A Review on Meta Tags & Their Current Usages

Meta Tags Meta tags are used since the stone age of website development and search engine optimization. But over the years, these tags are lost its importance due to excessive keyword staffing or spam as an onsite optimisation tool. Most of the major search engines no longer use them to understand a site and rather prioritise other on-page aspects to understand the relevancy of a website for any specific set of keywords.

Syntax: <meta name=”attribute” content=”content type” />
Placement: between <head> and </head>

Based on their characteristics, Meta tags mainly classified in the following two categories –

  1. Meta http-equiv – this tag is used to send information to the browsers as per its content attribute. However this is no longer the only way to specify character set of a webpage. For example, <meta http-equiv=”refresh” content=”20″> instruct the browser to refresh a page automatically after 20 seconds of loading.
  2. Meta Name – these are user generated optional Meta tags that can be used to provide some specific info to the search engines and/or web developers.

Below are the standardized Meta Name tags which are recognised by most search engines.

Meta Description Tag – It is used to provide a short description of a page within approx 160 characters limit. Most search engines including Google, Yahoo, Bing show content of that tag as a part of snippet shown in the search results. Though, actually you can write more but most search engines display till 160 characters in SERP. Writing a compelling Meta description within that character limit can help to improve conversion or influences searchers to click on your website from SERP.

Meta Keywords Tag – Google has confirmed a long ago that they do not use Meta Keyword tag or give any weight on that tag as a ranking factor.  However I have not found any official reference for Bing about whether they use it or not but Yahoo surprisingly still encourage to use that tag on their guidelines. Personally, I think it’s worthless to use that tag and it would better to concentrate on other parameters that influence more as ranking factor.

Meta Robots Tag – It is recognised by all major search engines. However, it does not make any sense to use it to specify something explicitly like “content =index, follow” or “content=all” as by default all search engines index and follow links found on a webpage. So, we should use that tag only when we don’t want a page to be indexed or its links to be followed by the search engines. It can be also useful for other negative scenarios including “noodp” – when we don’t want to show DMOZ’s description in SERP;  “noarchive “ – to prevent showing cached link of a page; “nosnippet” – to prevent snippet to appear in the SERP etc. purposes.

Watch the below video to find what Matt Cutts has said about Meta tags –

There are also some particular search engine specific Meta Name tags which can be used to instruct a specific search engine spider like Google, Yahoo, Bing as follows –

  • <meta name=”googlebot” content=”noindex, nofollow”>
  • Google / Bing / Yahoo Site verification Meta Tags by specifying the following as meta name agent – “google-site-verification”, “msvalidate.01”, “y_key”

There are some arbitrary or obsolete Meta tags found as well. However most search engines now do not recognise them at all or those are not related anyway as a ranking factor for SEO. Here are some of those arbitrary tags –

<meta name=”title” content=”some text goes here” />
<meta name=”generator” content=”Frontpage”>
<meta name=”revisit-after” content=”period”>
<meta name=”expires” content=”tue, 01 Feb 2007″>
<meta name=”distribution” content=”option”>
<meta name=”rating” content=”general”
<meta name=”subject” content=”your website’s subject”>
<meta name=”copyright” content=”company name”>
<meta name=”language” content=”en”>
<meta name=”author” content=”company name or person name” />

Hope now you have a clear insight on Meta tags and their usages in 2013.  Do leave your feedback as comment if any.