The Blogger’s Guide to Meta Tags

By Gregory Ciotti

Although off-site optimization is generally considered to be more important, ignoring on-site search engine ranking factors can be costly. Things like solid internal linking and keyword-rich titles can have a very significant impact (as I’ve said before). Meta tags, while they’ve fallen out of vogue as the on-site optimization method of choice, can also play an important role in your site’s search engine rankings.

What are meta tags?

For those who don’t know, a meta tag is an HTML tag that resides in the <head> section of a web page. Unlike other HTML tags, meta tags do not appear anywhere on the page itself, so most visitors never see them. Different meta tags serve different purposes, but they are generally used to provide additional information about the page. The meta description tag, for example, provides a brief summary of the page’s content. How this information gets used varies from tag to tag.

Examples of meta tags:

<meta name="distribution" content="global" />

<meta name="language" content="en, sv" />

Which meta tags are worthwhile?

There are a lot of meta tags out there, but very few of them are useful. In fact, chances are good that a site that doesn’t use any meta tags at all will function just as well as a site that does. Some have their uses, however, particularly when communicating with search engine spiders. Here’s the breakdown of every meta tag you’re likely to come across:

Abstract – Use the meta description tag instead.

Author – Sure, it’s nice to plaster your name all over your content. However, the best place to do that is somewhere in the content itself to avoid confusion.

Cache-Control – It’s historical use has been to keep users from seeing outdated versions of your website. Since this is rarely an issue nowadays, it’s no longer as useful. Note, also, that it will do next to nothing to prevent your site from being cached by search engines; you should use the robots meta tag for that purpose.

Classification – Considering how badly spammed the keywords meta tag has been, I can’t see such an arbitrary tag doing any better.

Content-Language – This one’s iffy. Ascertaining the language of the content on a site is rarely a big issue. Use it only if you need to clarify from one page to the next, such as if you have multiple translations of the same page.

Content-Type – This one’s actually important. You can assign the character set of a page using one of several methods, including the content-type meta tag. Make sure you do so in some way on every page.

Copyright – Like the author meta tag, you probably should add the copyright notice directly to the body of your website.

Description – Although its no longer useful for ranking purposes, the description tag is often still used in generating snippets (the text that appears beneath the title in the search engine result pages). It is, therefore, a very powerful tool for drawing in potential visitors. Never underestimate the power of controlling each page’s marketing message to the world.

Designer – The same as author and copyright tags, insert this on the website itself.

Distribution – If a page is meant for internal distribution only, it should be properly blocked using robots.txt or the robots meta tag (below). This tag is completely unnecessary.

Expires – If you have content that shouldn’t be crawled or indexed after a certain period of time, it might be useful. For bloggers, the occasion will probably never arise.

Generator – This one is only used by automated web authoring software, so there’s no point to input it by hand.

GoogleBot – If you have some dire need to instruct one search engine spider differently than another, go ahead.

Keywords – Once upon a time, this might have been useful. Since it was so frequently spammed, however, it no longer carries any ranking benefit. It’s still commonly used, however, and it might even be worthwhile in second-rate search engines, but it won’t get you anywhere with the big boys. If you choose to use it, do not, but do not stuff it!

MSNBot – See the note about the googlebot meta tag.

Owner – See the note about the author meta tag.

PICS-Label – See the note about the rating meta tag.

Pragma – Telling browsers whether or not to cache your page could be handy for usability depending on your site. However, I’ve heard that it doesn’t enjoy a lot of support.

Publisher – See the note about the generator meta tag.

Rating – Like so many web standards, it would be great if it were actually used. However, the sites that deserve a rating of “Mature” or “Restricted” rarely broadcast it. Don’t bother with it; let the rating of your content speak for itself.

Refresh – If you’re redirecting one page to another, use a 301 redirect. Meta refreshes are generally regarded as spam.

Reply-To – See the note about the author meta tag.

Revisit-After – Even if getting frequent visits from search engine spiders offered any competitive advantage (it doesn’t), they aren’t going to visit your site more frequently just because you ask them to. This one’s only useful for limiting the frequency of spidering, not increasing it.

Robots – Although you can use the robots.txt file to issue site-wide directives to search engines, the robots meta tag is very handy for controlling spidering on a page-by-page basis. You can tell search engines whether a page should be indexed, whether it should be archived, whether or not its links should be followed, and even how to generate its search result snippet.

Subject – Your title tag should communicate your subject; using a meta tag to do so is unnecessary.

Title
– Don’t bother with the meta title tag when your ordinary title tag does the job much better.

Unavailable-After – Believe it or not, this one’s brand new and supported by Google. Why they didn’t just go with the expires meta tag is anyone’s guess. At any rate, like it’s identical twin, it will rarely if ever be useful for bloggers.

There are literally dozens more meta tags out there, few of which enjoy any widespread use. When in doubt about whether a meta tag is worthwhile or not, it’s probably best to assume it isn’t. Otherwise, you’ll just end up cluttering your page headers with a lot of useless junk.

If anyone has any additional meta tags or insights to add, please share them in a comment and I’ll update the original post as needed.

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43 Responses to “The Blogger’s Guide to Meta Tags”

  • Jeremy Steele

    The description and keyword tags are still incredibly important for ranking on non-google SEs (and even Google still uses them). Everyone seems to think if Google doesn’t make it a priority then it doesn’t matter, but there is still another 30% of the search engines that use them.

  • Daniel

    Jeremy, I would agree with the description tag, but not with the keywords one.

    In fact I am experiment without it right now, I think unless you use carefully selected and dynamic keywords this meta tag might actually do more harm than good.

    I will keep you guys updated.

  • Stephen

    My understanding is that neither Yahoo nor MSN use the description or keywords meta tags in their ranking algorithms either. That’s 91.5%, according to the June 2007 Nielsen/NetRatings report (bearing in mind that Google powers AOL search). I’d be surprised if Ask doesn’t do the same or will do so in the near future, so that number is probably more like 93.5%.

    Don’t misunderstand, though; I’m not saying it’s never worthwhile to use them (particularly the description tag). I’m simply saying they offer little or no ranking benefit. So long as you don’t use them in a manipulative fashion, they should never hurt your site’s rankings.

  • Jeremy Steele

    I do agree that the keywords tag isn’t nearly as important as it was in the 90s, but I do think it is at least part of the equation.

    As for the description tag, a while back I did some small experiments on an old blog by simply using the first paragraph of a post for the description tag, and SE rankings shot right up in Yahoo and Google, still got crap from MSN though (as usual, have never had good luck with them).

  • Daniel

    Yeah dynamic description tags are important.

  • Jamaipanese

    great explanation, very useful

  • The Buxr Widget

    I ALWAYS use the description meta tag because it let’s me control the description Google will use.. It’s great for making appealing copy.. Why give this control up to google?

  • Jessie

    Concise explanation. Thanks for the guide Daniel!

  • Dy

    Thanks. I will try in my blog

  • Glock

    thnx alot, i really needed help with the meta tag, thnx!

  • Spam Emails: We hate Spams

    Thank you.

  • Increase PR

    I have to sutdy this further.
    Thank you.

  • Jamie Boyle

    My comment or question is can we add meta tag optimization to our blog on blogger. And if so we just ad that to the template? Please help someone, want to make sure I did it right.

  • Jason Bridgewater

    Thanks. We are currently implementing dynamic meta tags and improving some other processes such as content management. I think it is worth doing because you never know when the Search Engines will move the goalposts again.

    Just trying to future-proof the site as much as possible.

  • kelly

    your blog has great info oin meta tags,
    how do i add meta tags to blogs in blogger.com
    Thanks kelly

  • venky

    Good Blog , I got lot of information how to add meta tags

    Thanks

  • YORI VT

    I need to increase my page rank. so plis link my blog and i’ll link ur back..Let me know u have link me by leave message

  • SEO Genius

    The description tag i would agree is still very important in both search engine terms for crawling and ranking and also for enticing browsers to your website however keywords these days does not have much strength in SEO.

  • worldpeace

    Great article. In fact I already put my metatag in my blog, then I test the metatag using metatag testing, it said that my metatag relevancy is 0. It seems like it didn’t read the metatag. I really appreaciate if you can reply to me back

  • AboutOnlineTips

    BUt do we need to insert the meta tags manually for each post. Can’t we handle them dynamically?

  • hollywood models

    but, the INFO for the site ingoogle dosenot appear any discription with the metatag,why?

  • pitagora

    Instead of talking about how important meta tags are on blogger how about you tell us how to add them. Blogger doesn’t seem to have any option to add a unique one for each page. It’s a really burning issue….

  • HB

    Your info on the Expires tag is incorrect. It is not comparable to “unavailable-after”, it is related to caching. It tells the browser when to check for an updated version of that page. If it “expires” before the current visit, the browser will update its cache with the current version. If it expires in the future, a cached version may be shown to visitors.

    Usualy this is set as an HTTP header instead of a meta tag, but either way the meaning is almost the opposite of what’s in the list.

  • Sattarmalik

    very useful but I have question that how can we place meta tags for every post in blogger

  • James

    Yes how do we add a meta tag for every post. I use blogger, and every thing I have researched and read does not work. Any help or suggestion would be appreciated. Thanks

  • Maurice Jacob

    I have tried a number of times to add a description meta tag to an article in blogspot.com, but it just does not work. The same description appears on all the other articles. Any ideas to correct this will be appreciated.

  • lost, lost, lost

    I’m totally lost. I really need to learn how to do meta tags for a forum. Can anyone offer any suggestions?

    It seems like everyone’s got questions, but no one has the answers here.

  • pharmamarketer

    I have a problem in blogspot after adding description/keywords meta tag, it does not work! any advices?!

  • RrJ

    Thanks for your article.

  • maidul

    Thanks iwill try to do it in my blog.

  • GMAmin

    Very good site. I have got additional info. Thanks.

  • Sandeep

    Your style of writing is very clear and concise and i hope will be very useful for the new bloggers.Keep it up.
    Regards

  • akuchey

    i didnt put any meta tag at my blog.but,it just find.my blog get indexed well.so i think this is second thing after creating blog

  • lowellpendon

    Hello, this article is truly interesting. However I would want your opinion about something I’ve read somewhere and I quote:

    Our search engine also analyzes page content. However, instead of simply scanning for page-based text (which can be manipulated by site publishers through meta-tags), our technology analyzes the full content of a page and factors in fonts, subdivisions and the precise location of each word. We also analyze the content of neighboring web pages to ensure the results returned are the most relevant to a user’s query.

    Source: http://www.google.com/corporate/tech.html

    From this statement, I was wondering whether it is still necessary to use meta tags.

  • lowellpendon

    Which is probably why I noticed that blogspot templates don’t have meta tags at all.

  • VJ

    I totally agree with you. For the website I can generate meta tags by placing in the head section. I’m looking for any alternative to generate tags for each and every post in the blog. Do u have any idea?

  • Raja

    -meta expr:content=’data:blog.pageTitle’ name=’Description’/-

    In the above tag i want to add my own sentences with page title. Please help me to do that..

    I tried the following but it shows error

    -meta expr:content=’data:blog.pageTitle’ + ‘My own sentences which describes more about my website’ name=’Description’/-

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