Search engine optimisation; understanding Meta and Alt tags


Keywords are critical for search engine optimisation, but when major search engines like Google punish you for over repetition, how can you get the keyword count up without getting blacklisted? Although overdoing it in your main copy gets you minus points, there are a few ways you can fill out your keywords that search engines accept and which human surfers can’t even see without making an effort to; META and ALT tags.


For Google’s eyes only

These tags are hidden away in the actual code a computer reads to render a web page. Google and Yahoo don’t look at the finished web page, they look at the code that sits behind it. Most of the language used in this code is commands and instructions which get ignored by the search engines as meaningless to the site content, but these Meta and Alt tags are there specifically to let a search engine know more information about something they can’t understand, like pictures (Alt tags), or they provide a page summary for the search engine (Meta tags).

META tags should go into the “head” section of every web page, they allow you to write out a full list of keywords and keyphrases in a simple list, and to add a general descripton summarising the whole page (the description is often what shows up under a website address on a search engine). Keyword over repetition will still get you in trouble but these hidden tags are a great way to feed a search engine a lot of extra keywords with minimal irrelevant words around them and also not have to worry about what any human surfer will think; they won’t see them.

ALT tags are similarly hidden descriptive tags for images, which search engines have no real concept of. Sometimes when you put your mouse pointer over a web image a little description comes up; this is the ALT tag, which also gets used for image searches through most of the big name engines. Just like the META tags you can’t cheat but you do have another added opportunity to get some good keywords into a much longer phrase or description, this is especially useful in online shops and e-commerce sites with lots of product photos.

Numerous other elements of a web page can have similar tags or descriptions applied such as for the layout tables many designers use to structure a page, often they just get bland descriptions like “left hand table”, but there’s no reason why that couldn’t be “plumbing services menu including emergency call out 24 hours”. No, it doesn’t really make any sense but humans don’t get to see it and Google has no idea it makes no sense, it just sees more words and phrases to add to the keyword counts.


DIY SEO can save you money

All good web designers know these tags and can fill them out for you at an added cost, reduce that cost by having the actual tags worked out yourself, so they just need to type them in; it’s well worth paying to get the tags set up by someone who knows what they’re doing, or set up as part of a web design package with SEO included. Some DIY web editors also allow you to add META and ALT tags, (check before you buy!) and will allow you to make regular small changes to tags and keywords without the ongoing expense of a web designer.



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