What Are META Tags?
META tags are a powerful but often poorly
understand part of HTML. The tag was
created to allow webmasters to specify
important "meta data" about their document.
What's meta data? Literally, it's data
about data. A META tag contains information
about your overall Web page that's
important for indexing, archiving, or
otherwise managing the page. Think of it as
the librarian's favorite tag.
By far the most frequent use of META tags
is to help search engines index your page.
By using a META tag with keywords or a
document description, you can dramatically
boost your ranking in the major search
If your site doesn't contain META tags, you
aren't ready to submit it to search
engines! Most search engines use META tags
as one component of their ranking formulas.
The tags can increase your search engine
rank and display important site information
on the search results page.
Although only a few META tags directly
relate to site promotion, you can use the
others to provide valuable information
about your Web page content.
META Tags Describe Your Content
The term META is from metadata, which means
data about other data. Search engines use
META tags to help determine the content and
value of your Web page content.
A META tag is an optional line of HTML code
in the HEAD section of your document. The
tag's actual content provides descriptive
information about your site, but isn't
displayed by the browser.
HTML specifications don't define the
function of META tags, only their format.
Consequently, there are a number of
different META tags that describe
everything from site content to the site
author to a page rating. Different
browsers recognize different META tags.
META Tag Format
All META tags must contain a CONTENT
attribute and either the NAME or HTTP-EQUIV
- Content: A text string that
provides the value information for the
META tag. Always enclose the text
string in quotes.
- Name: Defines the kind of
META tag. Always enclose the NAME
value in quotes. Usually contains
information for the browser to
- HTTP-EQUIV: Tells the
server to include the name and value
pair in the MIME document header passed
to the Web browser. Use it to control
or direct the actions of the
A META tag example using the NAME
<META NAME="description"CONTENT="Pet supplies
for geriatric cats and dogs delivered to your
home. Learn about the special needs of older
cats and dogs.">
A META tag example using the HTTP-EQUIV
attribute. This tells the browser to
reload the page every 10 seconds.
<META HTTP-EQUIV="refresh" CONTENT="10">
You don't need to supply a closing META
Developing META tags is easy with
Master's Touch META
Tag Generator tool. META Tag Generator
will write META and TITLE tags for your
to cut and paste on your site web pages.
How Search Engines Use META Tags
Some search engines use META tag data to
provide clearer, more concise results for
searchers. Description and Keywords are
the two most important META attributes to
search engines. Make sure you have these
on your pages before you submit
DESCRIPTION: Most search engines
display the content of the description tag
as the site description on the search
results page. This brief description of
your site's content gives the searcher
important information they need to
determine your site's value. If there's no
META description to display, most search
engines pull the first few lines of text
from the site's content and display it on
the results page.
Here's how a site that uses a META
description attribute might appear on the
supplies online with free shipping!
Specializing in pet food and pet care
products for older cats and
While a site with no description attribute
might have its navigation menu displayed if
that menu is at the top of the page:
Membership | About Us | Meet The Staff |
Products | Welcome to the site, we pride
ourselves on offering the most complete
Put your most important information early
in the description since most search
engines cut off the display after about 200
NAME="keywords" to list all the
keywords you want to associate with your
site. Your keywords are the search terms
you expect people to use to locate your
site. Separate each keyword and keyword
phrase with commas and limit the total size
to about 256 characters.
A pet supplies retailer might select some
of the following keywords: cat food, dog
food, pet supplies, pet care, pet food. If
they specialize in a certain area (like
supplies for older pets), then they might
use more targeted keywords that would
attract a particular audience segment.
META keyword tags are especially useful on
graphic-heavy sites with little text
content. Use the keywords in the META tags
in your ALT image description for a boost
in some search engines. Refer to our Simple Rules
on Keyword Selection for instructions about
selecting the right keywords for your site.
Each search engine algorithm evaluates META
tags differently and a few don't consider
them at all when ranking sites. But most
search engines do use META tags, so
description and keyword tags will increase
your site's ranking if you use them
properly. Search engines that don't use
META tags won't penalize you.
Here's a partial list of who uses META
Confused by all this? Try our META Tags Generator to make META and Title Tags
for your web pages. Its FREE and user freindly!
Other META Tags
Keyword and Description META tags usually
receive the most notice, but there are
other useful META tags not directly related
to site promotion.
|| Use this
attribute to refresh the page
and/or to redirect
the user after a certain period of
|| The copyright
date of the page.
|| The author's
name and any other information
(email address, state, etc)
|| Tells search
engines when the page will be out
of date. For instance, if you have
a page describing a conference set
for April 2001, you might set the
page expiration date to May
|| Use this META
tag to rate your page much like
movies and TV shows are rated. As
more parents use filtering
software, many may block access to
"unrated" sites. In the
future, a rating META tag may be
necessary to increase your site's
No "Metajacking" Allowed
In recent years, there have been several
high-profile legal battles over
"metajacking": the use of
copyrighted names and slogans in META tags.
Some webmasters try to increase traffic by
using their competitors' names and company
products as META keywords. This scheme to
steal (or hijack) traffic from competitors'
sites is both unethical and illegal.
The basic issue is whether you're using
META tags to mislead or for a legitimate
reason. Those who use the terms in a
deceptive manner almost always lose court
fights. However, if you can prove a
legitimate reason to use those names,
you're probably ok.
For instance, if you operate an online
store that sells movie memorabilia, then
you could legitimately include the names of
popular actors, movie titles, etc.
However, if you try to pull traffic to your
automotive products Web site by listing
"Sean Connery" multiple times as
a keyword, expect to hear from an attorney
if your subterfuge is discovered.
Don't Submit Without Them!
No search engine strategy will immediately
propel your site to the top of the rankings
because you sometimes have to wait weeks or
months before the spiders visit. After the
first visit, they may not return for a long
time, so be sure your site is ready before
you submit it to search engines.
If you haven't added META tags to your Web
pages, you aren't ready to submit your
site! Use our FREE META Tag Generator
to help you optimize your pages for search
META tags provide important, useful
information about your site. They are one
of the easiest ways to give your site a
boost with some search engines. META tags
with informative, well-written descriptions
and targeted keywords should be an integral
part of your promotional strategy.