What are Meta tags? They are information inserted into the “head” area of your web pages. Apart from the title tag, data in the head area of your web pages is not seen by humans viewing your pages in browsers. Information in this area is used to communicate technical information for the search engines, robots and browser software.
Meta tags, can tell a browser what “character set” to use or what geographic location the webpage is designed to be viewed in.
THE TITLE TAG
The HTML title tag isn’t really a Meta tag, but it’s commonly referred to when talking about them. Whatever text you write in the title tag (between <TITLE> and </TITLE> ) will appear in the header bar of someone’s browser when they view the page.
Or an example, the title tag of this page is:
Meta Tags and how to use them
Check out the title bar on your browser, these words should also appear there. The title tag is also used as the words to describe your page when someone adds it to their “Favourites’” or “Bookmarks” lists.
But what about search engines? The title tag is incredibly important for them. The text you use in the title tag is one of the most important factors in how a search engine may decide to rank your web page. As well as this, the big search engines use the text of your title tag as the heading on the listing for your page within their results.
If you don’t have any text within the title then the full domain name will appear in the title of the page. For an example of this, click on this link and check out the wording at the top.
Therefore it is very important to think about what you would like your page to be found for by people using search engines, and then use these keywords in your title tag in a short, descriptive sentence. Up to 70 characters for Google and 75 for Bing
That text will then be used as your title the search engines, as well as the title in bookmarks and in the browser title.
THE META DESCRIPTION TAG
The meta description tag allows you to influence the description of your page in the crawlers that support the tag
The description meta tag syntax is the same as the title, and the affects are similar.
For this page, the description meta is
<meta name="description" content="Meta tags and how to use them" />
The text written in the content=” “ section is what will be used as a description on the various search engines. This text is also known as the “snippet” (normally, 200 to 250 characters will be indexed, but only around 150 characters will be displayed).
Now this is where things become interesting. Not all search engines will use this META, Bing do, but the important one, Google, doesn’t. Google ignores the Meta description tag and will generate its own description for the page.
The description snippet that Google picks to show in search results will be made up of various bits of text from the page, which include the search terms. If the page meta description fits exactly the search terms, then it may be used as is.
The description meta tag is not used for indexing and ranking. It’s just for the benefit of the visitor.
Thus it can be useful to use the meta description tag for your pages, as it gives you some degree of control with various search engines.
THE META KEYWORDS TAG
I won’t say much here. That’s because most search engines now ignore this Meta Tag.
This meta is still used by Yahoo, but as Yahoo is now getting the results from Bing, this really doesn’t matter.
This meta was abused so much by webmasters that any value it may have had was destroyed.
Many people now see this as a tag to help them when they are designing their site, to show them at a glance what the focus of a page is supposed to be and to help them to stick to it when they are updating content etc.
THE META ROBOTS TAG
One other important meta tag is the robots tag. This lets you specify that a particular page should NOT be indexed by a search engine. To keep spiders out, simply add this text between your head tags on each page you don’t want indexed. The format is shown on this page
You do NOT need to use variations of the meta robots tag to help your pages get indexed. By default, a crawler will try to index all your web pages and will try to follow links from one page to another.
Most major search engines support the meta robots tag. However, the robots.txt convention of blocking indexing is far more efficient, as you don’t need to add tags to each and every page. See the Search Engines Features page for more about the robots.txt file. If you use do a robots.txt file to block indexing, there is no need to also use meta robots tags.
SO IN CONCLUSION
This is the list of meta tags you will find important:
Meta Title: Not actually a Meta, but important to real human viewers. Acts as a tile to your page in the search engines.
Meta Robots: This tag has full search engine support, but you only need it if you DO NOT want your pages indexed.
Meta Description: This tag has much support, and it is well worth using. Just not on Google
Meta Keywords: Don’t waste your time with this.
Any other Meta Tag: Any other meta tag you see is ignored by the major search engines.