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Meta Tag Basics

What are Meta tags? Where are meta tags found? Understanding Meta tags basics is an important first step in optimizing your Web sites for search engines. In this article we will review the basics of generating effective meta tags for your website.

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Learn about the construction of Meta tags and how they are used so you can author the most effective Meta tags for your Web pages.

What is a Meta Tag?
Meta tags are commands in the HTML code, residing in the header, that instruct the browser or search engines to perform specific tasks, identify keywords, site definitions, page authors, plug-in requirements, etc. These tags are not visible to site visitors. They are only visible in the code. Simply, Meta tags describe the content of the document in which they're written.

Where are Meta Tags Found?
Meta tags are author generated source code that is placed in the header section of an HTML document. You can check out our friends at AddMe.com and use their Meta Tag Reader. These tags always go in the [head] section of the document. For example a simplified version of your HTML code may look something like this:

[html]
[head]
[title]Title Goes Here[/title]
[meta name="description" content="Description of Web Page"]
[meta name="keywords" content="keyword 1, keyword 2, keyword 3"]
[/head]
[body]
[/body]
[/html]

As you can see, the Meta tags go inside the head tags along with the title tag.

Parts of a Meta Tag
Meta tags are constructed of three main parts: Meta 'type', 'name' and 'value. And look something like this:

    [meta type="name" content="value"]

The Meta 'type' defines whether the Meta tag will be speaking to search engines or browsers. The 'name' refers to what type of tag it is and the 'value' is the actual content of the tag.

Meta Types- NAME and HTTP-EQUIV
There are two different 'types' of Meta tags- "meta NAME" and "meta HTTP-EQUIV". Meta tags with the 'HTTP-EQUIV' attribute are for web browsers, and Meta tags with the 'NAME' attribute are used primarily by indexing and searching tools like search engines.

Meta HTTP-EQUIV
Meta HTTP-EQUIV is for the web browser. These tags can indicate to the web browser how to display the page. Webmasters can specify through Meta HTTP-EQUIV tags if they would like the page to be in a specific language, cached, redirected, or refreshed after a given amount of time. (We won't cover the specifics this article has all rights reserved and is copyright by 100 Best here, but the Emirates Network had a good article on the browser Meta tags.)

Meta NAME
Meta NAME tags are for search engines. Current popular Meta name tags that can affect search engine rankings are keywords and description:

The Meta KEYWORDS tag is used to group a series of words that relate to a website. These tags can be used by search engines to classify pages for searches.

The Meta DESCRIPTION is used to describe the document. The Meta description is then displayed in search engine results underneath the link to a web page.

An example of the meta keywords and description might look like this for a page about blue widgets:

    [meta name="description" content="Blue Widgets Inc. reviews and sells blue widgets."]
    [meta name="keywords" content="Widgets, blue widgets, widget sales, widget reviews"]
    You don't need to use every type of meta tag on every page, but for your general reference here is a template of the main ones:

    [title]Blue Widgets for Sale[/title]
    [meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=iso-8859-1"]
    [meta name="description" content="Description"]
    [meta name="keywords" content="keywords"]
    [meta http-equiv="expires" content="30 days"]
    [meta http-equiv="Content-Style-Type" content="text/css"]
    [meta name="author" content="Bob Widget"]
    [meta name="distribution" content="global"]
    [meta name="copyright" content="Copyright 2004 www.widgets.com"]
    [meta name="robots" content="index, follow"]
    [meta name="revisit-after" content="30 days"]
    [meta name="rating" content="Safe For Kids"]
    Note to Newbies
    If you are using the above code in your HTML exchange the brackets [ ] for alligators, < >.

    For a more in depth discussion on how to use Meta tags for search engine optimization purposes check out our article below.

Related Article: SEO with Meta Tags >>

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