development takes a lot more insight and expertise than it used to. When I started the Law
Office Technology Homepage four years ago, all I thought about was laying out promotional
text, articles, a logo and my photo. When I recently created a new site for my coaching
services, I found out how much things had changed.
It wasn't just the new formatting
options and multimedia capabilities that make your head spin. The challenge is to encode a
website so search engines will retrieve it and users will figure out, at a glance, what
the site offers.
This is where HTML Meta tags come in. There are several Meta tags, but two are most
important: Description and Keywords.
The Description tag is easy to use. Its purpose is to provide the brief summary that
many search engines present when they display results.
The developer's task is to write a summary of up to 200 characters that conveys the
significance of the site. Here is what I wrote as a lead sentence (105 characters):
"TechManager Transformations turns technicians into effective managers using
one-to-one coaching and related services."
I added a different second sentence on each page so searches that retrieve multiple
pages will show the scope of the site.
The Keywords tag lets you define search terms that make your site more searchable. They
are somewhat like West key numbers that appear before the text of a case.
Unfortunately, while the Keywords tag is conceptually simple, using it well is
difficult. One problem is that the various search engines operate differently. The greater
problem is that many self-proclaimed Keywords experts provide advice that is incomplete or
just plain wrong.
I decided to do some investigation on my own. I went to supposedly authoritative
websites. Regrettably, they offered conflicting advice on Keywords.
So I switched from theoretical to empirical research. I used Metacrawler (www.metacrawler.com), a service that aggregates the
results from many well-known search engines, to research several topics. When I went to
the retrieved sites, I examined the html source code to try to understand how different
searches matched different Keywords.
Then I went back to the authoritative websites to see which one had explanations that
best fit my search results. The winner was Search Engine Watch (www.searchenginewatch.com).
Though fixed rules regarding Keywords are hard to come by, the following are ones that
I feel fairly comfortable passing along:
The total number of characters in Keywords should
be less than 1,024 - the AltaVista limit.
To the extent that some search engines are case
sensitive (it is unclear how many are), lowercase is preferable because most users do not
capitalize search terms.
Both single word and phrase Keywords are
If you would like to see how I dealt with the Keywords dilemma, stop by www.tmtransformations.com and look at the
source code (View|Source in Internet Explorer, View|Page Source in Netscape).
Dana Shultz is an Oakland-based certified
management consultant, speaker and coach specializing in office technology. He may be
reached by e-mail at email@example.com and on the
web at www.ds-a.com.