About Meta Tags

Description: HTML is relatively easy to get to grips with if you are new to the world of web programming, but meta tags seem to confuse a lot of people. Here is a brief introduction.

If you know anything at all about HTML, you will know that it uses a system of tags to indicate how various parts of a document will look once they appear on the page. Bold tags will indicate words that should appear in bold, paragraph tags indicate where each paragraph begins and ends, and you can do many other things besides.

But what exactly are meta tags? Most HTML tags are self explanatory, but what is a meta tag?

The main reason why a lot of people don't understand them or how to use them is probably because not everyone does use them. It's not essential to have them on your website, although they do have a defined purpose. You can actually use meta tags for several reasons, but they all involve highlighting a specific piece of information which is relevant to your website.

The two most popular types of meta tag which are relevant for the majority of webmasters are:

  • A meta tag which includes an accurate description of what each individual web page is all about
  • A meta tag which includes a list of keywords which are appropriate for each individual web page

 

So why is it that some webmasters make good use of meta tags in every page and every website they create, while others don't use them at all? After all if you can indicate in your HTML document the exact keywords that are relevant to that page, why wouldn't you?

The reason is down to the activity of the search engines - or more accurately, the search engine spiders that come to visit and index your website.

While some search engine spiders do recognize and make use of meta tags, others ignore them completely. This is the reason why not everyone thinks they are worth using. But they are still recommended, purely because they will either be ignored or put to good use when it comes to indexing your site. You may not be able to please all the search engines, but you can still please some of them.

The danger comes when you start to believe that meta tags will get your site indexed higher than it would be otherwise, and you start to get sloppy on the other elements of your site. Don't fall into this trap; if you are going to use meta tags they should be in addition to all the other important parts of HTML, website design, programming and making sure your site appeals to the search engines in every way possible.

Whatever the subject of your website, you will use the head tags in HTML to indicate what that particular document is all about. This is where your meta tags should go if you are going to use them. You can put more than one meta tag within your head tag if you wish; so you could use a keyword meta tag and a description meta tag within the opening and closing (<head> and </head>) tags.

In the final analysis you might wonder why you should bother with these tags at all if only a handful of search engines even take notice of them. But if your site is up against a similar site and they don't use meta tags, with all else being equal you might gain a better ranking if you do use them.

In the end, why not use every advantage available to you?

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