A lot of people seem to be equating "search engine optimization" to just merely editing META tags. But we know that SEO is far more than that and making sure a site is optimized for speed, usability and search engine presence is part of web design. That's true whether we like it or not.

Nevertheless, META tags are probably the most misunderstood and misused aspect of search engine optimization. These myths can mean the difference between search engine love and search engine loathing, and more often than not, these myths can help us determine which websites were built by professionals and which ones were scrambled upon by amateurs.

Myth #1 – "The Title tag is pretty much useless."

You can't be any more wrong with that statement. Out of all the tags you can use for your header, this is perhaps the most important (when used correctly, of course). How do you use it properly? Write your page title as you would your main content. Do it for your audience first, and then do it for search engines. The title tag is what appears on Google when your web page pops up as a result. You'd want it to grab attention and to initiate a click-through from the visitor.

You also need to consider your branding when specifying your title. Also, the maximum number of characters allowed for the Title tag varies with each search engine. To be on the safe side, keep your Page Title below 90 characters. Make sure it contains your domain name, a title telling the visitor what's on the page (e.g. article title, "About Me", short description of your home page). If you can, use one of your keywords.

Myth #2 – "Google doesn't make use of the Description tag so why should I waste my time on it?"

Google makes use of snippets of the actual content on each of your website's pages. When this is not available by any chance, Google makes use of what's specified in the Description meta tag.

Don't forget about other search engines. They make use of your Description too. As the old line goes, keep it short and sweet. Here are some qualities of a well-written Description:

  • It's compelling.
  • It describes your web page's goal or purpose in a concise manner.
  • It's like an anecdote for your page title.
  • It contains no more than 170 characters.

Myth #3 – "I'll need to add lots and lots of keywords."

Stuffing your Keyword tag with various keywords is different from "keyword-stuffing". Adding a kaleidoscope of keywords to your meta tag is what's called "spamdexing". According to many online sources, Google ignores this tag. Nevertheless, it's still good practice to make sure you have keywords specified there. Just don't stuff it like you would your turkey on Thanksgiving.

Keep your keyword simple and relevant to the content you're featuring on the page. As a best practice, use a maximum of three keywords per web page – one of which should be the main keyword for your niche.

As a best practice for web design, always use your meta tags to maximize your site's potential. But be careful when using it. Remember to adhere to a general character limit for each tag. Otherwise you'll end up with truncated meta tags which will be rendered useless. Make sure you use unique meta tags for each page on your website – especially when you're dealing with the Page Title. If you follow these simple, yet delicate steps, you can be assured search engines will love your website at first sight.