Meta tags are the tools that search engines use to get information about a webpage. The people who visit the page would not be able to see this information because it is implicit information. Meta tags contain metadata like the name attribute, which uses content attribute to be expressed. Many value-name pairs are used within meta tags and some of them are discussed below –
Meta Description – This is the most useful amongst all meta tags. The search engine gets a short and concise description of the web page using this meta tag. Because of algorithm updates, the ranking of meta description is not that much anymore. However, it is still a useful tool because the Click Through Rate of the web page can be improved using meta description. It is recommended that the meta description be 160 characters long because it leverages keywords and increases the chances of a user clicking on the page because of highlighted keywords.
Meta Robots – Meta robots can be handy to prevent indexation of content that is duplicated. Basically, this meta tag is used for managing web page accessibility for search engines. The tag can be used for specifying whether you want to allow or disallow indexation of the page by search engines or if you want the search engine to archive it or follow the links. If two contradictory terms like index and no-index are used by you, then the search engine would choose the option that is most restrictive. It is a useful tag if the web page hosts confidential information or is incomplete.
Title – This is not a meta tag but it is pretty important for SEO optimization. Basically, the title tag is meant to define the document’s title and all HTML documents must have it. It shows up at the results of search engines and on top of the web browser. The ranking and Click Through Rate are heavily influenced by this tag. For best results, the keyword should be put in the beginning of the title as it will be displayed in bold letters if the user’s query matches with it. The title can have up to 70 characters as per Google and they should be used wisely.
Meta Content Type – This meta tag has no influence on rankings or Click Through Rate but it is important nonetheless. Meta content type is used for declaring the character coding of the website. It is added to ensure that there are no display issues when browsers try to guess a website’s character encoding. It should be placed before any and all elements that contain text, even the title tag.
Meta Keywords – The value of this tag has diminished because meta keywords are not used by any major search engines for judging page content. This is why most people do not use it anymore because it has no effect on the ranking of the web page.
Meta Language – This tag improves the accessibility of the web page by informing processors and page readers about the language of the content. However, W3C has recommended using attributes for this purpose and this tag has become redundant in the present times because of that reason.
No Translate – This is added to prevent the search engine from translating the page.
Refresh – This meta tag allows automatic refresh of the page after a certain amount of time has elapsed. It does not influence rankings and W3C does not recommend it.
Usually, the head element holds the meta tags but the body can also be used for the placement of meta tags. However, this is not recommended because it might create an invalid markup due to non-recognition by certain browsers.