Wednesday, September 10, 2003

What are Meta Tags?

What are Meta Tags?


The common question out on the SEO circuit is Meta tags or no Meta tags. Some argue that meta tags are useless. But are they really useless? The answer is no. In fact, back in the golden days of SEO (1990's) meta tags were the only way any website would have ever been seen. If you wanted your website to show up on MSN, Yahoo, Excite, Lycos, or any other popular search engine at the time, if you didn't have the proper meta tags, then your website was virtually hidden from the world.

As search engines became the more popular way to find what you were looking for on the internet, and the internet itself began to grow into this immense “pot of knowledge”, and resources, search engines had to find a way to find all of those websites available on the internet and lump them in an organized easy to access source for users to find what they need. By typing in a word or phrase that describes what you were looking for, the more results you found, the more you would return to that search engine in order to find what you were looking for.

So, the search engines found a way to find websites, and pull the keywords from those websites if there were no meta tags available. The more a word or phrase was found within the content of a website, the higher a website would show up for that word or phrase. The more another site would have the same word, the higher that site would appear, and so on.

Along came Google, with their page ranking system which changed the direction of SEO completely. Search engine optimizers began focusing on getting links to their sites. So much so, that they forgot about the meta tags altogether. Some SEO individuals are so obessesed with the google page ranking system, and obtaining links to their sites that they get involved with links farms, and cross linking, which inevitably will get a website banned from Google or Yahoo.


So, what happened to the meta tags?


They are still there, and are as important as the day they were ever thought up.

In fact, Google and Yahoo both place emphasis on how important it is to have proper meta tags. Yahoo even lists out that proper meta tags are important when optimizing a website, and details how to create proper meta tags (click here to read more). Does this mean that your site won't be seen if you don't have meta tags? Not necessarily. But, your site won't be highlighted for the words, or phrases, that you would like the people that search those phrases to find you. In fact, you will find that some phrases are so popular they are searched several hundred, if not several thousands of times a day.

So, by choosing the right keywords, and properly placing them in your meta tags, and efficiently wording your description, you will find that not only will you show up ahead of your competition for the words that are getting searched, but that the one who searched that phrase might be lured to your link in the results more so than your competition because of your title, and meta tag description.

Meta tags should be placed in the head of the HTML document, between the <HEAD> and </HEAD> tags.

Expires


The date and time after which the document should be considered expired - such as a news article, or marketing promotional landing page.

Controls cacheing as web robots may delete expired documents from a search engine, or schedule a revisit.

Dates must be given in GMT. E.g. format(META tag):

<META HTTP-EQUIV="expires" CONTENT="Wed, 26 Feb 1997 08:21:57 GMT">
or (HTTP header):




Expires: Wed, 26 Feb 1997 08:21:57 GMT

Pragma


Controls cacheing - the value must be "no-cache".
<META value="no-cache" >


Content-Type




The meta content type may be extended to give the character set.
<META HTTP-EQUIV="Content-Type" CONTENT="text/html; charset=ISO-2022-JP">

It is recommended to use this tag failure to do so may cause display problems.

Content-Script-Type


i.e.
<META HTTP-EQUIV="Content-Script-Type" CONTENT="text/javascript">




Specifies the default scripting language in a document.

Content-Style-Type


i.e.
<META HTTP-EQUIV="Content-Style-Type" CONTENT="text/css">



Specifies the default style sheet language for a document.


Default-Style



Set the document's preferred style sheet, taken from a stylesheet specified elsewehere e.g. in a LINK element.



Content-Language



Used to set the natural language of the document. Used
by robots to categorize by language. The corresponding Accept-Language
header (sent by a browser) causes a server to select an appropriate
natural language document.
i.e.
<META HTTP-EQUIV="Content-Language" CONTENT="en-US">



or (HTTP header)

Content-language: en-US

languages are specified as the pair (language-dialect); here, English United States

Set-Cookie



Sets a "cookie" along with a value with an expiry date are
considered "permanent" and will be saved to disk on exit.

i.e.
<META HTTP-EQUIV="Set-Cookie" CONTENT="cookievalue=xxx;expires=Friday, 31-Dec-09 23:59:59 GMT; path=/">




PICS-Label



Platform-Independant Content rating scheme. Typically used to
setva document's rating in terms of adult content (sex, violence, etc.)
although the scheme is very flexible and may be used for other purposes.

Cache-Control



Specifies the action of cache agents. Possible values:

  • Public - may be cached in public shared caches
  • Private - may only be cached in private cache
  • no-cache - may not be cached
  • no-store - may be cached but not archived


Robots



Controls web robots on a per-page basis.
i.e.
<META NAME="ROBOTS" CONTENT="NOINDEX,FOLLOW">

Robots may spider this page but not index it.



Most search bots support:


  • NOINDEX prevents anything on the page from being indexed and ranked

  • NOFOLLOW prevents the crawler from following the links on the page and indexing the linked pages

  • NOIMAGEINDEX prevents the images on the page from being indexed but the text on the page can still be indexed

  • NOARCHIVE extension to request that the search engine not cache the pages content



Description



A short, plain language description of the document. Used by search
engines to describe your document. Particularly important if
your document has very little text, is a frameset, or has extensive scripts
at the top.
i.e.
<META NAME="description" CONTENT="describe your website or page here">


Keywords




Keywords used by search engines to index your document in addition to
words from the title and document body. Typically used for synonyms
and alternates of title words.
i.e.
<META NAME="keywords" CONTENT="oranges, lemons, limes">


Author



Typically the author's name.
i.e.

<META NAME="author" CONTENT="Your Name">


Copyright



Typically a copyright date a company or website name
i.e.
<META NAME="copyright" CONTENT="2009 company name">




Google Specific


tags specific to Google onle
i.e.
<META NAME="googlebot" CONTENT="noarchive">


  • googlebot: noarchive - do not allow google to display cached content


  • googlebot: nosnippet - do not allow google to display excerpt or cached content


  • googlebot: noindex - similar to the robots meta element

  • googlebot: nofollow