Meta-tags are small bits of code that are integrated into a web site's source code.
These small bits of code present a summary of what the web site is about to the search engine robots that crawl its content.
But in order to understand how this even benefits you, you must understand how and why search engines crawl a website. Search engines send out robots all over the Internet to search the meta-tags and content of websites to place the websites within the right categories in their directories.
To show how important it is that your website is listed in the right index, Internet surfers type a certain keyword into a search engine search box when they are looking for something. For instance, someone may be searching for an attorney in New York. The keywords used would be "New York attorney" or "attorney in New York."
By making sure the relevant keywords are present in the meta-tags and in the text of the website, the search engine robots automatically know to ensure that the website will be found amongst other websites using the same keyword phrase. You do, however, want to be the first website found, which emphasizes the need for meta-tags in a website's code.
So what does a website meta-tag contain?
The website meta-tag contains the title of the website and should contain at least one keyword. You don't want to use too many keywords in the meta-title because this could be considered spamming and can result in the search engine blacklisting your website. The same rule applies to when you integrate relevant keywords into your website's content.
The next part is your meta-description. The meta-description explains your web page. The content is described, but should be done in approximately 200-250 characters and no more.
The last element is the meta-keywords list. The meta-keywords list contains a list of keywords relevant to your niche. You can add them if you like, but they are no longer mandatory like they once were. The content on the website also contains relevant keywords and the search engine robots will find those keywords.
As for how you find the keywords, it is important that you analyze which keywords are relevant to your niche. You can use such tools as Google's keyword tool and also search the sites of your competitors and see which keywords are pushing them to the top of search engine results.
Keep in mind, however, that meta-tags are simply the bridge to Internet marketing success. You do need to market the website through blogging, social networking websites, and by using such tools as pay-per-click advertising. You want to have as many incoming links as possible so that the search engines have as many routes as possible to index your website.
When you utilize meta-tags in addition to other marketing activities for your website, you are doing what you can to make sure you are closer to the front page of search engine results, if not on the front page. When you achieve a high ranking, your website is the website that individuals will visit before they visit the ones below you.