The reading level for this article is Novice
Meta tags are often both incorrected used and misunderstood on the Internet today. What are meta tags? A meta tag is a snippet of code located between the <HEAD> </HEAD> tags in an HTML document. Translated, “meta” is short for “metainformation”. However, not all meta tags are informational tags.
They were first created to “make sense” of the growing number of web pages on the Internet in the mid-90s. But in the late 90s something happened. Unethical webmasters, most notably, those who ran adult websites, began abusing the Keyword Meta Tag to drive traffic to their sites. They would place keywords unrelated to their site in their meta tags which caused pornographic websites to appear in the search results for unrelated topics like “Smithsonian”. One by one, the major engines started discontinuing using meta tags as part of their main criteria. For those that still used it, the emphasis was reduced.
The use of Spamming Techniques in the Keyword Meta Tag opened the door for Google to take the entire market by storm. By ignoring meta tags in general, Google produced results that were more pure. Fueling Google’s popularity.
There are search engines on the Internet that still read meta tags in some way, and there is much confusion relating to them. This document will explain everything you wanted to know about meta tags. It also breaks down every meta tag that we know about and gives our recommendation on the use of the tags on your site (where appropriate).
1. <META HTTP-EQUIV=”name” CONTENT=”content”>
2. <META NAME=”name” CONTENT=”content”>
Follow the links to read about each Meta Tag below:
Meta Content Language
Meta Content Script Type
Meta Content Style Type
Meta Content Type
Meta MS Smart Tags
Meta Resource Type
Meta Revisit After
Meta Set Cookie
Meta Abstract: Used primarily with academic papers. Basically, this tag is for a summary of the description. Normally, the content will be 10 words or less.
Example: <META NAME=”Abstract” CONTENT=”Short description of page”>
Recommendation: Will not assist you with the major search engines. However, if your content is highly specialized, search engines in your field of expertise could index your site properly if this tag is present.
Meta Author: Typically the author’s name of who created the document. This tag is not supported by the major search engines. If you use this tag, it is recommended to use both the author’s name and email address for contact purposes. Note that this will increase the amount of Spam email your receive.
Example: <META NAME=”Author” CONTENT=”George Costanza, firstname.lastname@example.org”>
Recommendation: This tag is optional. If you have many individuals contributing to the content of your site, we recommend that you use this tag.
Meta Content Language: May be used to declare the natural language of the document. May be used by robots to categorize by language.
Example: <META HTTP-EQUIV=”Content-Language” CONTENT=”en-GB”>
Recommendation: Do not use.
Meta Content Script Type: Specifies the default scripting language in a document.
Recommendation: Do not use. Search engines do not need this tag to detect scripts, they can do so on their own.
Meta Content Style Type: Specifies the default style sheet language for a document.
Example: <META HTTP-EQUIV=”Content-Style-Type” CONTENT=”text/css”>
Recommendation: Do not use. Search engines do not need to know the style sheet.
Meta Content Type: As a META tag, it causes Netscape Navigator to load the appropriate charset before displaying the page. It is now recommended to always use this tag if you do not make a DTD declaration above the Header. Failure to do so may cause display problems where, for instance, the document uses UTF-8 punctuation characters but is displayed in ISO or ASCII charsets.
Example: <META HTTP-EQUIV=”Content-Type” CONTENT=”text/html; charset=ISO-2022-JP”>
Recommendation: Do not use. Instead, use the DTD declaration format from the World Wide Web Consortium.
Meta Copyright: Typically an unqualified copyright statement. You can include copyright, trademarks, patents, or other information here pertaining to your intellectual property.
Example: <META NAME=”Copyright” CONTENT=”© 2003″>
Recommendation: Do not use. This tag will not protect your site’s content or your intellectual property. Consult your attorney to ensure you are protected properly.
Meta Description: A short, plain language description of the document, usually 20-25 words or less. Search engines that support this tag will use the information to publish on their search results page, normally below the Title of your site. This tag is particularly important if your document has very little text, is a frameset, or has extensive scripts at the top.
Example: <META NAME=”description” CONTENT=”Citrus fruit wholesaler.”>
Recommendation: Make your meta description as compelling as you can, as your description often is the difference between getting your listing clicked on in the search results or your competitor’s site.
Meta Designer: Used to signify the designer of the website.
Example: <META NAME=”Designer” CONTENT=”Art Vandaley”>
Recommendation: Do not use. This tag is not supported by any search engine and seems to have its roots in designers wanting to make sure their work was recognized.
Meta Distribution: There are three classifications of distribution of your web content: Global (the entire web), Local (reserved for the local IP block of your site), and IU (Internal Use, not for public distribution).
Example: <META NAME=”Distribution” CONTENT=”Global”>
Recommendation: Do not use. If you want to restrict distribution, use the robots.txt tag instead.
Meta Expires: The date and time after which the document should be considered expired. Controls cacheing in HTTP/1.0. An illegal Expires date, e.g. “0”, is interpreted as “now”.
Example: <META HTTP-EQUIV=”expires” CONTENT=”Wed, 26 Feb 2004 08:21:57 GMT”>
Recommendation: Do not use. While this is good in concept, it is impractical for search engines and they do not use it. The same is true for the “revisit-after” tag. Search engines were able to catalog these at one time, but now with indexes over a billion pages, it just isn’t feasable.
Meta Generator: Typically the name and version number of a publishing tool used to create the page. Could be used by tool vendors to assess market penetration.
Example: <META NAME=”Generator” CONTENT=”FrontPage 4.0″>
Recommendation: Do not use. If you have these tags, delete them if you can.
Meta Google: The following options are exclusively for use with Google:
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
Recommendation: You generally do not need to use these tags unless you want Google to do something specific with your site.
For more info, see Google’s Remove Page.
Meta Language: This tag declares the language used on the website.
Example: <META NAME=”Language” CONTENT=”english”>
Recommendation: Do not use. No known function to support this tag presently for English based sites. Used only for sites in other languages.
Meta Keywords: Keywords used by some 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. One of the principle meta tags, along with the Description tag uses to properly index your site by search engines that support the tags.
Example: <META NAME=”keywords” CONTENT=”oranges, lemons, limes”>
Recommendation: Use with caution. Make sure to only use keywords that are relevant to your site. Search engines are known to penalize or blacklist your site for abuse. Also remember by using this tag you are exposing your keywords to your competitors.
Meta MS Smart Tags: Smart Tags were part of a beta test of Internet Explorer that was removed due to negative press and feedback from users. In short, Microsoft would sell keyword phrases and Smart Tags would allow for those keywords to be highlighted on web pages which would take the user to the advertiser’s site. This would mean that your site could advertise your competitor’s site without your consent.
Example: <META NAME=”MSSmartTagsPreventParsing” CONTENT=”TRUE”>
Recommendation: Do not use. Microsoft discontinued this technology.
Meta Publisher: This is the same as the Meta Generator tag.
Example: <META NAME=”Publisher” CONTENT=”FrontPage 4.0 “>
Recommendation: Do not use.
Meta Rating: Simple content rating.
Recommendation: Do not use. There are many strands of this tag on the Internet and there is not a set form, which suggests that you would be better off with getting a rating from the International Content Rating Association.
Meta Refresh: Specifies a delay in seconds before the browser automatically reloads the document or URL specified. The number before the URL is the delay in seconds which the browser will “pause” before the redirect is performed.
Example: <META HTTP-EQUIV=”Refresh” CONTENT=”3;URL=http://www.domain.com/page.html”>
Recommendation: Definately avoid. Search engines can detect the use of this tag and they consider it as Spam. Penalty is either ignoring the page, or banning your site competely from the index.
Meta Reply To: This is a “Spammers Paradise”. Bots that spammers use to harvest email addresses pick up your email in this tag and hit you fast and hard with offers a plenty.
Example: <meta name=”reply-to” content=”email@example.com” />
Recommendation: Definately avoid. You will receive a large increase in the amount of Spam e-mail if you use this tag.
Meta Resource Type: Declaring the type of resource the page is.
Example: <META name=”resource-type” content=”document”>
Recommendation: Do not use. Use the DTD declaration instead.
Meta Revisit After: This tag tells the search engine when to come back and index your site again. It has been stated that this tag will boost your site’s rankings with search engines that credit pages that are fresh.
Example: <META NAME=”Revisit-After” CONTENT=”30 days Days”>
Recommendation: Do not use. Search engines at one time supported this tag, but due to the large indexes, search engines only visit through links from other sites. Instead of using this tag, improve your link popularity.
Meta Robots: Controls search engine robots on a per-page basis.
Example: <META NAME=”ROBOTS” CONTENT=”NOINDEX,FOLLOW”> Robots may traverse this page but not index it.
Recommendation: Do not use. If you need to control the search engine robots, use a robots.txt file instead. It is more widely supported and is not ignored as this tag sometimes is.
Meta Set Cookie: This is one method of setting a “cookie” in the user’s Web browser. If you use an expiration date, the cookie is considered permanent and will be saved to disk (until it expires), otherwise it will be considered valid only for the current session and will be erased upon closing the Web browser.
Example: <META HTTP-EQUIV=”Set-Cookie” CONTENT=”cookievalue=xxx;expires=Wednesday, 21-Oct-98 16:14:21 GMT; path=/”>
Recommendation: Do not use. While this meta tag was used years ago to set cookies, now, cookies can be set and customized very easily. If you need assistance with cookies, our programming staff can assist you for a nominal fee.
Meta VW96.ObjectType: Based on an early version of the Dublin Core
Recommendation: Do not use. These meta tags are not supported by any search engine and we recommend that you not use them on your site. report, using a defined schema of document types such as FAQ, HOWTO, etc.
Meta Title: This tag would normally have the same title as contained in the <TITLE></TITLE> tag.
Example: <META NAME=”Title” CONTENT=”Page Title Here”>
Recommendation: Do not use. No known major search engine indexes this tag.
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