Meta tags are quite important to SEO but not the be all and end all.
However, search engines dont ignore meta tags as some may have you believe but they dont pay as much attention to them as they used to.
When putting your pages together though, you should always make sure that you include the TITLE, DESCRIPTION and KEYWORDS tag as default.
From my experience, there are some basic rules in order to rank for the phrases you want to rank for.
- The first words in the title tag should be the phrase you are trying to rank for. Try not to go over more than 6 words.
- The description tag should contain the phrase and be no longer than 100 characters long
- The first words in the keyword tag should contain the phrase you are targeting. Try to limit your keywords to only 6 to 10 words or phrases and seperate them with a comma.