Search engines test the html text in a web page against the meta tags in the web coding, hoping for a match. The page is ranked according to keyword matches between the content and the meta tags. If there is no match, the page may not rank at all.
How often do you view websites that have "Welcome" at the top of the browser window on the site's home page? This title is displayed from the meta title tag in the coding.
"Welcome" is a lost opportunity where search engines are considered, since it gives no unique information about the website. Check out the other pages of the site and you will mostly likely find "About Us," "Contact Us," and "Site Map." Again, these are generic and do not help search engines distiguish between one website and another. Choose "View - Source" (or similar) from the browser menu and check out the actual meta tag coding. The meta title will look something like this:
Next look for a meta description and meta keywords.
<meta name="description" content="Welcome to my website. Hope you enjoy it!" />
<meta name="keywords" content="shoes, big shoes, large shoes, blue shoes, red shoes, childrens shoes, adult shoes, boys shoes, girls shoes, mens shoes, womens shoes" />
Too many shoes! Don't you think?
Now let's look at a website where the meta tags are specific and coordinate with the content on the page. GoneSeaKayaking.com is a website for kayaking enthusiast which features kayaking articles, events, and resources. Notice the home page title tag includes the keywords "Sea," "Kayaking," and "Paddling," which are then repeated in the meta description and the meta keywords. If you visit the GoneSeaKayaking.com home page you will find these keywords in the form of <h1> heading tags and again in the general text.
<title>Sea Kayaking Paddling - GoneSeaKayaking.com</title>
<meta name="description" content="GoneSeaKayaking.com: A virtual community of kayakers paddling the world's waterways one stroke at a time. Discover sea kayaking - when, where, and how... And tell everyone you have Gone Sea Kayaking!" />
<meta name="keywords" content="kayaking, sea kayaking, paddling" />
If all the homes on your street had "Welcome" signs in the yard and you told your guests to look for the "Welcome" sign, how would they know which home was yours? You would need to give them more information i.e the street address, the color of the home, etc. Google, yahoo, and msn search engine crawlers are looking for more information so they can distinguish your website from your neighbor's. When they visit GoneSeaKayaking.com, it is easy for them to match the meta tag keywords with the content and understand that the site is about "Kayaking" and more specifically "Sea Kayaking."
What are your meta tags telling your guests?