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Welcome to, an information resource that is specific to instruction on techniques for taking advantage of meta tags for website search optimization.

Dispelling the Myth:

If you have ever been told or thought that meta tags don't matter any more, that information is dead wrong.  Google has proposed at least one meta tag themselves and support many others.  Smaller search engines and directories also use the meta tags for their own specific purposes. And the description meta tag is used universally among major search engines to present how your site is listed.

But don't take my word for it. The following video features Matt Cutts, who is in charge of Google's Web Spam department. This video addresses Meta Tags, specifically.

Note that even though Matt Cutts doesn't know of a single search engine that uses the keywords meta, he is playing with the big boys. All the meta search engines and meta listing directories do pull the data from keyword meta tag (Matt can't be right about everything). If you don't use the meta search engines and web directories to help promote your site, then you don't have to worry about the keyword meta tag. But as most of us depend on them, it becomes a significant concern. 'Nuff said.

A Little Background Information on the Terminology Used...

'Search Engine Optimization' (SEO) is really a misnomer.  Originally, SEO was about optimizing your website for the search engines.  If you were really going to optimize a search engine, you would be working on the codes and algorithms that a search engine relies on to produce better results to specific search queries faster.  What people think of as professional SEO is not just search optimizing their website, but also includes the second phase of website promotion and marketing.  A more accurate term is 'Search Engine Results Positioning' (SERP) which is really reflects what people expect when they want SEO, affecting their website's position in search engine results for specific search terms.

We, as search optimization professionals, understand all this, but the 'SEO' & 'Search Engine Optimization' buzzwords took hold in our society and have not let go since. Despite my creativity I am a bit anal and I do have issues with this misused terminology, which is why I need to communicate these definitions ahead of time to reduce reader confusion. 

Basically, the practice of 'SEO' or 'SERP' is not just website optimization for the best performance and the delivery of authoritative content, but also includes the successive promotion and marketing of said website for a more positive result in search engine rankings.  Alone, the first phase of this discipline, search optimization, is far reaching, involving web hosting server speeds, keyword and key phrase placement and repetitiveness, meta tag use, code efficiency, graphics tuning, ease-of-navigation and user friendliness.  Then, you have the promotion and marketing aspect of 'SEO' and 'SERP', which has all sorts of paths to take.

For our purposes here, we will only be concentrating on a single tiny aspect of 'SEO', optimizing meta tags so that they will return the best results for you in your overall search optimization phase.   We will explore what a proper meta tag is, review meta tag use as well as their abuse, discover how to use them to our advantage, and venture into when we shouldn't use them.  When ready to move on, more information on search optimization and promotion can be found through other resources specific to the task such as Pg1.US &

In the end, this will still be your call.  I hope to educate readers about the meta tags themselves and I will make certain recommendations based on what has worked for me in the past, but offer exceptions in which I wouldn't do something a certain way as well.  But the decisions of what to do with this knowledge about meta tags and their use (or non-use) in optimizing your data for the search engines will be yours.

Meta Tags & SEOTM

The whole point of the search engines is to provide the information that users are looking for.  One of the earliest methods to optimize a website so that it will show up high in the search results for specific keywords was to offer meta data for the search engines to crawl.  Meta data is data about the data found on that page.  For instance, a web page about web hosting might mention domain names, servers, platforms, site builders, script installation software, supported languages, databases, offer special deals and 'always-there' technical support.  Meta data summarizes the page using the language that is there so that search engine spiders that look and index this data have a quick synopsis of what's there.

Still, there is all sorts of data on a page, so of course there is all kinds of types of meta data.  To accommodate all these different types of data, there are all sorts of meta tags to present the data to the search engines.  Furthermore, there are standardized meta tags as well as proprietary meta tags.  Just like in HTML, some proprietary meta tags can become standardized after proving beneficial.

Example Meta Tags

A Meta Tag usually takes the form of:

Meta Tag Format:

<meta name="MetaTagName" content="Data specific to the name" />

The tag type of 'meta' designates it as a meta tag, of course.  The name attribute offers a unique field that designates what the data represents and categorizes it.  The content field represents the meta data presented on that particular page for, or as a function of, that name.  Other optional attributes of the meta tag that may show-up include http-equiv.

Many webmasters often try to optimize the img tag by putting the alt text string before the actual img src path.  As an example, they will optimize the following img tag code:

Standard IMG Tag Format:

<img src="/path/to/img.jpg" alt="keyword rich description of image" />

Optimizing it by rewriting it with the textual content that a spider would crawl in front, allowing them more immediate access to it...

Optimized IMG Tag Format:

<img alt="keyword rich description of image" src="/path/to/img.jpg" />

However, this optimization technique is questionable and simply does not  work as expected with meta tags.  This is because most Meta Search Engines and Meta Aware Directories will choke when they see the code rewritten differently, as in the example below...

Broken Meta Tag:

<meta content="Data specific to the name" name="MetaTagName" />

-Do NOT use this form to write a meta tag, it's very bad and breaks the meta tag (all of them that are written in this manner) for many meta search engines.

So, always put the name of the meta tag first, as they are traditionally written.  Otherwise, you will find yourself rewriting them to this format later when your submissions are rejected by certain (and important) Meta Search Engines, such as ScrubTheWeb.

Now that we understand how not  to optimize these meta tags, let's take a look at how they function by exploring a list of example meta tags that are often found on web pages.

Example Meta Tag Set:

<title>Unique Relevant Keyword Rich Page Title</title>
<meta name="language" content="en-us" />
<meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=UTF-8" />
<meta name="description" content="An accurate keyword rich description of this page" />
<meta name="keywords" content="All keyword phrases,associated with this page,listed in order of preference,separated by commas" />
<meta name="classification" content="products, product classifications, company classification, company type, industry" />
<meta name="distribution" content="Global" />
<meta name="rating" content="General" />
<meta name="google-site-verification" content="iHDTV_fkU7lMOOmooEH88r-US72aUPfWYLwqgssuR8VE" />
<meta name="robots" content="index, follow" />
<meta name="revisit-after" content="21 days" />
<meta name="creator" content="Name,Designer,Email Address,or Company" />
<meta name="publisher" content="Designer, Company or Website Name" />

The Title Tag

Of course, you may have noticed that the very first tag listed is not a meta tag at all.  In fact, it is a title tag.  But it does offer meta data.  And it is the most important tag on the page for search engines.  Let's take each tag individually, as I have included them in a specific order for a very specific reason...

Example Title Tag Format:

<title>Unique Keyword Rich Page Title</title>

The title should always offer the subject (as well as act as the title) for that specific page. But it should never be blank or filled with a default title such as 'Home'.  As with search optimization techniques in general, the most important keyword or keyword phrase should appear as close to the beginning of the title as possible.  This spot isn't for the company name, though you may opt to follow the page title with your brand name (as shown in the example given below).

The title tag should never be more than 80 characters long, but most search engines will cut the title off at 60 characters.  I personally recommend never using more than 40 to 45 characters at the most, unless you want to append the title with some branding for your company, website or a featured product on the page. 

Example Title Tag Format with Branding:

<title>Unique Keyword Rich Page Title - Company Name</title>

Don't repeat words in the title more than 3 times. Repeating a word (whether a keyword or not) 5 times or more will surely raise red flags for spam.  Don't raise any flags with your title tag.

The title of each page should be unique on every single page of your website.  It should reflect exactly what can be found on that page, summed up in a few words or a phrase.  For examples of the proper use of meta data, I will be using the tags on this page to illustrate certain points about them.

Example Title Tag Usage:

<title>Meta Tags &amp; SEO</title>

Because this page is about the proper use of meta tags, 'Meta Tags' are the first two words in the title.  The &amp; code is specific to calling the '&' ampersand sign.  I specifically use the acronym SEO because despite its inaccuracy, this is a more commonly known and search keyword, plus it is a part of my brand.

Normally, you would never use the same page title as the name of a site, with the exception of the home page, if it is appropriate and reflective of that home page.  However, all other pages on this domain name should now be uniquely titled.

Note also that the website's home page title may be the only description users ever see in a small search engine or web directory listing your link.  This needs to communicate concisely and accurately with only the most important keywords.

In truth, this is the only required tag that we discuss on this page.  All meta tags are optional, but many of them are very useful.

The Language Meta Tag

Language Meta Tag Format:

<meta name="language" content="en-us" />

When a spider crawls a web page it needs to know what active language is.  It then knows that clients who use its search facilities will be more comfortable with results in their own language and offer such related results.  By using this meta tag early, lesser search engines do not get confused.  The above example utilizes U.S. English for the language of the document.

Offering the Correct Character Set

Character Set Meta Tag Format:

<meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=UTF-8">

When a search engine crawls the web page it also needs to know which keyboard character set can be used to view this page correctly, so that it can use the right characters for the right language.  Again, by using this meta tag early, lesser search engines do not get confused.

The Description Meta Tag

Description Meta Tag Format:

<meta name="description" content="An accurate keyword rich description of this page." />

This tag allows you to set how your website listing will be shown in the search results of most any major search engine, as well as many smaller meta search engines, and meta aware web directories will import this data for your listing submission when you are requesting a presence in their directory (saving time and hassle).

The description meta is equally important for branding and marketing as well as search optimization.  By re-wording a descriptive statement about your web page, you can emphasize your important keywords by putting them at the front of the description. 

Example Description Meta Tag Usage:

<meta name="description" content="Information resource that is specific to instruction on techniques for taking advantage of meta tags in website search optimization." />

The previous meta tag example uses the introduction sentence for this website, which helps communicate our message through repetition.  But this statement is better when reworded to include the important keywords at the beginning of the statement and being concise in its message.

Example Optimized Description Meta Tag:

<meta name="description" content="Meta tag optimization techniques to improve website search functionality as well as enhance search findability (meta tag SEO)." />

In the rewritten description, I have the following phrases first and foremost: meta tag, meta tag optimization, optimization techniques.  The word search is mentioned twice, taking advantage of repetition techniques, but it isn't mentioned too much, which could be considered spamming.  The phrase meta tag is repeated at the end of the description, as well, with the SEO acronym buzz term.

My meta description is exactly 126 characters long.  This is distinctly shorter than the 200 characters allowed, but I personally wouldn't use more than 150 characters to describe a page.  I could add to this message if I thought it was necessary, but it is at least more than the 120 minimum characters required by certain engines and directories where you might market your website, it is keyword rich, it is concise and it gets to the point.  This is good marketing strategy.

The description meta tag offers important marketing and branding functionality by allowing you to control how your website is described, instead of allowing the search engine to offer a description that is based on a series of snippets showing the related keywords or keyword phrases on your website which taken individually, usually don't make any sense.

The Keywords Meta Tag

There are some variations on this meta tag, but it has been pretty much standardized.

Keywords Meta Tag Format:

<meta name="keywords" content="" />

Of course the content needs to be filled with a list of keywords and keyword phrases that are relevant and demonstrate what is available on the very page it describes.  Also, the list of keywords should be unique, as well. 

Keywords Meta Tag Usage:

<meta name="keywords" content="All,keywords,and keyword phrases,associated,with this page,specifically,listed in order of preference,separated by commas" />

The standard for the length of characters used to build the list of relevant keywords differs widely according who you would talk to.  Some will tell you that you can have as many as 800 or even total 1000 characters in the keywords meta tag.  I don't agree with this idea.

  1. First of all, if your description is limited to 150 to 200 characters max, there is no reason to write a book of keywords that doesn't make sense.
  2. The longer that your list of keywords is, the more it pushes down the content of your web page.  All major search engines are more concerned with the content on the page than keywords.  The content is what the user sees and therefore is what they actually want to crawl.
  3. Every single keyword in the list should appear on the page.  Synonyms should not appear in the keywords list unless they are used on the page in significance.  The better option is to repeat the important keywords without sounding like a broken record.  Use synonyms to break-up over-use and over-repetition  If you need to tackle the synonyms, dedicate a page to using them with new content.
  4. Keyword stuffing has long been considered a problem by the search engines.  Adding too many keywords to the keywords meta could result in setting off red flags for web page spam.
  5. The keyword meta tag is easy to abuse.  Wanting to do a good job as a webmaster can get over-zealous webmasters in trouble. 
  6. Google actually ignores the keyword meta data.  This is because Google crawls and cashes the entire page.  It doesn't need the meta data about the keywords because it has all the content available on it there in Google's archive.

For the above reasons, I like to limit myself to a maximum of 512 characters.  In a pinch, I might allow myself 600 characters at the very max. 

When writing your meta keywords list, get out a piece of paper, look at the keywords that are actually present on the page you are writing the keywords meta for, and write them down.  Then think about what you would hope that a user might enter in order to find your web page, and write them down on another separate paper. 

Once you are done, compare the two notes.  Do these terms match-up?  If not, can you bring around the present text copy to cover the keywords that you want folks to find you with easily?  If not, you should consider writing a new page with new content especially to address those keywords and search terms that you want to be found by.  In some cases, you will need more than one page, as when you are dreaming up how you want to be found, you wind-up with a few new angles.

Here is my keywords and key phrases list for this page...

Example Keywords Meta Tag:

<meta name="keywords" content="meta tags,search optimization,meta tag,SEO,meta data,search engine optimization,website,search,optimization" />

Notice that I have separated keywords and keyword phrases by a comma and not a comma and a trailing space?  This is a good way to save a few characters when you have a long list of keywords and phrases. 

I have a total of 107 characters of keyword meta tag data here.  The strongest keyword phrase is 'meta tags', which appears first.  Additionally, the singular term 'meta tag' shows up soon after.  When you look at it, 'meta tag' is actually repeated twice, while 'meta' is repeated 3 times.  The keyword 'search' shows up in 'search optimization', 'search engine optimization' and by itself.  Keyword 'optimization' also shows up in those same keyword phrases 'search optimization', 'search engine optimization', as well as by itself.  But no word is repeated more than 3 times. 

No word can repeated more than 3 times in the keywords meta, and no keyword is repeated by itself in this tag.  This helps to prevent being perceived as a keyword stuffer, which is web spam and will not help out our listing in the search engines.

The Classification Meta Tag

This meta tag is sadly overlooked because I think that it can help search engines identify businesses through categorization much more easily.  It can also hold some of the most important keywords to the site that don't have to be present on the page.

Here, you are classifying or categorizing your website from specific to generalized...

Classification Meta Tag Usage:

<meta name="classification" content="products, product classifications, company classification, company type, industry" />

The reason that we go from specific classifications to more generalized is that as always, the most important keywords should go first.  Take a look at how I classified this website...

Example Classification Meta Tag:

<meta name="classification" content="meta tag,website optimization,SEO techniques,SEO,information,worldwide web" />

Basically, think of this as a way to find your website when browsing a categorized directory. And since not all directories are alike, you may have to write down a few categories.  I could easily add "internet" to the above classifications, but I think that is too general.  But don't let this get too long, either, I've only used 74 characters above.  I would definitely try to stay under 120 characters max in any event.  Remember, this meta tag doesn't see much use.

The Distribution Meta Tag

The distribution meta tag is not necessary unless you are seeking an international audience and want to make sure you reach it, or you only want to be listed for local searches (perhaps because you are a mom & pop store that doesn't ship).

Example Global Distribution Meta Tag:

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

The above example tells the visiting bot to make this page available on a global scale to all users, worldwide, searching with the web page's active language.

Example Regional Distribution Meta Tag:

<meta name="distribution" content="Sioux Falls,SD,South Dakota" />

The above regional distribution meta specifies a local, the largest town in South Dakota, and the state itself both by abbreviation and name (to cover variances in search engine preferences).  This example tells the search engine only to offer your web page's listing in results for users in a specific state or a specific town. You can list multiple regions (separated by commas), or just specify a country, as well.

The Rating Meta Tag

The rating meta tag alerts search engines that your content is intended for general audiences, or if it should bear a restricted nature of some kind.

Example Rating Meta Tag:

<meta name="rating" content="General" />

Since I only design family friendly websites that are intended for viewing by everyone, I specify that it is appropriate for general audiences.  If however, you are marketing your information, products and/or services to kids, you should get one of the kid-safe rating tags.  You should also get one if you are creating adult sites in an effort to keep the young and innocent away from adult materials.

The Robots Meta Tag

One thing that search engines look for is a 'robots.txt' file that can list the pages that they are allowed to index.  An easy alternative to creating a robots indexing instruction file is to include your instruction in a robots meta tag for each page.

Example Robots Meta Tag:

<meta name="robots" content="index, follow" />

The above example tells all search engine bots that they can index this page and follow the links on the page to any other page listed on the page, as well.

To instruct robots to not index and don't follow any of the links on the page, you would replace the robots meta tag content with the text string "noindex, nofollow".

Something to note is that by default, search engines will assume that they can "index, follow" the page and the links on it.

The Revisit-After Meta Tag

This tag tells a search engine how often to send its bot back to crawl the website looking for new content.  This is like an announcement that you will usually update the site within the given period.

Example Revisit-After Meta Tag:

<meta name="revisit-after" content="21 days" />

The default is usually 30 days and is assumed by the larger search engines that do revisit websites, unless this tag specifies otherwise.

The Creator Meta Tag

The creator meta tag is actually an opportunity for branding.  You may put your name, here.  Many people actually put a contact email address here, but I advise against this since it gives spammers the ammunition with which to shoot you email like there was no tomorrow.

Example Creator Meta Tag:

<meta name="creator" content="Doug Peters (" />

You could add your design studio name (& domain address) here, your company name, or your personal name, like I did.

The Publisher Meta Tag

This is another great opportunity for branding.  Some applications put the name of the HTML editor here, sometimes content management systems add the name of their program here.  You can instead add the company's name or the name of your design studio within this tag.

Example Publisher Meta Tag:

<meta name="publisher" content="Symbiotic Design (" />

Verification Meta Tags

Verification meta tags are proprietary tags entered specifically for a particular search engine so that the system can verify you as a webmaster, administrator or owner of the website.

Example Proprietary Verification Meta Tags:

<meta name="google-site-verification" content="UniqueProprietaryCode4Site" />
<meta name="msvalidate.01" content="UniqueProprietaryCode4Site" />
<meta name="norton-safeweb-site-verification" content="UniqueProprietaryCode4Site" />

Each code assigned by any authority is unique to a particular website and only needs to be placed on the default home page for the domain.  These are often alternative methods of verification to specially coded text files, provided for users with limited hosting capabilities. 

Verification has become an alarming standard as the internet continues to further commercialize and lose all hopes of autonomy.  Nevertheless, the search engines are avoiding spam by identifying the contacts of new website submissions to their precious databases.

Adding Up All The Metas

On top of all the other rules on repetition per each tag, no word should be repeated more than half a dozen times in all the meta tags put together.  Six times in all the metas is OK, but not more.

On top of that, I add another guideline... all of the content data for all of the named meta tags added together, excluding the proprietary meta tags (such as search engine specific verification strings and content ratings), should never exceed more than 1024 characters total.  Because a 1024 characters total maximum is a very healthy limit, because this is supposed to be meta data, and because any more will tend to push the content of your page down below the fold when you look at your HTML code (when written properly), losing the benefits of your Meta Tag SEOTM efforts.

There are many other metas, but there is probably one other meta tag that you might want to know more about. It is sort-of unique and can redirect visitors to moved pages...
The Refresh Meta Tag


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