tags are little lines of code that are placed between the
<HEAD> and the </HEAD> tags in your site's HTML
code. They are designed to give search engines instructions
on what your page is about and how they should treat it.
These tags are not displayed to humans visiting your site,
but they can be used to influence the way your site appears
in the search results.
There are several meta tags that you can add to your pages,
but in my opinion the only useful ones are the keywords
tag, the description tag and the robots tag. Most others,
like the author or distribution tags are not used by the
search engines, and I don't recommend using them - you don't
want to clutter the top part of your page with useless things,
as it can have a negative impact on your ranking.
Let's take a look at the most important meta tags:
Meta tags: The description tag
<META name="description" content="A search
engine shows the content of this tag below the title of
your site when it appears in the results.">
This tag is very important, since you can use it to encourage
people to click on your listing when you are found in a
search engine. When your page comes up in the search results,
the contents of your META description tag are displayed
right below the title of your page. If no description tag
is found, the search engine attempts to create a description
for you and often fails to describe your page properly.
It's worthwhile to pay some attention to fine-tuning the
META description tags you use on your pages. The main reason
why you should do so is that the two things that determine
whether you'll get people to click on your listing or not
are this tag and the title of your page. If you're going
to work hard enough to grab a position in the first page
of results, you wouldn't want visitors not clicking on your
listing just because it looks uninteresting, now would you?
Make your description meta tags short but informative -
if you can trim them to less than 13 words and you feel
that they can still give enough information to make the
user visit your site, you've done well. If your description
tag is over 13 words, try to think how you could reduce
the amount of words and still say what you want to say.
Why should your description meta tags be so short? Well,
usually the search engine only displays a small part of
it in the results list, and if the tag contains too many
words, the "extra" words are cut off. So a description
"John's homepage! If you visit my site, you'll find
a huge amount of information about my favorite food, apples!"
Can look like:
"John's homepage! If you visit my site, you'll find
a huge amount..."
If the user is looking for information about hot dogs, he
probably won't visit Mike's site even if it has a high ranking
on the result list, because the user doesn't see that it's
contains a huge amount of information about hot dogs. For
this reason, try to place the relevant stuff near the beginning
of the description and the blabber to the end (or just cut
the latter right off). If Mike used
"Information on apples, my favorite food. If you'll
visit my site, called 'John's homepage', you'll find a huge
amount of interesting stuff related to them."
As his description, he'd be better off than in the first
example. He'd still have a description that is too long,
but if the search engine decided to cut it, people would
still see it as relevant to apples from the first four words
and visit. It would be even better if John could just lose
the uninteresting stuff after the first sentence, since
this would raise the weight of the word 'apples' in his
tag, earning a (very small) boost in his ranking from the
Notice that of the major search engines, Google (supplies
secondary results to Yahoo's search) doesn't support the
Meta tags: The keywords tag
OK, now you've learned what the META description is about
and how you can use it to your advantage. Let's move on
to the next tag on our list, the keywords tag. This is what
it looks like:
<META name="keywords" content="hot dogs
The keywords tag contains words and phrases the creator
of the page considers to be relevant to the document. These
words can be separated by commas, spaces or both - the method
of separation makes little difference. This tag is not shown
to the people arriving to your site, nor do the search engines
display it in their results, but many search engines do
read the keywords tag and give a slight boost to the page's
ranking for the words that are mentioned in it.
Generally, you should only include words and phrases that
are mentioned on your page and you shouldn't use any word
more than three times in your keywords tag. The optimal
size for this tag is around 10 words or less, as you do
not want to dilute your important keywords and phrases with
obscure words. All of the words you put in your keywords
tag should be relevant to the document; don't add "mp3"
to your keywords if your article about endangered wolves
just happens to mention that you listened to a mp3 while
creating the page.
Previously, in the stone age of search engines (1998 or
so), the keywords tag was a very important part of a successful
search engine optimization effort. Nowadays, its effect
has been reduced by the appearance more sophisticated search
engine algorithms. I'd still use this tag on my pages, but
I wouldn't fuss too much about it - a good META keywords
tag can give you a small boost in many engines, but its
weight is minimal compared to other page elements.
As you have seen from the above, creating the META keywords
and the META description tag is relatively easy. However,
if you for some reason do not want to do it by hand, this
utility will create meta
tags for you. Remember to check out the "Keyword
optimization" article before creating your META
tags in order figure out what to put in them.
Meta tags: The robots tag
The third tag we will cover is the META robots tag. It,
just like the keywords tag, is never shown to the human
visitors. The META robots tag is a simple instruction to
any search engine spiders on how to treat the page. It looks
<META name="robots" content="parameters">
The word 'parameters' should be replaced with commands to
the spider. The available commands are INDEX and FOLLOW,
and their negative counterparts, NOINDEX and NOFOLLOW. The
INDEX statement instructs the spider to add the page to
the search engine's index and the FOLLOW statement encourages
the spider to follow any links it finds on the page. As
you might have guessed, the NOINDEX tells the spider not
to add the page to the index and the NOFOLLOW instructs
the spider not to follow any links on the page.
Although most spiders automatically assume that any pages
they come across can be indexed and links from them can
be followed, it might be a good idea to add a robots tag
with the index and follow statements just in case:
<META name="robots" content="index, follow">
like the META keywords tag, this is nothing to get all worked
up about - you'll usually do fine without a robots tag,
it's just a safety measure. As you have noticed from the
above, the robots tag can also be used to prevent the indexing
of a page. However, when doing so, remember that not all
spiders support the META robots tag; you should also add
file that forbids the spider to index the page to be on
the safe side.
Meta tags: The infamous refresh tag
The last tag we'll cover is the META refresh tag, used to
automatically redirect visitors from one page to another.
It looks something like this:
<META HTTP-EQUIV=Refresh CONTENT="1; URL=http://www.apromotionguide.com/">
It's not one of the useful META tags, but its not among
the useless ones either. It's one of the few potentially
dangerous tags there is. While it works quite nicely, many
search engines dislike it because it is (or was) commonly
used with doorway pages. I recommend that for the sake of
your search engine success, leave this tag alone and instead
redirects (preferably in external JS files) can also be
used, although with some caution.