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Meta element

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Meta Elements and their Usage in SEO

– Meta elements can specify HTTP headers for the HTML page served from the web server to the client.
– The ‘meta charset’ element indicates the character encoding of the page.
– Meta tags can be used to describe the contents of the page.
– The ‘meta name=description’ element describes the contents of a web page.
– Meta elements can be used to specify the media type and character encoding.
– Meta elements provide information about the web page for search engines.
Search engine optimization (SEO) focuses on using meta elements to improve rankings.
– The value of meta tags in SEO is debated among the search engine community.
– Major search engine robots consider many factors in ranking a page, with meta tags being just a portion.
Search engine ranking rules change frequently, making the role of meta tags in SEO uncertain.

Specific Meta Attributes

– The keywords attribute was popularized by search engines in 1995.
– There is no consensus on whether the keywords attribute affects ranking.
– It is speculated that keywords in the meta can impact ranking if they appear in the page copy.
Google no longer takes keywords into account for ranking.
Yahoo! still supports the keywords meta tag along with other factors for search rankings.
– Title tags are the second most important on-page factor for SEO after content.
– Title tags convey what a page is about to search engines.
– Including primary and secondary keywords in the title tag used to be standard SEO practice.
– Title tags are displayed in search results, web browser tabs, and social media links.
Google has made changes to how much content is shown in title tags.
– The description attribute is supported by major search engines like Yahoo! and Bing.
Google uses the description attribute when information about the page is requested.
– The description provides a concise explanation of the page’s content.
– It can affect click-through rates on search engine results pages.
Google does not consider the description meta element as a ranking factor.
– The language attribute indicates the natural language of the website.
– It helps search engines understand in which language a page is written.
– User-agents use language information to select language-appropriate fonts.
– It is useful for websites written in multiple languages.
– The language attribute improves the user experience of the page.
– The robots attribute controls whether search engine spiders can index a page.
– It can prevent a page from being indexed or links from being crawled.
– The noindex value prevents a page from being indexed.
– The nofollow value prevents links from being crawled.
– Other values like noarchive and nosnippet influence how search engines index pages.

Search Engine Usage of Meta Tags

Google, Yahoo!, and MSN used the title and abstract of the DMOZ listing for website listings in search engine results pages (SERP).
– Microsoft introduced the NOODP value in May 2006 to allow webmasters to specify that the Open Directory Project content should not be used for their website listings.
Google followed in July 2006 and Yahoo! in October 2006.
Google reported stopping the use of DMOZ in 2017, rendering the NOODP directive ignored.
– The syntax for the NOODP tag is the same for all search engines that support it.
Google does not use HTML keyword or meta tag elements for indexing.
– Web sites repeating the same meta keyword may have their ranking decreased by search engines.
– Search engines may ignore the meta keyword element completely.
Google uses meta tag elements for displaying site links in search results.
– Swiftype considers meta tags as a mechanism for signaling relevancy for their web site search engines.

Redirects and HTTP Message Headers

– Meta refresh elements can be used to automatically refresh a web page or redirect the user to a different location.
– Auto-refreshing via a META element has been deprecated for more than ten years.
– Client-side redirects can interfere with the normal functioning of a web browser’s back button.
– Auto-redirects via markup are not in compliance with the W3C’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.
– Some modern browsers, like Safari, Mozilla Firefox, and Opera, overcome the back button problem caused by redirects.
– Meta elements with the form ‘meta http-equiv=foo content=bar’ can be used as alternatives to HTTP headers.
– The HTML 4.01 specification allows parsing this tag by HTTP servers, but no web servers currently implement this behavior.
– User agents emulate the behavior of some HTTP headers as if they had been sent in the response header itself.

Alternative Approaches to Meta Elements

HTML elements like TITLE, ADDRESS, INS, DEL, title attribute, and cite attribute can handle certain pieces of meta data instead of using META.
– A back-of-book-style index for a website can be used as an alternative to meta elements for enhanced subject access.
ALIWEB used an index file in 1994 to provide information commonly found in meta keywords attributes.
– Authors may decide to use a link element with a proper value for its rel attribute when the content attribute value is a URL.
– For language specification, it is best to use HTTP headers, meta elements, or attributes depending on the situation.

Meta element (Wikipedia)

Meta elements are tags used in HTML and XHTML documents to provide structured metadata about a Web page. They are part of a web page's head section. Multiple Meta elements with different attributes can be used on the same page. Meta elements can be used to specify page description, keywords and any other metadata not provided through the other head elements and attributes.

The meta element has two uses: either to emulate the use of an HTTP response header field, or to embed additional metadata within the HTML document.

With HTML up to and including HTML 4.01 and XHTML, there were four valid attributes: content, http-equiv, name and scheme. Under HTML 5, charset has been added and scheme has been removed. http-equiv is used to emulate an HTTP header, and name to embed metadata. The value of the statement, in either case, is contained in the content attribute, which is the only required attribute unless charset is given. charset is used to indicate the character set of the document, and is available in HTML5.

Such elements must be placed as tags in the head section of an HTML or XHTML document.

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