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Keywords in Content vs. Meta Tags in Code

Recently one of our clients asked:
We have a question regarding the text on the home page.  I remember someone stating that the text should contain words that are key to our service for search engines to find it. Is this true? Second question is meta tags. If the home page or other pages have meta tags, is that the same as having those same words as text on the page.

Keywords on the page are most important
You are correct that the text on your home page should contain keywords you are targeting on the search engines. It's important though that you distribute those keywords in a way that makes sense for the user, not just for the search engines. This means you don't overuse a keyword on your page. Optimally your keyword should be integrated into the headings on your page, then peppered throughout the text. if you're unsure if you have used a keyword too much, you can use a keyword density tool to determine if it is over used.

Do you have Google Analytics installed on your current site? A statistical package like this would show you what keywords people are using to find you, which might help determine the best words to optimize for. If a lot of people are finding you on one of your most-used keywords, this will tell you that you've done a good job optimizing for it. If the keyword you're working on indexing is not on this list, you either haven't optimized enough, or it might not be a keyword people use to find a business like yours. Choosing the right keywords is an art unto itself, and should be approached with methodical focus.

Should we input meta tags?

Meta tags are a different story from keywords. There are different types of meta tags that you can incorporate into your site. The 'description' and 'keyword' meta tags are the ones that get the most attention because they are thought to be used in ranking your site among search results. 

Google has publicly stated that they no longer use keyword meta tags when ranking sites in search results. But they do sometimes use the other meta tags, such as description. So the keyword meta tags are not as valuable as text on the page, which means your time should be focused on weaving your keywords into your content, not in generating a long list of meta tags. 

You should always put in a description meta tag since this is the tagline that is shown to describe a page when Google brings up search results. This tagline should describe the content for a specific page, rather than a global description of the site. It is a good idea to weave in your keywords, but it still is more valuable to spend the time getting those keywords into your content.