Meta tags are pieces of Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) code used to provide search crawlers additional information about a web page. They generally are placed in the <HEAD> element of an HTML document, such that they are read by web crawlers before parsing the <BODY> content of the page.
Meta tags in SEO
Most search engines make use of a standard set of meta tags, including “description” and “keywords”. These tags help to bridge the human-machine gap by providing targeted keywords and keyphrases a crawler can use to more accurately identify the subject matter of a web page.
Meta description tag
Example: <meta name=”description” content=”Content excerpt or brief summary goes here.” />
The description field should be a very brief summary of the page’s content (two sentences or less), including one or two targeted keyphrases. It’s generally advised that marketers keep the description at 160 characters (including spaces) or less, as most search engines ignore any text beyond this limit.
Meta keywords tag
Example: <meta name=”keywords” content=”google, seo, content marketing” />
The keywords tag, now depreciated in most search engines, serves as a supplement to the description tag for crawlers to correctly assess page content.
Meta robots tag
Example: <meta name=”robots” content=”index,follow” />
The robots tag allows a webmaster to prevent a search engine from indexing a website page, in place of an entry in the website’s robots.txt[link] file. In the past, this tag has also been used to opt-out web pages from web directories such as the Open Directory Project, as spammers frequently use the directories to coordinate their attacks.
Brafton has reported that industry SEO experts mutually agree on the importance of meta tags, citing them as one of the “cornerstones of search engine optimization.”