Google, Meta Keywords, Meta Descriptions, and Search Engine Optimization

Originally published: 10/2005 by J Wynia

I was going through my "commented" list early this morning. I noticed that there had been some questions asked about a comment of mine over at ProBlogger on Darren's posting about secondary keywords and Google. They included a suggestion that I write up a bit more. So, below is the initial comment I posted. It's in response to another comment asking about "keywords" and whether, since the meta keywords long ago were polluted out of usefulness, they matter.

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While the “meta” keywords aren’t really counted for much by Google, they DO treat the presence of the search term in other places with a lot of respect. If you put your chosen keywords in those places, Google will put a lot of credence in it.

The easy place to start is with your posting titles. If you put your keywords in your titles and then configure your blogging template to put your title as the permalink (puts the keywords in the URL), as the page title and the title itself on the page inside H1 tags, you’ll be amazed how quickly Google puts stock into those words.

A couple of weeks ago, I made an offhand fanboy posting about the movie Serenity and where you could buy “serenity merchandise”. Those 2 words were in my title. Within 2 days, my site was the number 1 entry in Google for “serenity merchandise”. I wasn’t even targetting the keyword, but Google clearly favored my entry over some other pretty authoratative sites, including the official site, the official fanclub, the forums that have been running for a couple of years now, etc.

Also, while Google doesn’t necessarily do much with the keywords portion of the meta tags, they DO use the description meta tag as the source for the little summary that’s shown on the search results. I discovered that recently myself when I noticed that all of my results in Google had the same summary: the one in my description tag in my template.

I’ve since swapped out the static description for one that is driven by the article excerpt instead.
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So, as more information, I'm using a Wordpress META description plugin to do the descriptions I mentioned. Beyond that though, I've been experimenting in little incremental steps to increase the Google visibility of this and other sites I work on. This combination of changes: long post titles, H1 tags around post titles and putting the post titles in the document titles have made the biggest difference of anything I've done. When that's combined with attempting to write the first couple of sentences with Google's short summary in mind and putting that into the description meta tag, you get a simple way to really increase the profile of your blog in Google's searches.

Lots of people will say that their site doesn't "rely" on Google traffic because they get their traffic from other blogs, etc. That's great, but it's rarely a case that being visible to Google is some sort of tradeoff. Every established site gets several types of traffic every day. Unless you're making sure that all of them are covered, you're actually *excluding* traffic more than anything else. If your site doesn't get much traffic from Google, it's not that you're not relying on Google. Rather, it's more like your reliance isn't working, but your other traffic is saving the site.

  • Fresh, time-sensitive content attracts folks from other blogs as well as subscribers and repeat visitors. This is the only kind of traffic that requires any sort of regular posting cycle. All other types of traffic work similarly whether you post everything for a week on the same day or not.
  • Useful content draws lagging word-of-mouth content from blogs and other sites (the ones that linked to you from the other category), but doesn't do so for content that's out of date tomorrow. This requires content that remains relevant for longer than a day or 2.
  • Keyword rich content with optimizations like I mentioned above draw Google and other search engines and are likely to be the long term source of sustained traffic. As your blog piles up hundreds of posts, this stuff will build the Google traffic for your site.

Most blogging SEO advice focuses on the first 2 and touches on the 3rd. However, you can definitely do all 3 at the same time. For instance, if you look at this post you're reading right now:

  1. It's timely in that it's a response to another posting. This means there are a few readers for it immediately. As several of them also host blogs about relevant topics, there's a pretty good chance that one of them will post something about it leading to traffic type 2.
  2. Rather than just being a response to the original question, this posting goes a step further and discusses my approach to SEO in a deeper look. Anyone who read the original posting is likely to enjoy reading this one as well. However, even without reading the original, you can get something out of this article.
  3. The title for this post contains a pretty dense selection of keywords for the concepts related to SEO and Google. It's rather long and contains lots of permutations of 2 keyword pairs that are likely to be searched for simultaneously. The vast majority of searches don't bother with quotes, which means that as long as the words are both present in the title, it counts. That means that "google keywords", "meta search", etc. will come up as well as "meta descriptions". Every word you add to your titles expands the permutations quite a bit as entry points into your site.


    This is actually just the tip of the iceberg for building sites with a multi-purpose view in mind. If people are interested, I may write this up in more detail. I've got so many notes, it would fairly quickly make a decent sized ebook.

    SEO, Search Engine Optimization, Google, meta description, meta tags, wordpress

Comments

Neil Patel on 10/30/2005
If you are looking to get good traffic from Google or any other search engine a good long term solution is to write unique content. The more unique content you have the more traffic you will receive from search engines in the long run. Many search engine optimization firms promote link popularity, meta tags and all of that good stuff, but the key to success is unique content.
J Wynia on 10/30/2005
Yes, unique content is necesary, but if it isn't strongly associated with the keywords that users will use to search, your unique content will sit unread. If you manage to write 300 pages of content about Nike, Adidas and Converse footwear and never mention the word "shoe" or don't put it in a single title, H1 tag, URL or other appropriate place, it will be WAY deeper in the index than the exact same content would be, even if it was a copy (i.e. not unique). What Google and other search engines place stock in is text-heavy pages rich in the searched for keywords and related keywords *combined* with the uniqueness of the content. However, uniqueness is given more credit than is borne out by the facts (though I personally would rather they *did* value uniqueness more). Just look at the number of pages that are all displaying the Amazon user reviews via Amazon's API for a product when you search for it. Search for almost any digital camera model, etc. and you'll see the EXACT same content repeated over and over for pages upon pages of Google results. None of it unique, but all of it keyword rich and in all of the right places.
Fanoyet on 2/16/2006
Very nice. Spent hours on it already.
fstar on 3/14/2007
doesnt yahoo still use keywords?
SEO Software on 4/8/2010
@fstar: Yes yahoo still depends way too much on the META keywords tag and other on-page factors, unlike google which is almost doesn't count it. Since the onpage factors like the META tags and content are not an issue, you should optimize them too.
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