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What are Meta Tags?

What are Meta Tags?

Search Engine Optimization requires a couple of things to be successful: an understanding of how search engines work, how to direct and guide them through your site, and how to optimize your page content (there is more of course, I’m sticking to the core basics here). Guiding a search engine ‘bot’ through your pages requires the use of meta tags, which are simply HTML tags used in your page headers that tell the search engine bot different things about your page.

Now if you’re not familiar with HTML tags and the header of your pages in the code, and are now thinking “uh oh, this is gonna be a lot more complicated than I thought” don’t worry.. Let’s start from here then (everyone else who understands please jump down to where I explain meta tags).

The ‘header’ of your web pages refers to the header code in the page. If you download a web page from your server and open it with DreamWeaver or a simple text editor, you will see this right near the top of the code:

 

Where to put Meta Tags
This is a random source code view of a website, just to show you what I mean. You’ll see here I have highlighted where the head begins <head> and where it ends </head>.

Now to the main reason for this article: What is a Meta Tag?

A simple explanation is : A Meta Tag is HTML code that provides information about a page. Specifically for this article, we’ll be concentrating on meta tags used for search engine optimization.

Here are some basic meta tags used in search engine optimization:

  1. Title : <title>this is where the title goes, should include your main key phrase</title>
  2. Meta Description: <meta name=”description” content=”this is where your description goes, should not be more than 160 characters”>

  3. Meta Keywords: <meta name=”keywords” content=”this is where your keywords go, separate them with commas“>

Now it’s important to mention at this point that Google does not consider the keyword meta tag anymore. The reason for this actually makes a lot of sense: if your text content is properly optimized, you have used your keyword enough times in the text body, so the Googlebot will identify the keyword for the page by itself. However, other search engines still consider the keyword meta tag, so I recommend using it.

Using the above meta tags will tell the search engine what the page title is, provides a short description/overview of the page content, and tells them the keywords for the page. That’s a good start, but we want to guide the bots through the page and the site as well, so it can index other pages as well.

To accomplish that, we can use some more meta tags:

  1. <meta name=”Robots” content=”index, follow“/>

  2. <meta name=”Revisit-after” content=”7 days“/>

  3. <meta name=”rating” content=”General“/>

  4. <meta name=”language” content=”english“>

Here’s what these mean (in order): index is telling the bots to read the content of the page and add it to the search engine’s possible results, follow is telling them to follow all links on the page.

Revisit after is self explanatory. The reason for it is to ‘remind’ them to come back in at least 7 days but chances are they will come back almost daily.

Rating is important and not used enough in meta tags, in my opinion. It tells the search engines your site is safe for everyone of all ages.

The language meta tag is usually not needed, but it tells search engines which language your site is in.

This is a good start to using meta tags. Don’t forget to reference our other articles about how to rank your website on google and the importance of submitting your site to search engines.

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