Definition of a Meta Tag

Written by Nick Stamoulis

A meta tag is an HTML tag that identifies the content of a web page for search engines. Meta tags go inside the element and are usually used to specify page description, character set, keywords, viewport settings, copyright information, and the author of the document. Although hidden, meta tags can be viewed by right clicking on the browser page and selecting “view,” “view page source,” or “page source.” Metadata is used by browsers, various web services, and search engines.

There are other types of meta tags used, which include:

Meta Title: a meta title is the page title that search engines show in search results. A title tag is important as it gives users a glance into the content of a result and how it is relevant to their search. Using high-qualities titles is important as they can help determine whether a user decides to click on the link or not. Each page should have a unique title tag. Keeping a title tag under 60 characters is ideal, so you want to be short but descriptive.

• Meta Description: a meta description will summarize the content of the web page. Search engines will usually include a snippet in the search results allowing users to view a little more detail about the page. Meta descriptions are not a direct ranking factor, but they are important. Again, each meta description should be unique to each page. Meta descriptions can be as many as 160 characters, but keep them brief and interesting.

• Meta Robot: a meta robot tag lets search engines know if and how they should crawl web pages. If you use the incorrect attributes in meta robot tags, this can negatively impact your ranking in search results. Included in meta robot is: index, noindex, follow, and nofollow.

• Meta Viewport: a meta viewport tag sets the visible area of a web page. This instructs the browsers how to render the page on screens of varying sizes. This means that the page will be viewable on a mobile device just as well as on a desktop or laptop.

• Meta Charset: a meta charset tag tells the browser how the text on a web page should be displayed. Setting the character encoding wrong may cause certain characters to display incorrectly, which is bad for SEO. People may not link to your page if it looks broken. Or you may experience a high bounce rate.

• Meta Refresh Redirect: a meta refresh redirect tag informs the browser to redirect the user to another URL. This is not a tag you want to use for a couple of reasons. Not all browsers support meta refresh redirect and it may confuse the user if they don’t know why they are being redirected.

Meta tags might seem complicated, but once you get the hang of them they become like second nature and can have beneficial results for your web pages, SEO, and conversion rates.

 

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