Use META tags to get a more accurate and representative listing of your Web site in (some) search engine indexes. By adding your own searchable keywords, you can better communicate with the search engine robots (also referred to as spiders) that index your site.

When you are trying to come up with a description of your site and appropriate keywords, BE THE ONE WHO SEARCHES. If you were looking for the type of information that your site includes, what keywords would you punch into the search line? What descriptive sentence would lead you to one site as opposed to another? Keep in mind that when a robot visits your site, it will follow links within your site and index them as well. If you change your Web site or a single Web page, the robot will update the search engine index when it returns to your site anywhere from a couple days to several months later, depending on the search engine.

META tags are invisible; they will not display when previewing your HTML document through a Web browser. For this reason, META tags must fall after the <title></title> tag, between your <head></head> tag, and before the <body> tag as in the following example:

This text would contain the title of your page</title>
<meta name="description"  content="This text would contain a description of your page">
<meta name="keywords"  content="This text would consist of a list of keywords, separated by commas">

There are many different META tags. You can use one, two, or all of the tags within your Web page:

  • <meta name="description"  content="your text here">

    Depending on the search engine, the text you include after content will be displayed along with the title of your page in a search index. A single, brief but descriptive sentence is all you need, but you can use up to 200 text characters (a character is a single letter, space, or punctuation mark). Don't make thedescriptionthe same as your title. For example, the following code...

    Early American Writers</title>
    <meta name="description"  content="Early American Writers">

    ...would appear like this in a search engine index that recognizes META tags:

        Early American Writers
            Early American Writers

    If you do not include META tags in your HTML, Alta Vista will index all of the words in your document, and will use the first few words of the document as a short abstract or description in the Alta Vista search index. Similarly, Infoseek will derive an index description from the first 200 characters of your HTML document if you choose not to include META tags.

  • <meta name="keywords"  content="your keyword here, your keyword here">

    Keywords should be separated by commas (and spaces between commas are not necessary), and you can include 1,000 characters of text (again, a character is a single letter, space, or punctuation mark). For instance, if your site consists of information on early American writers, include author names as keywords:

    <meta name="keywords"  content="Hawthorne, Melville, Poe">

    Early on, some Web masters discovered that if you included the same keyword repeatedly within the content attribute, you could increase your Web site's chances of appearing at the beginning of a search index. Search engines caught on, and now, many instruct their robots not to index Web sites with repetitive keywords.

  • <meta name="robots" content="noindex">

    Use this tag if you don't want a specific page to be indexed by a search engine. If you don't want the robot to index any links contained within your Web site, add nofollow to the tag:

    <meta name="robots" content="noindex,nofollow">

There are several other META tags available, although in my opinion, they're rather silly and redundant. For information on these tags, and some great insight into META tags in general, you may want to check out some of these links:


META tags can also be used to control the loading of an HTML document. For instance, you can use META tags to set up a "Client Pull"—make your page automatically jump to and load another page without a user's prompt. Just embed the following code in your <head></head> tag:

<meta http-equiv=refresh content="10;url=">

...where 10 is the number of seconds you want the current page to be displayed before the jump, and is the URL of the site or specific page that you want the user to jump to.