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Mystery of the META Tag
Mike de Sousa, Director, AbleStable®
META tags are present (or should be) in most web
pages and help search engines identify and index
web sites. This article explores the world of the
META tag and explains their purpose.
Defining the META tag
HyperText Markup Language (HTML), is the common
language of documents on the web. HTML pages (a
web page like the one you're reading now) use META
tags to assist the index of pages by many of the
major spider based search engines.
META tags consist of simple lines of code (text)
that go into the header of the HTML source document.
Spider-based search engines index web sites based
upon what they find in the HTML code of the site.
META tags are designed to help ensure the spider
(sometimes referred to as a 'crawler') find information
that will create a profile of the page which can
then be used to help index the page.
critical META tags
Two META tags that are particularly important are
the 'description' tag and the 'keywords' tag.
The description tag provides the search engine the
description of a web page. Without this tag, search
engines will usually take the first text it finds
from a page and make that the description. This
is one of the main reasons why all web pages should
have clear titles (the text that appears in the
browser title bar), not only to assist the user
in navigating a web site, but to provide a quick
reference point for any given web page.
The keywords tag tells the search engine exactly
which keywords the site developer wants the page
to be searchable under. Without this tag, a search
engine will choose words for a web site to be searchable
from the title and text of a site.
Some mistakenly believe the right META tags will
move a site to the top of a search engine listing.
META tags help get web sites indexed correctly and
they increase the relevancy for the keywords.
length of META tags
META tag descriptions should be limited to 25 words
or about 200 characters of text. Anything longer
will be cut off in the middle of the sentence of
a search engine listing and will look less professional.
The description tag should be used to provide a
short clear synopsis of a web page. META tags should
only use keywords that are appreciate. Trying to
cheat by loading 101 words that have little relation
to the page content will severely disadvantage you
in the eyes of the web crawler.
the best keywords
Choosing keywords for a web site is not as simple
as it sounds. If you choose the most generic of
keywords (let's say music), the chances of a web
page being listed in the top 50 search results for
music will be infinitesamable as so many web sites
provide music related links. Keywords should:
to the page content
not run to more
likely search terms and phrases for the web page
be word and
phrase specific rather than generic
be page specific
(define META tags for each page)
sensitive variations of words and terms
of the same keyword
best kept secret
Meta tags are used by web developers and Internet
marketing specialists as a tool to promote web sites.
The best kept secret of all however is the simple
truth that content is king. If a web site has relevant,
meaningful content presented in an attractive manner,
the site will be indexed by search engines as more
and more people recommend and link to it.
de Sousa is the Director of AbleStable®.
Mike has been commissioned as an artist, music
composer, photographer, print and web site designer,
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