Confused about meta tags and their significance? Read on…
What are meta tags?
Meta tags are HTML ‘codes’ inserted into the head section of a web page for the purposes of providing information or instruction. They’re most commonly used with search engine robots for describing page content and indicating how it should be indexed.
Meta tags and search engines
Firstly, let’s be honest here, when we talk about search engines we’re really just talking about Google (who have far and away the largest share of the market right now) and as for whether or not Google attaches any value to meta tags, well they do, but not in the way you might be thinking.
Google doesn’t use meta tags to calculate ranking
They really don’t. How ever you might ‘stuff’ your tags with keywords, they won’t help you gain a better position in Google’s search results.
Google ignores the meta keywords tag completely
This might come as a bit of a surprise to some, but Google doesn’t actually recognise the meta keywords tag at all (and never has). In fact, none of the major search engines use the keywords tag for ranking, most ignoring it in the same way as Google.
Heard that Bing still uses it? That’s right, they do, but as a spam signal rather than a ranking factor. Overstuff your meta keywords tags or include irrelevant content and you could be flagged as a spammer.
So why bother with meta tags at all?
Most meta tags are still valuable in some way or another – they just don’t figure in any of the major search engines’ ranking algorithms.
The meta description tag, for example, allows you to control the ‘snippet’ appearing in search results – thus presenting you with the perfect opportunity to write something ‘clickable’ directed at a human being rather than an unreadable block of text stuffed full of keywords.
Hungry for more?
In the video below, Google’s Matt Cutts talks about which tags have a value to the search engine and how to use them to best effect. You can also read more about the meta tags Google recognises here.