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This 117 message thread spans 4 pages: < < 117 ( 1 2 3 [4]     
Make intelligent use of META tags - Part 1

 10:39 pm on May 27, 2002 (gmt 0)

This is a subject I feel often is forgotten. There are tons of META tags available, but so many developers simply ignore them, or just don't know how to use them.

Here's a list of useful META tags you can use.

name="keywords" content="keywords go here"
This tag is a must. It lets you specify keywords people might use when looking for your site. Enter as many as you can think of, but don't repeat each word more than once.

name="description" content="description goes here"
Here you can enter a short description for your site. Avoid using phrases like "the best" .. Keep the description short, but to the point. Usually, this is what a person will see as the title when using a search engine.

http-equiv="expires" content="expiration date (Example: Mon, 24 Dec 2001 23:00:00 MST)"
If you want to make sure that the visitor gets the latest version of your page, enter an expiration date in the past. Or, simply enter the date when the page will become outdated.

http-equiv="pragma" content="no-cache"
This tag tells IE not to cache the page.

name="robots" content="instructions go here"
This tag tells a SE spider whether to index a page or not (index/noindex), and whether to follow links on the page or not (follow/nofollow). You can use these in any combination you want.

  • index, follow - Default value. Page will be indexed, and links on the page will be followed.
  • index, nofollow - Page will be indexed, but any links on the page will not be followed.
  • noindex, follow - Page will not be indexed, but links on the page will be followed.
  • noindex, nofollow - Page will not be indexed, and links on the page will not be followed.

name="author" content="author's or company's name"
Pretty self explanatory. Information about who is the author goes here. This information will for example be showed in the page info for Mozilla users.

name="copyright" content="copyright information"
Pretty self explanatory as well. The proper copyright information starts with the word 'Copyright' followed by the copyright symbol, the year(s) you claim copyright, and your name (or company). Example:
Copyright 1998-2002, DrDoc Systems

http-equiv="Content-type" content="text/html;charset=ISO-8859-1"
Is your site using a certain character set? Well, here you can specify which character map to use. As long as you are using only basic latin characters (a-z, no funky symbols that can't be typed on a standard keyboard), this tag can be omitted. But if you are using certain character entities (like ) you should use this tag to ensure that they will be displayed properly.


brotherhood of LAN

 8:56 pm on Jun 1, 2002 (gmt 0)

I just wanted to slide in a little deduction, selfishly for myself, in this seemingly interesting thread. Lots of opinions as to what is what!

1. reading each post in here about the "meta keywords" tag is less effective than forgetting the whole thing. Still use them, because there are many "cut and paste" search engines on smaller sites that rely on keywords.

2. All the above mentioned good use of description and title, correct use of CSS (H tags in logical size order)

Huge issue, you have to wonder "what is what" what what is worth what. Some of the things I have read I believe have such a small affect on things they are a waste of time thinking about them (no offence anyone).

.....and some meta tags are just a waste of space. Opinions will vary here.

<meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=windows-1252">
<meta http-equiv="Content-Language" content="en-gb">
<meta name="description" content="forhumanconsumption">
<meta name="keywords" content="yeah...no commas btw">

This is what I will stick to for now :)

/edited typo

(edited by: brotherhood_of_LAN at 9:15 pm (utc) on June 1, 2002)


 9:07 pm on Jun 1, 2002 (gmt 0)

As for the use of
charset ..

Of course you should specify charset! But, when you do so, try to use the equivalent ISO charset instead, since this is more widely supported by browsers and operating systems ;)


 10:07 pm on Jun 1, 2002 (gmt 0)

<meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=windows-1252">
<meta http-equiv="Content-Language" content="en-gb">
<meta name="description" content="forhumanconsumption">
<meta name="keywords" content="yeah...no commas btw">

Better than the kitchen-sink approach, but I still say Content-Language is better handled as a server header rather than an HTML one.

Also, HTML 4.0 provides for identifying document language with the LANG attribute of the HTML element, like this:

<html lang="en-us">

It's more compact, and consistant with other language identifiers in HTML. More people (and programs) should use it.

brotherhood of LAN

 10:17 pm on Jun 1, 2002 (gmt 0)

Thanks for the heads up, sounds like something I want to be doing :) I'll churn it through the validators and if I get a big tick, I'll go with that 100% :)


 12:42 am on Jun 2, 2002 (gmt 0)

"<meta name="keywords" content="yeah...no commas btw">"

Nice tip 'Brother' - but I dont understand why 3 full-stops (periods) are better than a single comma. :)

On a serious note though, while extracting your back teeth, why avoid using commas if it is particular phrases you are targetting?

Sorry to ask, but I'm quite new to this.

brotherhood of LAN

 1:24 am on Jun 2, 2002 (gmt 0)

Hi Mark, no worries,

I can't reference the exact thread, but there are a few actually....all referencing the same topic and coming to the same conclusion.

More permutations can be made by search engine robots using the meta tag WITHOUT commas, ie allowing the freedom of the word combination to be re-arranged

id be inclined to accept that either way, and appreciate the miniscule bandwidth I would save, which is perhaps as worth as a meta keyword tag itself :)


 12:58 pm on Jun 2, 2002 (gmt 0)

Hi, ive been reading the part 1 and 2 of this topic; and looked at some high ranking pages of my competitors; i noticed they all use the robots=all tag, which is "not" approved of here ?, and i missed some tags i found elsewhere; like the; abstract and page-content tags ?, also when looking at my competitors they do use the , instead of a space to seperate their keywords. would anyone like to comment on this ?, and isn't it true that one could only use the robot tag once ?, and that the last tag would be used for example; robots=index,follow instead of robots=all when placed at the bottom of meta's ??, greetings !


 1:07 pm on Jun 2, 2002 (gmt 0)

one other question; ime using java-script to open my the different language sites from my index page, my understanding is that these links would be ingnored by most spiders, so at the very bottom of my page i added, small plain html links to languages aswell , this is a good thing , and i have to do it, yes ?


 1:34 pm on Jun 2, 2002 (gmt 0)

Robot "all" and "index,follow" is the same. I know of no incidence where "bot" concluded something different than "Index this page" and "follow all links on this page.

The discussion as to meta tags and your competitors use of them is somewhat irrelevant.

There is many more attributes on a web page that have signifcantly more weight when ranking in the most used search engines.

That being said ... there is still value in using them with older or less used search engines as well as the distinct possibility that a ranked position "might" be gained when competition is really tight.

Disadvantage ... the more characters (bytes) on a web page the less attractive it becomes the "google" for one.

In the end, its each to their own



 1:56 pm on Jun 2, 2002 (gmt 0)

thanx fathom!,
Well competition is tight for me, we all focus on our branch-titel. my index page is 7kb's, there on can choose the dutch or english language. i used the index to describe the different stuff "we" sell, using <h3>, hoping to get indexed on that too.


 2:22 pm on Jun 2, 2002 (gmt 0)

You may want to define a css so the title headers can go to <h1> while maintaining an attractive look.

If you do, don't get too greeting by trying to make your entire web page and site in <h1> (example - as the body text).

This could be perceived as spam and may get your site banned.

When used in moderation (As short title page title) this can have a dramatic effect (Along with targeted keywords in the title).


 3:10 pm on Jun 2, 2002 (gmt 0)

Do Search Engines read alt and title descriptions or just the actual content?

brotherhood of LAN

 3:24 pm on Jun 2, 2002 (gmt 0)


to my knowledge - yes - the important SE's take them into account, but they are nothing to do with making intelligent use of meta tags ;)

I guess this meta tag thread warrants a few threads in related areas, seems to be a popular 'un :)


 3:32 pm on Jun 2, 2002 (gmt 0)

Thanks brotherhood_of_LAN. I should have been more descriptive.

I was thinking in terms of if they were a valid addition to the keyword tag (for what the tag is worth).


 8:29 am on Jun 3, 2002 (gmt 0)

>> Do Search Engines read alt and title descriptions or just the actual content? <<

Yes and Yes again.

actual content holds alot more weight but every bit helps.


 8:31 am on Jun 3, 2002 (gmt 0)

is it true that all the indexed pages by for ex. google, will be combined, to one big pile in the google database, instead of a page by page database ??
alse there's no limit of pages u can mannualy enter in google ??, ex. index.htm & .html,default.asp,anotherindex.htm and .html ??

thanx again ! :)


 9:28 am on Jun 3, 2002 (gmt 0)

HoMer, those are valid questions. You might try using the site search option to uncover a great deal of information regarding search engine submissions, Google index, and types of pages indexed.

You might also consider posting to the Google forum if you did not find answers to your questions after a site search. The Google forum holds a wealth of information.


We need to keep this thread on topic which is details Meta Tag useage and strategies. Other topics should be posted as new threads in the appropriate forums.


 9:38 am on Jun 3, 2002 (gmt 0)

The Description tag is one where I've come full circle. When I first started creating web pages in 1996, I used to write a description of the page - a nice short abstract, if you will.

Then I began to understand that the description meta tag showed up under the page title on many search engines, so I started writing what was more like advertising copy - trying to draw the click. And to a degree I was successful in getting more clicks out of the same position with that kind of copy - for a while.

Then along came Google, and they don't publish meta descriptions, they publish text snippets from the sentences where the search terms appear on the page. And people began to get used to reading the "description" area looking for clues amid the "ransom note" style text as to whether they wanted this particular page.

After a while, other search engines that still published the meta description started truncating it, sometimes with embarrasing results. And my marketing copy started to read like - well, like easy to ignore marketing copy.

So now I'm back to writing true descriptions of the page. My purpose is to tell the searcher "Here is exactly what you will find on this particular page. If that's what you're looking for, come on over!"

I don't care so much now about getting lots of clicks as much as I care about getting the RIGHT clicks...and preferably lots of those. So I work to make the description tag accurate and complete, above all. And then, when that job's done, perhaps I'll go for some marketing sparkle if I am inspired.

But good marketing copy takes a lot of editing and re-writing and sometimes the muse is not with me. However, I can always be accurate and that does the job very well.

[edited by: tedster at 9:40 am (utc) on June 3, 2002]


 10:08 am on Jun 3, 2002 (gmt 0)

I agree every page should have language, character set, Title, Description, Keywords.

As BOL stated, smaller search engines/spiders still rely on the Title, Description, and Keywords tags.


 10:29 am on Jun 3, 2002 (gmt 0)

I don't care so much now about getting lots of clicks as much as I care about getting the RIGHT clicks

Tedster, if that isn't reason enough to write a clear, concise description, then I don't know what is... WELL PUT!

<meta name="description" content="Benefits of providing a concise description of webpage contents" /> ;)


 2:15 pm on Jun 3, 2002 (gmt 0)

thanx PapaBear, i couldn't find anything on this so ill copy this question to the google-dir

best wishes

Robert Charlton

 1:33 am on Jun 4, 2002 (gmt 0)

>>is it true that all the indexed pages by for ex. google, will be combined, to one big pile in the google database, instead of a page by page database??<<

Interesting question, and the answer in part explains why I'm careful about what and how many words I use in the meta keywords tag. Way back in 2000, Brett picked up on "themes" pretty much before anybody else did, and wrote an article called:
Analysis and Dissection of the Theme Based Search Engine [searchengineworld.com],
which you should definitely read.

In it he says:

Theme Determination:

- The theme indexer first pulls out titles and indexes that data,
- then it indexes meta tags,
- then major headings on a page,
- then the text content of all the pages,
- finally it looks at all the links on the site.

When I say indexes, it first strips all HTML code, common words, and then looks at the density of the remaining words. The last thing it does is compare the highest ranking words to one another. By using root word stemming and extrapolation it can determine your sites theme with pretty good accuracy.

He also talks about keywords:

...start by thinking up ten top keywords that relate to your site. Stay ON THEME when you think these up. Be careful not to contaminate your keywords with closely related but obfuscative keywords. If your site is about rocket ships, be careful not to put oars, rudders, or sails on your site or search engines may decide your site is about boats.

Once you have your ten keywords, make sure they are in EVERY meta keyword tag on your site. Try to hit every keyword you can in your content with one page of content dedicated for each keyword.

The keywords tag has become less important since the article was written, but I still use it as a form of discipline, if nothing else.

Now, higher up on this thread, I reference an
earlier thread about keywords [webmasterworld.com] in which I talk about how I apply a variation of Brett's suggestion. Basically, what I say is:

An approach that's evolved from that has worked well for me. I focus the entire site to about 10 to 12 prime target words, get those words on every page, and then optimize each of my main target pages for 3 to 5 of those words. My meta keyword tag consists of those prime target words, arranged in prioritized order for each page. It's not quite as cut and dry or simple as this, and a lot depends on competiveness, but this is roughly how I approach a lot of sites.

Another factor that has influenced this approach... as the keywords tag has been looked at more skeptically by the engines, it's likely that some engines that look at meta keywords only look at a very limited number of characters in the tag. I think I once saw 80 characters cited for AltaVista.

This approach, of having a highly focused core around which I optimize, has (along with a good linking strategy) been serving me well on most engines. It also seems to be working well with Teoma's algo... though I don't know if this is due to internal linking from related pages, which is what the focused core would give me... or whether I've just been fortunate in who links to me.

Another way of looking at it... while the actual importance of the keywords tag is questionable, I don't think the importance of site focus in competitive areas is in question. And since the tag is about keywords, the tag should be at least as focused, if not more, than the rest of the site.

[edited by: Robert_Charlton at 1:36 am (utc) on June 4, 2002]


 2:31 am on Jun 4, 2002 (gmt 0)

Robert, thank you for the superb post. It certainly puts the use of meta keywords and description in perspective. Basically, don't rely on them as the end-all, catch-all, one-stop solution. But do use the tags with planned intent as part of an overall strategy.


 12:16 pm on Jun 5, 2002 (gmt 0)

Amazing the stuff i've learned in such a short period, here at WebMasterWorld, had to abandon all my believes about meta's and SE listings !

Again Thanx ALL :)


 7:04 pm on Jun 5, 2002 (gmt 0)

I'm trying to decide which of the 'extra' metatags to put on my page.

Can you tell me what the benefit is of having IE not cache the page??


 8:27 pm on Jun 5, 2002 (gmt 0)

It depends if you want IE to make a trip to the server every time the page is referenced or if you don't care. A trip to the server can be useful if you want accurate hit counts and log files, or if your content changes quickly. Good use of the expire tags and HTTP headers can dramitically increase the perceived speed of your site. For example, I set the HTTP headers on my images directly to never expire. Thus, the images always get cached (unless explicitly turned off by the user). So the site looks very fast after the first page load. On the other hand, my index page changes every day, so I set the expires to 1 day. No need to reload more than that, as it only changes once per day.

Richard Lowe


 1:55 pm on Jun 6, 2002 (gmt 0)

Hi all,

I''m new and have been reading this forum for 3 days now but wasn't able to post a reply till this morn--some kind of software problem since the upgrade I have been told. I'm really glad I found this forum because I realized I don't know as much about SERTs as I thought.

I am a web designer and just wanted to say I have managed to get all my sites into Google and most of them get the #1 postion or at least on the first page for their top keywords.

I pay particular attention to the meta tag keywords and description but I also make sure every keyword can be found in the text of the page.

However one thing I haven't seen mentioned here, which I recently started doing, is researching the top keywords to see which are being searched for, i.e., "sell horses" gets lots less hits than "horses for sale" so I use the later.

I'm not sure why Google likes my sites but I generally get my sites approved by ODP and Yahoo by sticking to their rules. I figure if you can get into through those two doors your on the road.

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