What Are Meta Tags and How Do They Work?


 07/15/2014 12:00 AM

Meta Tags offer webmasters a means of storing information about their site within the website without it been actually viewable by the end user. Meta Tags help in the description of your site and its contents for search engines.

Meta Tags are placed between the sections of the HTML code of your page. Doing a “View Source” command from a browser, will help you view the code at the top. In most cases, you will find a list of HTML instructions starting with . These are the Meta Tags.

Why are Meta Tags critical?

A few years ago, Meta Tags were an essential component for search engines in the indexing of web pages based on description, title, as well as keywords. In a perfect world scenario, if Meta Tags had been used fairly, they would have been a great boon for everyone. However, some websites overused them by cramming popular keywords into them in the hope of ranking higher in search results. In September 2009, Google recognized this and made the decision that the search engine will no longer use Meta descriptions or Meta keywords in search algorithms for ranking.

Even though Meta Tags descriptions have no effect on your search engine rank, they are essential since they appear in search results. They offer individuals a chance to read the description about your site on the search results page before they click your link. Meta descriptions are written for your visitors to read rather than for robots. Therefore, a good Meta description will not help improve your website ranking but will increase the click-through rates to your site from search pages.

Relevant Meta Tags for your website

The most critical Meta Tags for your website include:

  • Meta Description: in case the description is empty or nonexistent, search engines automatically generate one based on the content on your page.
  • Meta Author:
  • Meta Charset: specifies the your content’s character encoding. The majority of web pages implement UTF-8
  • Meta redirection and refresh: the content attribute offers the time interval in seconds when refresh should be performed. The URL provided may be kept the same depending on whether you want to refresh a particular page or redirect it to another. Leaving the URL empty will refresh the current page

Integration with social media

With social networks become more and more relevant in today’s world, Meta Tags have also evolved. For example, Facebook’s Open Graph provides you a means of specifying how your content will be displayed on your user’s timeline. Such tags also offer you a means of monitoring how your data is shared on Facebook by use of Insights.

Twitter also offers “Twitter Cards” that uses , while Google+ implements Schema.org using “itemprop” and “itemscope”. However, the most popular is Open Graph, which is used by most social media networks as a default when no other Meta Tags are present.

In conclusion, although Meta Tags will not help you solve most of your SEO or accessibility issues, they still play a critical role. As a website owner, you can effectively monitor the performance of your website by registering on Google Webmaster Tools. These tools provide you with an efficient means of notifying you of crawl problems attributed to using incorrect Meta Tags.

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