HTML basic meta tags

Written by on Friday, September 5, 2008 21:02 - 0 Comments

HTML head, meta, title tags

The meta element, usually referred to as a meta tag, is where the information that defines a web page is stored.  These tags are the very first thing a server parses when the page is called for display, and they are also used by various spiders, such as those used by search engines to index a site.  These tags are important for imparting information about the title, content, and keywords used.

Meta tags may also be used to redirect a page, or instruct the server to refresh, or relaod, the page at given intervals.  It is important to note, however, that using a meta tag for page redirection is very clearly discouraged by the WC3, as well as by search engines.  In the root directory of your website is a file called .htaccess (note that the filename BEGINS with a period (.)), where redirection should be placed for a certain page, or even the whole site.  The .htaccess file is there specifically for the use of servers and Internet resident utilities such as spiders.  Using meta tags instead of .htaccess could very likely cause detrimental effects when encountered by search engines crawling the site.

Once, search engines depended on some meta tags for information about the page, specifically the description and keyword tags, but this has fallen out of popularity in recent years.  The reason it is not used frequently for search engine results is due to the overwhelming abuse of spammers, who would overpopulate the description and keyword tags with specific keywords in order to trick search engines into giving the page higher preference.  The result is that whether or not the meta tags are used by search engines is now in question. The best bet is to use the tags, and thereby cover yourself if they are used.

Below are the primary meta tags used to define a web page.  They should be placed between the <head> and </head> tags, known as the header area.  These are not an enitre list of meta tags, but are primary tags which are commonly used.  Other tags available include copyright, author, script-style, and others.

A complete list of HTML 4.01 meta tags can be found at the WC3 website:

The description tag
<meta name=”description” content=”Using HTML meta tags in website design”>
This tag is used to expressly define the content of the page being loaded.  It is often the information that is displayed in a search results page, but this is not as commonly done as it once was, as noted above.

The keywords tag
<meta name=”keywords” content=”HTML, meta tag, website design”>
The keywords tag lists the keywords that are given preference on page being loaded.  It is not reccomended to use more than 5 keyword phrases, separated by commas.

The security tag
<meta name=”security” content=”low”>
Tags of this sort are generally used internally, or for reference by the server the file resides on.  Using this tag is never a requirement for ordinary use.

The refresh tag
<meta http-equiv=”Refresh” content=”3;URL=”>
This tag is used to tell the user’s browser to reload the page after the specified number of seconds.  It’s use is not encouraged, but there are occasionally valid uses for it, such  as an embedded timer on the page which updates periodically.  Usually, this tag can be replaced in other ways, such as the use of javascript. Using an invalid date, such as “0”, instructs a reload each time the page loads, rather than using any cahced versions.

The target tag
<meta http-equiv=”Window-target” content=”_top”>
This tag is for specifying a window to be used in a frame layout.  It allows sending the contents to a particular target window frame.

The robots tag
<meta name=”robots” content=”noindex,follow”>
<meta name=”robots” content=”index,nofollow”>
<meta name=”robots” content=”noindex,nofollow”>
This tag can be very important.  It gives commands to robots (spiders) which crawl the site. in order they are listed here, the commands are “do not index, but follow the links”,”index the page, but do not follow the links”, and “do not index or follow the links”.  This allows a page some protection against various SEO pitfalls, such as having undesirable content included in a spider’s indexing a page, or following links from a page that would result in ill effects when processed by a search engine’s algorithms.

Example usage:
<meta name=”description” content=”Using HTML meta tags in website design”>
<meta name=”keywords” content=”HTML, meta tag, website design”>
<meta name=”security” content=”low”>
<meta http-equiv=”Refresh” content=”0;URL=”>
<meta name=”robots” content=”noindex,nofollow”>
This is the actual content of the page
</html> ')}

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