominence Search engines give more weight to keywords found at the start
of a section of text than the rest. If there is a paragraph of text then it is better
to break this up into smaller sections and have a HTML heading <h1> or <h2> for each
section. Every time the search engine sees a heading, it will start the prominence
criteria again. This is another good reason to use headings in web page content.
Keyword proximity Search engines also attach some importance to how close keywords
are to each other. For example when optimising your text for the phrase “bike hire
Yorkshire” it is important to keep these words as close as possible.
Keyword density How many times a keyword or phrase occurs on the page compared to
the total amount of words is defined as the keyword density. This is considered by
search engines when ranking a page for a particular key word.
When writing web page content it pays to reduce on the number of redundant words
to increase the density of the chosen keywords that we are optimising for.
Images Search engines are only able to read text and are unable to analyse images
on a web page. To allow search engines to “read” what an image is about it needs
to have a description attached. This is called “Image alt tag” in web programming
jargon and refers to the alternative text for the image.
Hyperlinks On many web pages there are portions of text that can be clicked in order
to jump to other web pages. This text is usually highlighted and is known as “anchor
tags” or “link text”. Search engines analyse the text used here and use the information
to rank the web site.
Summary: Web page content
Headings, keyword prominence, proximity, density, hyperlink text and the importance
of using “alt tags” for images to enter a text description: All of these have a part
to play in getting to the top of the search engines for the keywords that are important
Web page analysis
Having worked on the wording and structure of your web page, how do you check on
how well you have done? Luckily, there are many free tools on the Internet to help
you analyse your web page for keyword performance. We have a selection in the SEO
tools section of this website.
We need to constantly analyse our own web pages and competitors web pages for “meta
tags”, keyword density and which keywords appear in IMG alt tags and anchor tags
by using the free tools available. This gives us a lot of valuable information regarding
top performing web sites that we can emulate with our own and move up the search
Web page headings
In the Page Content section we looked at the importance of headings in being ranked
by search engines. When looking at a web page it is not instantly obvious whether
section headings on a page actually use the HTML <h1> or <h2> commands. This appendix
shows how to check the number of headings on a particular web page.
The view source command available on Internet Explorer (IE) allows us to check the
heading text say for the web page below.
When viewing this web page, move your mouse to an area outside the page and right
click a menu will come up. Click on the “View Source” option. The screen will show
the programming code that is behind the website. For someone not familiar with HTML
this will look a mass of gobbledegook. However if you click on edit and then find
you can enter <h1 and click next to find text with <h1> heading on this web page.
This shows that the text “Bluetooth headsets, Wireless Stereo headsets” is an H1
You can do the same to find text that is set as <h2> headings. Remember that while
you can have a number of h2 headings on a page there should only be one h1 heading
on a web page.
Heading text <h1> and <h2> are treated as a higher priority text by search engines.
Here you can see how to check if your website heading text is correctly set.