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Metadata: Seven Tips for Writing Better Keywords

by Gerry McGovern  |  
March 9, 2004
  |  11,097 views

The shift in how search engines treat keywords is significant. They tend to ignore the keyword meta tag and rather look for keywords in the actual page content.

This means that you need to figure out your keywords before you write any content. Then, you include them throughout your content, particularly in headings and summaries.

Metadata is perhaps the most misunderstood and disliked aspect of running a Web site. Adding keywords to content is generally seen as a menial task that should be automated if possible.

In fact, getting your keywords right is crucial to the success of your content.

It doesn't make a lot of sense to add keywords to content after it is written. It has resulted in some bad practices, including the following:

  • Authors could be sloppy in their writing. They didn't have to worry about writing clearly. They—or someone else—could afterward add keywords that would highlight the key themes.

  • Web site owners could play tricks with keyword meta tags.


These tags are fed to the search engines and are not seen by someone looking at the page. Thus, some tricksters figured, why not place popular—but irrelevant—keywords into these tags and thus attract more traffic? For this reason, most search engines now ignore keyword meta tags.

People search with their own keywords. When they scan a page of search results, they are looking for a match. Should they decide to come to your page, they are looking for an even greater match.

So, if they search for The Passion of the Christ, they are happiest when they see that exact phrase in the actual content.


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Gerry McGovern (gerry@gerrymcgovern.com) is a content management consultant and author. His latest book is The Stranger's Long Neck: How to Deliver What Your Customers Really Want Online, which teaches unique techniques for identifying and measuring the performance of customers' top tasks.

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