Meta Tags

If you have had even the smallest amount of experience with websites, you have more than likely heard of Meta tags as they have always been spoken about when it comes to search engines and they have been around since the start of the internet.

What is a Meta Tag?

Meta Tags are pieces of information that a visitor to a website will never see. The Meta Tags provide information on the website for search engines and it assists search engines in evaluating and / or determining the subject matter of a website.

A few years ago, a large amount of value was placed in Meta Tags. Nowadays, their value or importance is debatable and in most conversations, you will hear people stating that Meta Tags are not as important. Many people abused the use of Meta Tags, by spamming a particular keyword or phrase for example, and as a result the algorithms on the various search engines don’t give them as much credibility as what they used to. Again, this is a debatable subject, so ultimately, you decide your thoughts on it.

Where do the Meta Tags go?

Meta tags are placed between the <head> and </head> tag. The most popular tags used are the “keywords” and “description” Meta Tags. These tags will have information placed in them that are relevant to the page.

What are the different Meta Tags and what do they do?

When explaining, we will again use our plumbing example as we have done in other articles.

The “keywords” Meta Tag:

The keywords meta tag, as the name states, keywords relating to the page. So, if we’re working on the home page of Plumber Jack, the keyword Meta Tag for the home page may be as follows:

Example:

<meta name=”keywords” content=”cape town plumbers, plumbers, plumbing, toilets, drains” />

The “description” Meta Tag

In this Meta Tag, you would place a sentence or even 2 sentences about the website and it’s subject matter or content.

Example:

<meta name=”description” content=”Plumber Jack is a Cape Town based plumber offering a range of services for your household’s plumbing needs.”>

The “Revisit-After” Meta Tag

As the implied by the name, this Meta Tag tells search engines when it must visit the website again to check for updates and can re-index the page. This tag is particularly useful for websites that update their content regularly e.g. website portals. Again, this tag can be abused, but if you are sure your content will be updated regularly, then use it to ensure the search engines visit regularly and your most recent updates can get reflected on the search engines.

Example:

<META name=”Revisit-After” content=”10 Days” />

The “Robots” Meta Tag

This tag gives the search engines direction. It tells the search engines which pages must be ignored, which pages should be indexed and whether a page should be crawled.

The options for the Robots Meta Tag are as follows:

  • Noindex – the page should not be indexed
  • Nofollow – robots should not follow any of the links located on the page
  • Index – this page can be indexed
  • Follow – this page’s links can be followed

Examples:

<META name=”Robots” content=”noindex, follow” />
<META name =” Robots” content=”index, nofollow” />
<META name =” Robots” content=”noindex, nofollow” />
<META name =” Robots” content=”all” />

The “Expires” Meta Tag

This tag gives the search engines information on when a page expires. So, let’s say for example you have a page that lists events throughout the year. If it’s June now and you don’t necessarily want someone visiting your site for an event that took place in February, this tag would tell the search engine that it no longer needs to worry about this page from the date specified. This tag is useful for pages that have dynamic content that is pulled from a database.

Example:

<META name=”Expires” content=”Tue, 01 Feb 2008 15:00:00 GMT” />

Summary

There are a large number of Meta Tags available. The ones mentioned above are probably the most popular ones used and that are available.
If you plan on using Meta Tags, don’t abuse them, use them as they were supposed to be used, and make sure you understand what each one is doing before implementing them.

IMPORTANT: There are so many Meta Tag generators out there now-a-days. A number of them could be useful, but make sure you are careful when using them and make sure the tags, in your mind, make sense and are relevant and NOT “spammy” before using them on your website.