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HTML Meta Tag

HTML Meta Tags provide the search engines and web visitors with additional information and instructions about your webpages. There is much discussion concerning the value search engines place on meta tags. General consensus is that while these tags, particularly the Keyword meta tag have been abused to manipulate search engine rankings, that it is good practice to still use them.

The meta description tag is used by many of the search engines to provide a description of the page - why not take advantage of this bit of space to market your webpages?

HTML Meta Tag Placement

Meta Tags should be placed in the Head section of your HTML immediately following the Title Tag.

Content Type

The content type meta declaration isn't one that you, the webpage author have much control over - other than you should make sure all of your pages have one. The most commonly used content type meta declaration has the following format in HTML:

<meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=iso-8859-1" />

Meta Description Tag

The meta description tag is one of your few chances to effect any control over the search engines. This tag should be treated as a marketing opportunity.

The description tag tells the user of a search engine what is on the page. Make it an invitation to visit your webpage and increase the chances of people coming to your site.

The meta description tag has the following HTML format:

<meta name="description" content="HTML Meta Tags - learn the format and how to use meta tags to provide search engines and site visitors additional information about you and your site." />

Optimizing the Meta Description Tag

There are three key things I've learned about getting the best results from the description tag:

  • Don't make the description too short - Search engines will randomly (at least it looks that way) pick text appearing on the page and append that to the end of your description thereby creating some unusual results.
  • Put the most important information first - If the search engine decides your desciption is too long, it will chop off the end of it. By putting the most important information first, you have a better chance of convincing people to pick your site over the others.
  • Don't just stuff the description tag with your keywords - It looks bad, it doesn't encourage someone to visit your site, and it might even turn people off of your site.

Meta Author Tag

The meta author tag gives the webpage creator a place to list their name, email, or any other contact information that may not be included in the main text of the webpage.

The HTML for the meta author tag is:

<meta name="author" content="Your Name, e-mail, or other info goes here." />

Although several books I own discuss putting an email address here, I would suggest not doing so. There are many folks who use programs that harvest emails from webpages and then sell those lists to spammers. I would recommend using the meta author tag for personal and company names only.


Don't miss Part II on HTML Meta Tags!

Robot Exclusion Standard - learn how to communicate directly with the search engines.

Or Part III!

Keyword Meta - Using the Keyword Meta Tag

Additional Information on Meta Tags

Several visitors to Help For Web Beginners have submitted follow-up questions on this article.

Be sure to visit Meta Tag FAQs to see their questions and our answers.

About the Author

HelpForWebBeginners.com is a website dedicated to providing free, easy to understand, online How To's for true web beginners. While the materials are not free or available for reprints, they are offered freely for individual use. Please use the contact page to let Michele know if this tutorial has been helpful or if there are any other beginner web programming related tutorials you would like to see.