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Meta tags used to be an important variable for high search engine rankings. Then the practice was abused by shady operators who used keyword spamming, invisible text, or irrelevant copy in their tags, causing search engines to lessen the importance of meta tags in their algorithms. However, there are three good reasons why it's still smart to create proper meta tags.

• Boost Rankings: Many search spiders still read meta tags to gather the data from your pages; thus, well written, relevant meta tags will boost your rankings in search engines like Alta Vista, Google, Lycos, and AllTheWeb.

• Drive Traffic: Most search engines and directories will use your title and description tag copy in the title link and site description shown in search results. When the copy in these tags contains strategic keywords in a compelling, relevant message, users will click to your site.

• Create Free Branding: Research by NPD Group shows that search engine listings provide better branding than banner ads. For this reason alone, it pays to create killer copy for your title and description tags.

Meta Tags Defined

Exactly what are meta tags? They are HTML elements optionally included within Web pages to provide information about the document (author, title, description, etc.). Meta tags aren't visible to users viewing a page unless they click the "View" menu and then "Source" (Internet Explorer), which opens a window displaying the meta tag copy.

In search engine optimization, the most important meta tags are the Title Tag, Meta Description Tag, and Meta Keywords Tag. Your site can be at a disadvantage for not displaying meta tags.

• If your Web page lacks a Title Tag, some search engine results will display the phrase "No Title" in the first line of your listing. That can limit your search engine traffic.

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Paul J. Bruemmer is founder of trademarkSEO ( Reach him at