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Make intelligent use of META tags - Part 1
DrDoc




msg:619142
 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 Or, simply enter the date when the page will become outdated.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.

 

papabaer




msg:619143
 11:02 pm on May 27, 2002 (gmt 0)

Nice post DrDoc, Thanks! I agree, meta tags are often neglected.

hurlimann




msg:619144
 11:06 pm on May 27, 2002 (gmt 0)

>Enter as many as you can think of, but don't repeat each word more than once.

I don't agree. Too many may be seen as spam aand the more you have the less relevance given to each

DrDoc




msg:619145
 11:09 pm on May 27, 2002 (gmt 0)

Well, hurlimann, I guess you missed the preceding sentence:

.. keywords people might use when looking for your site

;)

fathom




msg:619146
 11:09 pm on May 27, 2002 (gmt 0)

The most important one being <title>Place Page Title Here</title>

And for those that believe meta tags are mostly irrelevant, Google now contains 42.8 million pages listed as:

Untitled

fill this in

Page title here

place description here

Page 1, 2, 3 ...

and my favourite ... you didn't pay for this.

A design oversight or poor workmanship?

keyplyr




msg:619147
 11:11 pm on May 27, 2002 (gmt 0)

>... meta tags are often neglected.

Or over used

hurlimann




msg:619148
 11:12 pm on May 27, 2002 (gmt 0)

No Doc I saw it. I have seem 300 keyword's relevant to a sie. Some SE's will see this as spam.

Best :)

JayC




msg:619149
 11:16 pm on May 27, 2002 (gmt 0)

And for those that believe meta tags are mostly irrelevant, Google now contains 42.8 million pages listed as:

Untitled

What about those who believe that meta tags are mostly irrelevant, but also believe that <title> and </title> are not meta tags?
:)

martinibuster




msg:619150
 11:17 pm on May 27, 2002 (gmt 0)

In regards to entering as many keywords relative to your site, unless the page is optimized for each keyword, I'm of the opinion that you merely end up bloating your code.

For instance, a Peace Action site that loads up keywords like "US military, nuclear weapons policy, Pentagon, arms sales, arms, arms exports" will NEVER show up in serps for those terms. And they're wasting their time.

Only pages that are properly optimized for those keywords will pop up in serps way before your site ever does.

So it seems to make sense to have keywords directly related to the search for your site, but only to the extent that they match the keywords you are hammering home on that particular page.

That's my humble opinion... And I'd like to hear what other people feel about the meta tag subject.

DrDoc




msg:619151
 11:20 pm on May 27, 2002 (gmt 0)

I see your point, hurlimann .. and I have to agree. Of course I didn't mean that you should load the meta tag with a zillion keywords just because they are relevant.

The tricky part is to think of keywords that are unique to your site, and will make your site stand out in comparison with others.

And keyplyr, you're right .. sometimes they are over-used .. But I think the bigger problem is that they are neglected, or simply improperly used .. which is why I gave this post the title Make intelligent use of META tags

;)

tedster




msg:619152
 11:22 pm on May 27, 2002 (gmt 0)

The meta keywords tag really is of diminishing value lately, partly because so many authors stuff it with words that are not relevant to their page.

Google is in the forefront here - they just don't look at the tag, period. They prefer that their algo make up it's own mind about what searches the page is relevant for, rather than take the page author's word for it.

There are still search engines that use the keywords meta tag to varying degrees, but no one should imagine that putting a keyword in the meta tag is like placing an order for traffic. The page title and on-the-page content have MUCH more influence on the search returns.

So, yes, use the keywords meta, but don't agonize over what goes in the tag. It's true, you can place as many words as you want, but after maybe 7 to 10, it's unlikely they will have much effect with any search engine anywhere. I use the tag mostly as a note to myself for what keywords I've been targeting on each particular page.

Just be ordinary about it.

DrDoc




msg:619153
 11:23 pm on May 27, 2002 (gmt 0)

I agree martinibuster ..

Shouldn't every web developer be required to take a mandatory META tag class? ;)

As far as not using TITLE tags. I have to admit that (way back) I used to ignore those on frames based sites. But, now I always put something there, even if the page is dynamically generated. After all, the title will also be seen when the page is printed.

DrDoc




msg:619154
 11:26 pm on May 27, 2002 (gmt 0)

>> I use the tag mostly as a note to myself for what keywords I've been targeting on each particular page.

I like the way you phrased that, tedster .. 'cause those are exactly the keywords you should put in the tag. :)

hurlimann




msg:619155
 11:28 pm on May 27, 2002 (gmt 0)

Agreed Doc.
I use nearly all of them you list and also:
<meta name="revisit-after" content="14 days">
<meta name="reply-to" content="info@xxx.com">
<meta name="document-classification" content="general">
<meta name="document-rights" content="Copywritten Work">
<meta name="document-type" content="Public">
<meta name="document-rating" content="Safe for Kids">

DrDoc




msg:619156
 11:31 pm on May 27, 2002 (gmt 0)

A short question, hurlimann.

Do you mean "Copywritten" as in "This page has been produced using a copywriter" .. or, do you in fact mean "Copyright protected work"?

WebGuerrilla




msg:619157
 11:35 pm on May 27, 2002 (gmt 0)

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.

I think that is an accurate description based on common 1998 useage, but that really isn't how the tag works now.

This tag can help a little, on a couple of search engines. It lets you place additional emphisis on imortant words that already appear on the page. Enter the 10-15 most important words that appear in your title, description, and first couple of sentences on the page would be a more accurate description of the tag's potential benefit/useage.

hurlimann




msg:619158
 11:37 pm on May 27, 2002 (gmt 0)

Doc,
Who know's I copied it!;)
AFAICR it mean's copyright

JayC




msg:619159
 11:40 pm on May 27, 2002 (gmt 0)

>>It lets you place additional emphisis on imortant words that already appear on the page.

I'd say you're right, WG. It's certainly not a "must," as there are any number of well-positioned pages on Google and the other major search engines that use no keywords meta tag at all.

fathom




msg:619160
 11:42 pm on May 27, 2002 (gmt 0)

>>What about those who believe that meta tags are mostly irrelevant, but also believe that <title> and </title> are not meta tags?<<

Although "Meta" does not appear in the title tag it is still hidden text.

It can be use to mis-represent the page content without changing anything on the web page.

The function therefore implies "Meta".

JayC




msg:619161
 11:48 pm on May 27, 2002 (gmt 0)

While you can define any word any way you want to, I'd be fairly confident that most of those who argue that "meta tags" are of diminished importance today are talking about those tags that follow the form META NAME="****" CONTENT="****", and are not arguing that the TITLE tag isn't crucial.

fathom




msg:619162
 12:12 am on May 28, 2002 (gmt 0)

Hi JayC, at times I really hate forum and email. (You can read between the lines and what you write is taken out of context simply because there is not face to face discussion.)

Personally I don't see tags of any kind having a diminishing capacity.

I do see other tags and elements being more important though and given more "new" weight than others that did have that weight in the past.

All things being equal two identical pages "not related" to each and one had meta keyword with "widget" and the other without. Would the one with "meta keyword" be penalized everytime or given a higher ranked position everytime?

richlowe




msg:619163
 1:07 am on May 28, 2002 (gmt 0)

I've done a lot of research on meta tags and their use, and here's an example of what I have concluded is of most value to me.

<meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=windows-1252">

Nice to know what character set is supposed to be used for the page.

<meta http-equiv="Content-Language" content="en-us">

Language is useful to readers and search engines what to expect. Some pages have been translated into spanish and, of all things, russian, and are marked accordingly.

<meta http-equiv="pics-label" content='(pics-1.1 "http://www.icra.org/ratingsv02.html" l gen true for "http://www.internet-tips.net" r (cz 1 lc 1 nz 1 oz 1 vz 1) "http://www.rsac.org/ratingsv01.html" l gen true for "http://www.internet-tips.net" r (n 0 s 0 v 0 l 1))'>
<meta http-equiv="PICS-Label" content='(PICS-1.1 "http://www.classify.org/safesurf/" l r (SS~~000 1))'>

I like to let my readers know they can expect my site to be safe for all ages.

<meta name="author" content="Richard G. Lowe, Jr.">

That's me.

<meta name="copyright" content="Copyright 1999-2002 Richard Lowe and Claudia Arevalo-Lowe, All Rights Reserved">

And my wife and I own the copyright.

<meta name="description" content="TCP/IP - the foundation of the internet. This is the information about the protocol which makes the internet work.">

Description is useful for manys search engines. This is also what is displayed by my own internal PERL search engine.

<meta name="keywords" content="tcp/ip,tcpip,ip,network protocol">

Keywords help my own internal search engine as well as other engines. Also, I have found some of the smaller directories and engines use these to catagorize the site.

<meta name="rating" content="GENERAL">

Another way to say my site is family safe.

<meta name="ROBOTS" content="ALL">

The page can be indexed.

<meta name="MSSmartTagsPreventParsing" content="TRUE">

Keep away Microsoft Smart tags.

<title>TCP/IP - the foundation of the internet</title>

Of course, the title is used by both my internal search engine and the others as well.

I specifically set pragma and expires in the header (in IIS this is easy, don't know about apache) because HMTL is not parsed by proxy servers and such, but the headers are. My pages don't change often so I want them to remain cached for a long time, so I set the expire to 6 months in the header.

I thought about "reply-to" then realized I would just be helping email harvesters, so I don't use it.

My philosophy on the use of these tags is simple. Yes, they are of value to some search engines, but more importantly, the tags tell the outside world things about my pages. So the questions I ask myself is "what do I want to make known that is not obvious from the page itself", "is a meta tag the best way to do it (sometimes setting the HTTP header is better, for example) and "is the tag abused (such as reply-to))

I am also starting to use more and more of the <LINK> tag, as I think it is very useful to tell the world how my web site is structured. I like the way you can relate a page to it's chapter, section, table of contents and so on. This seems like, when the feature becomes more widely supported, it will make life easier for everyone.

Richard Lowe

bill




msg:619164
 1:18 am on May 28, 2002 (gmt 0)

http-equiv="Content-type" content="text/html;charset=ISO-8859-1"
bravo...you should declare your charset regardless of whether you're using something you think is 'normal' or not. There is a whole great big world out there beyond English...this tag really helps surfers view your page as you intend it.

You wouldn't believe how many times a day I have to set my browser's page encoding manually because some webmaster didn't bother to declare the charset and left it to me to manually guess what encoding I'm supposed to use...

DrDoc




msg:619165
 1:34 am on May 28, 2002 (gmt 0)

What makes me worried is that this topic took a different turn than I had hoped. When I said that meta keywords is a must, of course I didn't mean that you have to throw it in there no matter what.

Any serious web developer should know the importance of this tag (as well as the other meta tags). The Internet is an international market. Even if your site is mainly in English you really need to think about using the meta keywords tag.

To give myself some positive feedback: Personally I always use American English on all my pages. But, what if a person from Australia can't find my page because he/she spells the words differently, or what if a certain thing has a different name in American English?

For example, say that you built a site that has to do with trucks .. What we call a 'truck' here in America is way different from what they mean in England. Wouldn't it be wise to include words like "lorry" and "pick-up" among the keywords?
What if a page has to do with arthritis? Wouldn't it be wise to include words like "reumatism"?
If your page has a selfstudy course teaching Perl, are people searching for "programming" or "CGI" going to find it?
Or if your company name changes, it would be smart to include the old name in the meta tag.

I agree that the meta keywords tag can be misused. It can be used to spam with totally irrelevant words. But that doesn't mean that those of us who know how to use it should avoid it. It is, after all, still part of HTML standard. It was created to let the page developer include synonyms that would make it easier for a person to find the page.

I know that this is but one of the many different uses for meta tags, and I accknowledge the statement that it is no longer as important as it used to be. However, that is, in my humble opinion, a statement that is about as far fetched as it is true.

We are the designers. We set the standards. We decide whether the tags are useful or not.

It makes me worried to see that whenever a controversial topic is on the table - no matter if it's about stop supporting NN4 browsers, converting to full CSS/XHTML, or a topic like this - that's when we have the most disagreements.

I still think that no matter if they are not as 'important' as they used to be, we still need to learn how to 'make intelligent use of the META tags.'

Personally I really enjoyed the two posts from fathom and richlowe. You brought up some valuable points! I especially liked your post, richlowe.

Axacta




msg:619166
 1:46 am on May 28, 2002 (gmt 0)

The charset is the only meta tag necessary for validation, but the description meta tag is still useful in some SE's, and I agree about the keyword meta tag and smaller, targetted SE's.

It is unecessary to include <meta name="ROBOTS" content="ALL"> as this is the default. The robots meta tag is only necessary for restrictions.

As far as the rest are concerned, I see them mostly as code bloat, with a few exceptions like the Google no cache, etc. when necessary.

pageoneresults




msg:619167
 1:47 am on May 28, 2002 (gmt 0)

> This tag can help a little, on a couple of search engines. It lets you place additional emphisis on imortant words that already appear on the page. Enter the 10-15 most important words that appear in your title, description, and first couple of sentences on the page would be a more accurate description of the tag's potential benefit/useage.

WG, its funny that you were posting that at about the same I was making some updates to my site describing the exact same sequence. Mine went like this...

Please indicate in your email the title for the article by enclosing it in <h1>Title of Article Here</h1>. Provide a META Description (170 characters maximum) for the <head> section of the article. You can also provide a Meta Keywords tag if you wish. Limit the keywords tag to 15 words and do not use commas. Your email to us might look like this...

<h1>Title of Article Here</h1>

<meta name="description" content="Provide a description of the article here. There can be a maximum of 170 characters.">

<meta name="keywords" content="keyword phrase 1 keyword phrase 2 keyword phrase 3 keyword phrase 4 keyword phrase 5">

Note: For the keywords tag, use only targeted keyword phrases that are found in the first two paragraphs of the article. First order of keyword phrases should come from your title, then description, and then your first two paragraphs.

<!--Begin Article Here-->

Amazing how some of us think alike, or I should say most of us, since we are discussing the same issues.

I see way too much emphasis being given to irrelevant meta tags. I typically limit it to these...

<head>
<title>
<description>
<keywords>
<charset> - required for proper validation.
</head>

...in that exact order.

These days I find myself leaving the <keywords> tag off anything but root level pages. I do try and include them on all pages when time permits. I'm like tedster, it helps me to focus on the content for that page.

(edited by: pageoneresults at 2:00 am (utc) on May 28, 2002)

Axacta




msg:619168
 2:00 am on May 28, 2002 (gmt 0)

>Amazing how some of us think alike<

Yeah - amazing! One minute apart.

richlowe




msg:619169
 2:22 am on May 28, 2002 (gmt 0)

I guess whether or not you use meta tags and which ones you use depends upon the purpose of your site. My site, for example, is educational. Thus, I include keywords to help categorize my pages, to aid the various research search engines and directories, and to ensure that my pages are understood as family safe.

So what's important to me is that my site gets properly placed on thousands of research directories and search engines all over the internet. I want libraries and universities to add it to their list of references.

Stating my copyright is also important, as I might need to enforce it later.

A commerical site, however, might not have any use for any of that. I can easily see that a site selling candy or whatever would restrict the meta tags to the basics. Who cares which of the small directories it gets listed within - all that's important is targeted traffic.

As I said in my earlier post, I find these meta tags extremely useful to tell robots and other things which visit my site how I would prefer it be handled, categorized and saved. I like having control over these things, as then my sites become optimally useful to my audience.

Richard Lowe

pageoneresults




msg:619170
 2:26 am on May 28, 2002 (gmt 0)

> I guess whether or not you use meta tags and which ones you use depends upon the purpose of your site. My site, for example, is educational. Thus, I include keywords to help categorize my pages, to aid the various research search engines and directories, and to ensure that my pages are understood as family safe.

Excellent point richlowe, its all relative. Heck, I've seen sites add the 20 or so metas that are available and then the whole Dublin Core Set. You end up on line 100 of your html before the real content even starts!

pageoneresults




msg:619171
 2:29 am on May 28, 2002 (gmt 0)

Here is an excellent thread on the <head></head> that bro started on March 29, 2002.

Heads Up on Heads [webmasterworld.com]

This 117 message thread spans 4 pages: 117 ( [1] 2 3 4 > >
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