The importance of meta tags - tips and guidelines
(first published 2001, most recent update November 2009)
If you aren't utilizing meta tags in your web site's pages, you may be missing out on valuable traffic and therefore paying customers!
Meta tags are the sections of your HTML that provide direction and information for search engine robots. To get the best rankings possible in some search engines, be sure to use meta tags in
every web page. Meta tags are not viewable to your visitors unless they examine the source code of your pages.
Meta tag myths
Unfortunately, many site owners abused meta tags and search engines
stopped using them as means of ranking sites for quite a while, but this
situation has now changed. If anyone tells you that the major engines
don't consider meta tags in their ranking calculation these days, this is definitely
Of the tags mentioned below, the most
important is the "description" tag.
The process of meta tag development is part science and part magic, and this
tutorial is only a primer.
Remember that Meta tags, like all other material on the Internet is bound by copyright (whether a copyright notice is
utilized or not). Be careful not to copy and paste another persons tags directly into your code without some heavy revising. People have been prosecuted for doing so.
Meta Tag statement example
Here's how a meta tag is structured
<META NAME="value" CONTENT="comments">
Be sure that your syntax is correct, otherwise your hours of work may be totally wasted (I speak from experience).
Meta tags reside between the <HEAD> and </HEAD> tags of your document.
The most important tags:-
Got Keywords? Free trial!
Tracker offers a database of over 300 million keywords, plus powerful
tools to help you target the right keywords & phrases for your site.
Need some tips on keywords and search engine optimization? Try
Keywords Meta Tag:
<META NAME="keywords" CONTENT="metatags,keywords,description,definition">
doesn't use the keywords tag when ranking pages. This was officially
announced in September 2009.
The contents of a keyword meta tag should be a comma separated list of relevant words for the search engines to index your page. These words should reflect your site's most important theme. Be careful not to repeat the same keyword too often - 3 occurrences is a safe benchmark and this includes word variations. Some engines
perceive heavy repetition to be "spamming the index".
Do not use words that are not relevant to your site, it
will be of no benefit and may work against you. Phrases such as
"meta tag definition," are considered one keyword; i.e a keyphrase.
When surfers enter queries into search engines, they will
utilize phrases to help narrow down results. So think about the phrases that you would use if you were looking for subject material such as your site has to offer.
Keep your most important keywords and phrases within the first 100 characters of this statement.
Capitalization is not so much an issue as most Internet users tend to use lowercase text when submitting queries, but it may be a consideration when it comes to locality names. This is a difficult aspect to judge as some search engines do not distinguish between uppercase and lowercase and it is easy to go over the 3 word
repetition guideline by using such variations.
Some search engine optimization professionals use spaces after commas between keywords and keyphrases, but others recommend against this practice as it takes up valuable space. As with a number of search engine
optimization topics, this is hotly debated so you may wish to experiment.
Wherever possible, try and use a different keyword statement on each page.
Recommended length of 500-750 characters.
to learn about search engine ranking and
optimization strategies or want to monitor the SEO health of
your web sites (and those of your competitors)? One of the most comprehensive set of online
search engine optimization tools around - SEOMOZ.
Description Meta Tag:
<META NAME="description" CONTENT="A human readable description of your site. This will appear in the search engine results query">
Make no mistake, the description meta tag is very important.
It won't get you number one rankings on its own, but it will certainly help
you get there.
As with the keywords meta tag, be careful not to repeat terms too often to avoid rankings being
penalized. This tag is not only used for search engine spiders, but also may be the text that appears as a result of an Internet user's search engine query. Here is the challenge - to create a description meta tag that not only is attractive to robots, but also to humans.
Keep your most important terms at the beginning of each description meta tag statement and try to have a different relevant statement for each page of your web site.
Using the same description meta tag statement on every page is worse
than having none at all. Also very important is to not have empty meta
description statements on your pages, like so:
<META NAME="description" CONTENT="">
A blank description meta tag may cause you some ranking
Recommended length of 170-250 characters
Content-Type Meta Tag:
<meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=charset=iso-8859-5">
Older browsers such as Netscape (and who uses that now?) used a META tag to automatically switch fonts, but most other browsers will ignore it. The default HTML charset is ISO-8859-1 (Western European 8-bit).
This Meta tag is usually automatically generated by your web development software package.
Robots Meta Tag
<META NAME="ROBOTS" CONTENT="NONE,NOINDEX,NOFOLLOW">
default = "ALL"
"NONE" = "NOINDEX, NOFOLLOW"
This tag is meant to help webmasters who cannot control the robots.txt file at their
sites, or as an additional tool for those that do. Note: as mentioned in a previous article, if you are using a robots.txt file, please ensure that it is not empty. Some
search engine spiders interpret this to mean not to index any of the site!
The robots meta tag provides a final attempt to keep their certain pages out of search engines and other web utilities to protect sensitive content,
or prevent "under construction" pages and other content you don't wish
to appear in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages).
INDEX means that robots are able to include this page in search engines.
FOLLOW means that robots are able to follow links (spidering).
A value of "NOINDEX" allows links from the page to be spidered, even though the page itself is not indexed. A value of "NOFOLLOW" allows the page to be indexed, but no links from the page are spidered. A value of "NONE" tells the robot to ignore the page.
There is an additional value that can be used in the "content"
part of the robots meta tag; "ALL". This just means the page
is available for indexing and as such, is rarely used as there is no
benefit in having it in your page code
There are a number of other meta tags that can be also implemented, but it is probably wiser to invest your time in
optimizing your description and keywords tags, with a focus on the
There is one exception -
the page title tag. While not really
classified as a meta tag, it's one of the most important tags in your
source code; so pay special attention to that.
Further learning resources:
Search engine marketing tutorials
Title Tag Guidelines
The importance of
Taming the Beast
Tutorials, web content, tools and software.
Web Marketing, Internet Development & Ecommerce Resources
Copyright information.... This article is free for reproduction but must be
reproduced in its entirety & this copyright statement must be included.
for free Internet marketing and web development articles, tutorials and
tools! Subscribe for free to our popular ecommerce/web design ezine!
Click here to view article index