Optimize your Comment Tags

Comment tags look like this < !-- Insert comments here -- > and were originally used by webmasters to place text only visible when you viewed the source of the coding.

There were two main reasons for this, one was to relay information to other webmasters regarding the coding of the page such as copyright information, where to find original scripting or to locate certain items of interest. The second reason (and the reason that I use them) is for editing purposes. Placing a comment tag before and/or after coding helps you find it amongst the maze of your source code so that you donít spend hours searching. They also remind you of coded variables that you may have forgotten the meaning of.

For some unknown reason, search engines suddenly felt that comment tags may allow them to make searching more relevant. This might be true for webmaster tutorials where many of the relevant keywords are held in the comment tags but for the rest of the web this it is a bit useless. None-the-less, some major search engines still use comment tags as part of their ranking algorithm and as you canít get banned for using comment tags (which I would consider hidden text) there is no harm in using them Ö wisely.

As usual, dishonest webmasters have meant that comment tags are no longer given the weight they used to do. As soon as Altavista admitted to using comment tags in their algorithm, spam tags suddenly shot through the roof. Below are bad examples of comment tag use and, if caught, will most likely result in you being pushed down in ranking:

Although placing a comment tag prior to the < html > and < head > tags may not actually be seen as spam, they will also not be considered as part of the page relevance. Any coding prior the < html > tag is considered to be server related and therefore not generally specific to a page. So although this may not be considered spam, it won't make any difference to your ranking.

This is the typical spam comment tag that became popular after webmasters found out they were relevant. There is no reason that you would be placing a string of keywords in a comment tag other than to spam the search engines. I don't understand how people can still think that search engines haven't worked this out already?

Excessive comment tags also trigger spam filters. Remember, search engines are developed by people just like you and me (only richer and more educated) who will instantly recognise that there is no reason for half your coding to be filled with comment tags.

I suppose this is another article that can make the point that search engines are not blind software programs. They were, but everyday the human editors that build them tell their little pet spiders what is and isn't spam. The web crawlers today are intensely more sophisticated and can 'see' your page much better than before.

So, how do you write a non-spam comment tag and where do you place it? Firstly, place them in relevant places to start with such as before a banner or piece of javascript. This means that if a search engine editor actually visits your site after being tipped-off by a crawler, he will consider your comment tag relevant rather than placed only for ranking purposes. Also, your tag should be descriptive but include your main keywords/phrases. The best way to describe this is to show you so here are a couple of examples:

This type of comment can be placed before any piece of coding start such as javascript or server side includes. It basically looks like a natural piece of coding that webmasters used to use in the 'olden days' but 50% of the tag is relevant keywords. Completely innocent and effective, that's what we want.

As shown, placement can be between either the < head > tags or the < body > tags as long as they look relevant. As comment tags only marginally increase ranking I would only create comment tags that include your main keyphrases, don't include every keyword/phrase in comment tags as this will dilute the overall effect.

As a rule of thumb I would only place a maximum of five comment tags on a page as big as this one, if you don't have a lot of coding for any given page I would reduce this to three - you don't want comment tags to stand out. Try and keep the keyword density of your comment tags above 50% whilst still making them look relevant to the page and never include more than two keyphrases in a comment tag as this will push 'over-optimization' filters.

Got all that? Great! If in doubt, just avoid the whole issue and stick to optimizing everything else first. Comment tags should be more of an afterthought in optimization rather than the first thing you try.

Written by Michael Beverley
Director, Internet Heaven

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