Everything You Need To Know About Meta Tags in the Modern Age

September 30, 2010 by  Filed under: SEO 

Meta Tags are a way to add a non-visable text to an HTML document. They were originally used to make web pages easier to find and for search engines to categorize. The internet is essentially a massive database, finding a simple way to discover websites was a necessity. Meta Tags were an invention to attempt to label a website using a short description and a series of identifying keywords.

A new HTML tag was introduced, placed in the element and not readable on the page but parsable by a crawler or viewing the HTML source. This day in age they are of questionable importance and there is a lot of confusion on whether they are needed at all.

The Debate
Nearly every SEO website you visit will have information about meta tags, suggesting it’s one of the best ways to optimize your website. On the contrary there is a lot of evidence suggesting you do not need to worry about them as much as they claim. During the “search engine dark ages” when they were first introduced many search engines started to utilize the meta tag. But not since the ancient days of Lycos and Hotbot have they been of very much use.

Mainly the reason they have faded from usefulness is they became an unreliable source of information about the website they were trying to index. Predominantly due to keyword stuffing and other such ridiculous efforts to increase traffic. Keyword stuffing is the act of jam packing your website, above all, the meta tags, with as many keywords as you can “stuff” in there. As you can see if every joker has placed iPod and Justin Bieber in their tags and do not have a Bieber fan page or tech blog this can cause a problem.

If you’re still not convinced we can ask the all mighty Google. Surely if they were of any importance Google would take advantage of them in some way right? Google admits that they do not use meta tags to judge page rank. Why? Essentially for the reasons mentioned above. Long ago, websites were only judged on content. That is, only a web site’s text was looked at and not other various off page formulas such as quality incoming links did not come into play. But this does not mean you need to phase them out all together.

Meta tags do have their use even at Google. The description tag is used to display search result information about your site in the form of a “snippet”. But it has no bearing on your page rank, it is simply used for descriptive purposes, go figure.

Google isn’t the only fish in the pond of course, there are many other major SE’s. Most of which will use meta tags in some way but won’t allow them to have much significance in the search ranking. For this fact alone it will not hurt to have an acceptable list of keywords in your meta tag as a backup precaution. But with all of this being said if you wanted to leave them out completely, go for it. There are several other SEO techniques that are incomparably more important that should be given more attention.

The least you need to know
Meta tags lost their importance very long ago, they still have some use but the days of tricking out your meta tag for amazing search ranking are over. Google uses them only for little descriptive snippets for your site and does not formulate meta tags into your page rank. I know several web developers who have not used them in years and have seen no difference in their sites. It doesn’t hurt to have them but bottom line is you don’t need to go SEO crazy when it comes to them. Would love to hear your view, do you use them or not? Visit my site for the full article that gives more detailed information on how to implement and maximize your tags.

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