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Removing Description and Keyword Meta Tag Considered Harmful

Many in the SEO field have commented on the uselessness of the meta tags - primarily of the Keywords meta tag. Many have even recommend it be removed as most of the Search engines ignore it completely. This is because many SEO 'experts' have abuse it a lot trying to game Google. But I will not recommend removing either of these tags. Both have great use - if your visitors are using any of the popular social bookmarking tools like Del.icio.us or Furl.

SEO and Meta Tags

The phrase 'meta tag' became a synonym for SEO.

Earlier, the primary use of these tags were for the SEO benefits it had. It was used so much that the phase 'meta tag' became a synonym for SEO. But lately, most search engines are ignoring it. Now most of the SEO heavy weights do not recommend using these meta tags.

The description tags are still in use as they appear in the SERPs. But most people ignore the keyword meta tag.

The description meta tag appears in the Google search result pages.

Bookmarking Tools and Meta Tags

Social bookmarking services like Del.icio.us or Furl have seen a huge popularity boost in the last few years. Most of us are familiar with the bookmarklets they have provide us. These bookmarklets(or favelets) make it easier to bookmark a page.

Let us take a look at the case of del.icio.us - easily the most popular social bookmarker(is that a word?). It requires 4 inputs about a page...

  • URL(Mandatory)
  • Title(Mandatory)
  • Description
  • Tags

The bookmarklet will try to fetch these data from the page automatically. The URL will be the value of 'document.location.href' and Title will be 'document.title'. So these will be automatically filled out for you.

But what about the rest? Not using tags when bookmarking is a sin against man and nature! I mean, that is the whole point of 'Web 2.0' social bookmarking.

The description field is just as important - if you wish to search through you bookmarks, nothing helps more than the data given in this field.

Description meta Tag

One option is to manually enter the data into these fields. Tags, one can fill out - but what about the description? Are you willing to type out a good description every time you bookmark a page? Not me! The best approach to get this field automatically is to use the meta description field. Just use DOM to get the data and pass it to the posting url.

del.icio.us

Del.icio.us logo

Unfortunately, del.icio.us's bookmarklet don't support this tag. I cannot blame them for that - as usual I place the blame on Microsoft. To be more precise, the blame falls on IE. To be even more precise, it is the fault of IE's inability to handle bookmarklets(or favelets, as it is known in IE) that is more than 488(it differs in different versions) characters in length.

It is not possible to compress the meta tag searching feature in 488 characters - so del.icio.us has left this feature out.

Furl

Furl Logo

Fortunately, furl don't have any such limitations. In the grand tradition of AListApart, furl created a bookmarklet that is just shy of 2000 characters. But this don't support the description meta tag either. What this does is capture the selected text and use it as the description.

Most sites don't have this(description meta) tag. In the sites that have it, it is not properly implemented. They just use the same description through out the site.

There is a good reason as of to why the description meta tag is not supported in the bookmarking bookmarklets(hey, that rhymes). It is because the majority of sites don't support it. Most sites don't have this tag. In the sites that have it, it is not properly implemented. They just use the same description through out the site. Yes, its a sad world we live in.

Anyway, it is not so hard to modify the bookmarklet to include this feature - the hard part is decoding the bookmarklet. You can use some JavaScript beautifier to do that. After that, it is a trivial matter to insert the code to fetch the meta tag. However, this bookmarklet will only work on good browsers - which is a good thing - it will force you to abandon IE. Hey, I can hope, can't I?

Keywords = Tags

Since I spent this much time rambling about meta description, you must have guessed the use of the 'other' meta tag - keyword. Yes, they can be used to tag the page. As you might have known...

Web 1.0 : Keywords
Web 2.0 : Tags

If you think descriptions were bad, keywords are doubly so.

If you think descriptions were bad, keywords are doubly so. They were abused by SEO practitioners everywhere. It is very difficult to find a page with keywords that can act as tags. Anyway, when creating pages, please use keyword that can be used as tags when bookmarking the page.

As it the case of description, keyword can easily be fetched and given to the bookmark posting url. You still have to modify the script as no social networking sites have included this feature in their bookmarklet(with very good reason). A thing to note here is that all ',' must be replaced with a 'space'.

In Conclusion

In this age of sharing data, the description and keyword meta tags have great importance. So use them in your sites - even if you are adviced against it. And when you do use it, don't use it to target search engine spiders. Create it in a way that would be useful to human beings.

2 Comments:

Sasi Kumar said...

informative

Robert Darin said...

This article is well written and the author is absolutely correct. The Keywords meta-tag is still highly used and requires a great deal of thought to set it up properly. For this reason, I have released a free tool to analyze a web page and produce a 100% relevant Keywords meta-tag. This tool is free to use and is at:

Keyword Analyzer