Greatest wastes of time in SEO #2 – superfluous meta-tags

To contnue the theme of the first “wastes of time” post, here’s some more activities that still get thousands of pointless column-inches in SEO forums and people still spend countless hours on. Meta-tags are a prime source of mis-information simply because you can pretty much create anything you like and claim it’s useful. Some of the worst examples are the following:

The Revisit tag

<meta name="revisit-after" content="15 days">

Supposed to be an “instruction” to the spiders about how often to return. Totally useless. Was never implemented by the major engines and is never likely to be.

The Meta-Title tag

<meta name="title" content="">

Not to be confused with the Title tag. Not supported by any of the major search engines. Complete waste of SEO time.

The Index Follow tag

<meta content=”index, follow”>

The waste of time here is the time it takes to get it right. All pages will be treated as to be indexed and followed by default (assuming that your robots.txt file hasn’t already blocked the page) so what’s the point of including an instruction to do what the spider is going to do anyway? But I’ve seen so many mis-formed versions of this tag , some so bad that they could potentially disrupt the spidering action, that if you’re going to do it you need to spend time getting it right. Don’t bother – just take it out and get a smaller page as well.

The Dublin Core tags

These are a set of tags created originally for library classification (the name refers to Dublin Ohio, not Dublin Ireland). They are an extensive system of categorisation that is of considerable value in their correct context. You may decide that you want to have them if your site has the sort of context that merits their use, but be aware that they will take a lot of time to set up correctly. I’m definitely not saying they are useless, but as far as SEO is concerned the time taken to add them is wasted time because again none of the major search engines pay any attention to them. It could be argued that they should, but that’s another matter.

The Meta-Keywords tag

And now we move to that most talked about tag in amateur circles, the one that people spend hours debating and constructing. Just last week Matt Cutts had to reiterate what any remotely professional SEO knew years ago – that Google don’t use it for ranking calculations and haven’t for many years. And yet blogs and forums all over the world have reacted as if it was major news! Come on guys, where have you been for the last five years?

Once upon a time in a far distant galaxy this was a useful tag – not vital, but certainly useful. Last century it could get you a ranking almost on its own. I can remember even in 2002, when I was working for Bigmouthmedia, carefully arranging keywords in different orders so that they automatically created phrases within the keywords tag. By the following year it was already becoming a very secondary activity and it soon became pretty pointless. Worse, many sites would put ALL their keywords into every page instead of targeting them at the pages that were relevant to them. All that does it get you flagged as a potential spammer. In recent years only Yahoo has used the keywords tag in any way at all for ranking. I’ll sometimes stick a few main terms into the tag for a page, more for the sake of completeness or because a client expects it, but often I’ll leave it out altogether – there are far more important things to spend time on.

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