There used to be a time when the contents of a pages Meta Tags was very important, it was around about the same time the Berlin Wall was still standing!! Today meta tags hold little value to Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

What Are Meta Tags?

Way, way back when that wall was still upright search engine algorithms were so dumb they couldn’t work out what a page was about just from the content. So some bright spark had the ingenious idea to create a set of tags (meta tags) that inferred information about a pages content to the search engines.

Great idea, except there was nothing to stop a webmaster stuffing or spamming their Meta Tags with irrelevant, but very high traffic keywords and keyword phrases. Which of course they did with enthusiasm, you would find adult sites using words like Disney and Pokemon in their Keywords Meta Tag for the traffic!!

Today the vast majority of meta tags are worthless and those that are still considered by search engines aren’t worth that much. For example Google confers no benefit from any meta tags, so if you expect a high Google ranking from perfectly optimised keywords in your meta tags, don’t hold your breath.

Which Meta Tags Should You Use?

For Google adding the Description Meta Tag won’t result in a boost in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs), but the description might be used for the description for your SERP listings in Google. So though you won’t get a ranking boost, if your write an interesting Description Meta Tag and Google uses it (not guaranteed), you might get a higher click through rate compared to a random snippet of text from your pages. All other meta tags (including the Keywords Meta Tag) are either completely ignored or won’t result in a SERPs boost.

Yahoo says they use the Keyword Meta Tag when it ranks a page. So it makes sense to add one for Yahoo and any other minor search engines that still use. Also there are directories and other websites that automatically take this information to create a listing to your site. Don’t fret over it though, add the main phrase for that page to the Keywords Meta Tag and user friendly description of the page to the Description Meta Tag and forget about it.

Example Meta Tags

Below you will find an example set of meta tags. This is for a page you want fully indexed in all search engines.


<!DOCTYPE HTML PUBLIC “-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.01 Transitional//EN” “http://www.w3.org/TR/html4/loose.dtd”>
<HTML><HEAD>
<TITLE>SEO Tutorial – Meta Tags Optimization</TITLE>
<meta name=”description” content=”Create the perfect meta tags for high search engine placement.”>
<meta name=”keywords” content=”Meta Tags Optimization”>
<meta http-equiv=”Content-Type” content=”text/html; charset=ISO-8859-1″>
<link rel=”stylesheet” type=”text/css” href=”../seo-gold.css” media=”all”>
</HEAD>
<body>

The DOCTYPE-

<!DOCTYPE HTML PUBLIC “-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.01 Transitional//EN” “http://www.w3.org/TR/html4/loose.dtd”>
Is the DOCTYPE, it’s not a meta tag and it’s not essential you add this to a page for good search engine placement, but if you want a page to validate in a HTML validator (i.e. http://validator.w3.org/) you’ll need to add the right one.

The TITLE-

<TITLE>SEO Tutorial – Meta Tags Optimization</TITLE>
Again this isn’t a meta tag, but it’s sometimes referred to as a meta tag by those who don’t fully understand meta tags. The title element is very, very important to a pages optimisation, which is why we have an entire page dedicated to Title Optimization. The title should include the most important phrase for that page and possibly one or two highly relevant keywords to create related phrases. The one above helps several important phrases including Meta Tags Optimization, Meta Tags, Meta Tags Tutorial, SEO Tutorial, SEO Meta Tags etc…. Don’t go over the top with adding lots of keywords, keep it short and sweet so each word gets a reasonable boost and don’t forget potential visitors (they have to read it).

The DESCRIPTION META TAG-

<meta name=”description” content=”Create the perfect meta tags for high search engine placement.”>
As covered earlier in Google the contents of the description meta tag will not have an impact on the pages search engine rankings, but may be used as the description in the search results. So be descriptive, think about what a potential visitor might click on not keyword stuffing.

The KEYWORDS META TAG-

<meta name=”keywords” content=”Meta Tags Optimization”>
Of no value to Google and probably little value to other major search engines. Easiest way to fill this meta tag is by pasting the same contents as the TITLE minus anything you added for visitors to read. In the example above we removed “SEO Tutorial – ” because that is there for visitors who read the TITLE element as part of a search engine listing.

The Character Set and links external files-

<meta http-equiv=”Content-Type” content=”text/html; charset=ISO-8859-1″>
<link rel=”stylesheet” type=”text/css” href=”../seo-gold.css” media=”all”>

Not meta tags and will have no impact on a pages search engine placement, the Character set is used by browsers so the right set of characters are used to display your page. Don’t add one and the browser will use its default (it will guess), this might mean your page doesn’t look right to a visitor. External style sheets (CSS files) and external javascript (JS files) are referenced here. Again no impact on SEO, but if you can push some javascript or markup off your page you should. It saves bandwidth and means your pages load faster.

Robots Meta Tag

There are dozens of other meta tags, but hardly any of them are any use to us for improving search engine ranking. The most important one you may need sometime is the Robots Meta Tag which looks like this-

<meta name=”robots” content=”noindex,nofollow”>

It can be used to prevent (but not encourage) search engine spiders access to individual web pages. We pasted the above piece of code from a page from a Lingerie Shop. The page is part of the shopping basket and we don’t want visitors to enter the site via these pages (the site wouldn’t work correctly). By including the above search engine spiders won’t index or follow links from this page. Be aware that bad spiders ~(ones that harvest email addresses etc… won’t adhere to this tag, so don’t expect to much from it). The robots meta tag can be mimicked via a robots.txt file which we’ll deal with on another SEO Tutorial page.

Here’s what you can put in the robots meta tag-

<meta name=”robots” content=”index,follow”> Index the page and follow all links from it. If this is what you want don’t use the robot meta tag at all since by default search engine spiders do this anyway.

<meta name=”robots” content=”noindex,follow”> Don’t index (cache) this page, but do follow the links. Some webmasters who are using black hat SEO techniques use this to try to hide their shady techniques (i.e. cloaking)!

<meta name=”robots” content=”index,nofollow”> Index this page, but don’t follow the links.

<meta name=”robots” content=”noindex,nofollow”> Don’t index the page and don’t follow the links. Use this on pages you don’t want the search engines to have anything to do with.

In conclusion meta tags are not important to good SERPs, so don’t waste too much time on them.

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David Law : AKA SEO Dave, Search Engine Optimization Expert, Internet Marketer, Stallion Responsive WordPress SEO Theme Developer and nice guy :-) SEO Gold : Lincolnshire, England, UK

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