Meta Demystified


You've mastered the basics of HTML. Now you're ready to sink your teeth into some of the more advanced topics. For instance, what are those meta tags everyone keeps talking about?

As you're probably already aware, most search engines aren't very good at figuring out what a webpage is all about. How many times have you searched for something only to find a match that has nothing to do with what you're looking for? Meta tags give you the ability to tell a search engine general ideas, or keywords, that help to better describe the contents of the full page.

So how exactly do you make a meta tag? It's really quite simple.

<META Name="author" Content="Mark (AnalogX)">

For most meta tags, you'll need two fields, one called Name and another called Content. Name describes what type of information this meta tag contains, while Content contains the actual information. So in the above examples, the author is Mark (AnalogX). Now, anything that understands the author tag will know that Mark (AnalogX) made this page.

<META Name="keywords" Content="software,recommendations,downloads">

So what does this example mean? If I were a search engine, I'd now know that this page has something to do with software, recommendations, and downloads. This is much easier that reading the entire webpage and trying to guess what it's about.

More Metas

Now that we have a grasp of the basic structure of a meta tag, let's look at the most common meta tags, those used to help search engines. The first is the keywords name, which you should recognize from above. Keywords provides a general idea of what a webpage contains to the search engine. Choosing what keywords you use is crucial if you want people to be able to find your webpage from a search engine.

You can find a listing of the Top 100 Internet Keywords on the AnalogX website (in the online section), and also download a program name AnalogX Keyword Live. This program gathers keywords from various search engines in real time. Once you have an idea of what people are looking for, go through the list to see which words best describe your site. Here is a good example of the difference this can make:

<META Name="keywords" Content="software,recommendations,downloads">


<META Name="keywords" Content="software,recommendations,download">

They're the same, right? Wrong. Take a closer look. Notice that "downloads" changes to "download." Out of 54 million keywords processed using Keyword Live (over a 7 day period), 127213 were for download, while only 16190 were for downloads, so which do you think more people will find? This is why it's so important to carefully pick which keywords you use.

The only other meta tag commonly used by search engines is the following.


This field is used by search engines like AltaVista when it lists the brief descriptions of what the webpage is about. This is just a one or two line summary. The key to this tag is that you try to express as much about the page as possible, without using too many words. Otherwise they're likely to get cut off.

It is a good idea to follow these ground rules.

  • First, don't pick keywords that have a high rating, but have nothing to do with your webpage. Many search engines are wise to this trick, and will block your webpage in the future if they discover you using it.

  • Second, make sure to have a new keyword and description for every page on your site. While it's OKto reuse some of the words, it's important that you don't just cut and paste them onto every page on your site. Otherwise their effectiveness will be greatly diminished.

  • Finally, it's usually best to put the meta tags in the <HEAD> portion of your webpage, since some search engines only look for them in this tag.

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