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When writing Joomla articles I tend to leave out the meta information under publishing options, but should I be including it and if so, what benefit (if any) will I notice as regards page ranking?

I have been reading various articles online about how Google does not use the keywords meta tag in web ranking due to misuse etc. There's a video explaining this from a Google developer. I'm not sure about other search engines like Yahoo and Bing.

I was under the impression that when Google scans your site for information, it no longer pulls out the keyword phrases it thinks are relevant and pairs them to user queries. Instead, there’s an intermediary step. Google interprets the data on your website, and begins to form its own conclusions about your site. (- source)

So does this mean that I don't necessarily have to fill in the meta information for each article on my website? Granted this wouldn't take long if content was sparse, but on a content heavy website this would be quite time consuming, especially if the content has already been written over a number of months.

I understand that the Meta Descriptions are probably more use, but according to the Google blog they only;

sometimes use the "description" meta tag as the text for our search results snippets...

Perhaps to be sure, should I should use a third party extension to generate the meta data for me?

Does the meta information effect my search results within Joomla?

This is more of a general question as opposed to an issue or problem. Any input or advice is appreciated.

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I will focus only on the question itself, about the 2 meta tags and won't expand on what else would make a website SE Friendlier.

From the 2 meta tags in question, the one that you should really care and pay attention is the meta description. Although not powerful as it used to be, meta description still has its importance, Google does use it, and it's a good place to unleash your creativity, by writing some human-readable and valued information about what each page's content is.

Keep in mind, that in many cases, this meta description will be used as the text snippet shown in the search results. So, the more powerful and quality this description is, the more chances a searcher that will read it, will click the link to your page. Which eventually can be another factor to improve your rankings, as the more and more clicks you get in SERPs, will make Engines consider your pages as more relevant to what users are searching and will push them higher.

Another consideration, is that meta descriptions must be unique and not being repeated (same meta descriptions) among pages.

Concluding:
Meta Description is something you could and should invest your time and efforts, especially for the main and most important pages of your site, with unique, quality text including your desired keywords, written in a human readable way.

There are plugins that can do the auto-fill for you, using part of the the intro/full-text, so it's something you can have for all those articles that you don't want to spend much of your energy.

As for the meta keywords, although they don't have any real benefit for Google (as Google says), I personally have a plugin like the above to fill in 5-10 keywords extracted from the article's content and there are times that I still manually select and write some of the most important keywords of each page on those most important pages. It's not that I will spend much effort, but doing things with care and attention everywhere possible, creates a more quality result as whole. Also, even the fact that Google may not count keywords, there can be engines out there that are still using them.

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There are specific tags that Google understands and does use - these are documented on the google website here:

-- https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/79812?hl=en

[The description] tag provides a short description of the page. In some situations this description is used as a part of the snippet shown in the search results.

So the other answer was wrong - google clearly state they use the description tag.

Furthermore if you read this page: https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/35624?rd=1 you will see that there is a whole section entitled "Create good meta descriptions"

This is not an exclusive list of available meta tags, and you should feel free to use unlisted meta tags if they are important to your site. Just remember that Google will ignore meta tags it doesn't know.

  • I'm not sure which answer you were referring to, maybe you misread or misunderstood the answers, as there were no answers which state that Google doesn't use meta descriptions. – garth Dec 3 '15 at 5:36
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    FFrewin states clearly "Although not powerful as it used to be, meta description still has its importance, Google does use it," in his answer - that is what I refer to. – Phil Taylor Dec 5 '15 at 15:07
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    Furthermore "garth" states "No major search engines use the meta keywords or categories at all" - this again is incorrect information. – Phil Taylor Dec 5 '15 at 17:12
  • Google's use of the meta keyword and category tags was deprecated years ago, this was made clear at the time by Google's search press rep Matt Cutts at the time. No reputable SEO experts have been using them for years. Please show me from Google docs where they clearly state that they use reference meta keyword or meta categories as factors in their algorithm and I'm happy to stand corrected. Seems to me that you are simply quoting the basic Google docs, assuming you are then qualified to "shoot from the hip". – garth Dec 6 '15 at 4:45
  • Furthermore what you insinuated was that someone had said meta categories aren't important or used by Google. No-one said that - you may disagree with @FFrewin's use of "although as not as powerful as it used to be" but from your comments, sounds like you weren't around at the time he was relating to anyway. – garth Dec 6 '15 at 4:58
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If you're on a content heavy site (continuously updating), then filling in the meta data for each article wouldn't not be as important, as the search engines will use the global meta data, however if you do have time to fill them fields in, I'd recommend doing so.

The meta data used in each article can be helpful though, because if a search engine detects more detailed information about the specific page, it's more likely to use this, rather than a generic description of your site.

I'll give you an example:

Let's say you have a Joomla Tutorial website. You include some meta keywords such, for example:

  • joomla
  • tutorials
  • css
  • html
  • mvc

You then set your meta description to something like:

In-depth Joomla tutorials for for skill sets

You then create a tutorial article that shows users how to create a "hello world" module.

If you specify the meta data for this article, users are more likely to find a link to this tutorial if they type in Google:

How to create a blank Joomla module?

Else, they'll most likely provide links for JED, Joomla Docs, and other sites

  • Lodder, meta descriptions are essential for SEO and should be unique - like meta titles - one for each page. Therefore it's not good to have the same single generic meta description used in more than 1 of your pages. – FFrewin Dec 1 '15 at 20:52
  • @FFrewin I don't think Lodder is diminishing the importance of a description, and maybe my understanding of Lodder's reference to 'global meta data' is different from yours, but I don't think Lodder was advocating the use of a generic description across multiple pages or the site, but is referring to the process Google uses to provide contextual descriptions from text on the page based on the keyword search used. This can be more useful for a searcher than a defined meta description. – garth Dec 2 '15 at 2:38
  • @garth - my second reading of Lodder's answer this morning makes me agree with your comment. – FFrewin Dec 2 '15 at 6:08
  • Yeah, I had to read it a couple of times to understand what @Lodder was getting at as well :-) – garth Dec 2 '15 at 7:23
  • @FFrewin - yeah, you even made me re-read it :D – Lodder Dec 2 '15 at 8:31
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Another reason for using meta descriptions that hasn't been mentioned is it's importance for social sharing.

When sharing your content on social media like Facebook, the meta description will be used for the summary. If no meta description is included, Facebook will use a more or less random part of your text.

Note that Open Graph tags like <meta property="og:description" content="Description Here" /> will override the regular meta description tag (<meta name="description" content="Description Here" />) if present, but that's a different question...

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No major search engines use the meta keywords or categories at all. Don't waste your time. We moved on from these sort of things years and years ago.

Yes, meta descriptions are important as search engines use them for the intro text for each page. If there is no meta description search engines will use the first paragraph to populate the description. However major search engines handle descriptions in a number of ways which can increase click-throughs on your links if you know how to utilise it.

If your page covers a range of aspects about a topic, and you ensure that you include well ranking search terms in each paragraph, then this can be helpful in providing the search engines with a more targeted description to offer their viewers. A search engine will highlight the text surrounding the search keyword to create a description that it displays to the searcher. This increases the relevancy, and the likelihood of your link being clicked on.

So "to write" or "not to write" a description for each page? In general if your 25 words doesn't describe what the page is about then I'd suggest that it is worth taking the time to write a clear meta description. When I am optimising page with largely static text I create a succinct description of what that page covers because the first paragraph can be less succinct and contain more detail than needed in the description.

The clearer they are about what the content of the page is, the better for the user, and the search engines will be your friend.

Also include opengraph meta information so that social shares will link your data correctly with the correct image and description.

But while important, a meta description isn't much use if it is never seen. Getting your links to rank well usually requires a lot more than writing a good title and description.

Quality SEO is all about quality unique content, good site structure and design, and a first class user experience. This means that you develop your site for your intended audience, you title your pages succinctly and precisely, you lay it out so it is easy to read and to interact with (ie. judicious use of headings and paragraphs) and it should be coded efficiently (in text) without using tricks or gimmicks without hidden links or old black hat techniques. Good copy writing is a major key to good search engine positioning, and good customer conversion. If you're going to spend money on SEO - this is the first place to spend it.

Work on your social integration and social media strategy to create a quality social presence (one that is value and relevant to your audience) and engage your audience regularly.

Pay particular attention to on-page semantics (tagging images, using rel tags and link descriptions).

And optimise your site performance. Loading speed is very important for achieving quality positioning in search engines, especially for mobile delivery. Reduce images to the appropriate sizes, compress them to the smallest size without losing visual quality. Remove duplicate scripts, keep your stylesheets tidy and pared down, and minimise these files. Use compression and caching and where possible use offsite repository for files - if your site is image heavy, use a CDN. And where possible, setup a mobile version of your site which is tailored to mobile interaction, and which serves images sized and optimised for mobile delivery, and is minimised for mobile.

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