editor on the verge

Online musings from the newsroom and beyond . . . by Yoni Greenbaum

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Why Meta Tags are important – even for you

December 3rd, 2007 · 1 Comment

Lately at Ottaway, we’ve been encouraging the online staff at our newspapers to complete the meta tags for the pages on their sites — specifically keywords and descriptions. Not generic keywords or descriptions mind you, but relevant and researched data. Simply put, we see incomplete tags as missed opportunities.

But as I spoke with friends at other newspapers around the country, I realized that this issue was not unique to our shop. So this past weekend, I decided to look at some of the area newspapers I read online to see if they have completed tags on their pages and here’s what I found:

northjersey.com – generic meta data repeated throughout most of the site.
nj.com – no meta data.
courierpostonline.com – incomplete generic meta data repeated throughout most of the site.
philly.com – generic meta data repeated throughout most of the site.
app.com – generic meta data repeated throughout most of the site.

Was I surprised? A bit. Why? In part because at least three of these newspapers are using a CMS that makes it easy to complete their meta tags. And at least one of the two remaining newspapers has a significant enough online staff to support this effort even if they are coding by hand.

So what explains this? Well, I’m sure if I asked the staff at these sites, they would tell me that they have so much going on that they don’t have the time to customize their meta tags. “At least” some would say “we’ve got something in those fields.” Others would try to argue that the tags aren’t important, that the “big” search engines don’t pay attention to keywords, or something like that.

Maybe this way of thinking is unique to newspapers, because it doesn’t take much time looking around the Internet to find that the overwhelming opinion is that complete meta tags are actually extremely important. For example, your description tag has a high value since it will show up in the search engine’s themselves.

Given the significance of these tags and urgent need to grow online audience, why overlook this opportunity? My advice, attack a few pages at a time, do your keyword research, and get these tags completed. You will see the difference.

If you want to see how we are handling it, feel free to visit the Times Herald-Record or the Mail Tribune. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask me.

Tags: Best Practices · Meta Tags · Ottaway

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