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Meta Tags and Web Search Results – Does It Make a Difference?

Jennifer Gayadin February 1, 2010 Category Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Meta tags are often a standard when it comes to search engine optimization and although it does not hold all the weight it once did – does it still serve a purpose? Many think that it does not make a difference, but coming straight from the source of Googles Webmaster Blog some meta tags are still definitely weighed.

Do search engines still use meta tags

What Are Meta Tags?

Meta Tags are HTML or XHTML elements used to provide structured metadata about a Web page. Such elements must be placed as tags in the head section of an HTML, PHP or XHTML document. Meta elements can be used to specify page description, keywords and any other metadata not provided through the other head elements and attributes.

Some meta tags include:
<meta name=”description” content=”A description of the page”>
This tag provides a short description of the page. In some cases, Google uses the description in the search results. This is helpful because you can drive people to your site with a very good call out/description.

<title>The title of the page</title>
Although title tags are not a meta tag, it is often associated  together with the meta description and keywords. the titles are shown in the search results. Adding keywords in your titles make a difference especially if you follow through with the content.

<meta name=”robots” content=”…, …”>
<meta name=”googlebot” content=”…, …”>

These meta tags control how search engines crawl and index the page.

The robot meta tag specifies rules that apply to all search engines.

The googlebot meta tag specifies rules that apply only to Google.

Below are some examples of somethings you might want to use the googlebot meta tag for:

  • noindex: prevents the page from being indexed
  • nofollow: don’t follow links from this page when looking for new pages to crawl
  • nosnippet: don’t show a snippet of this page when displaying it in the search results
  • noodp: don’t use text from Open Directory Project (Ex: DMOZ.com)
  • noarchive: don’t display a “Cached” link for this page in the search results
  • unavailable_after:[date]: remove this page from the search results after the specified date and time

Webmaster Trends Analyst, John Mueller included some meta tags which are used. I noticed that meta keywords were not included. Further on in the discussion on the Webmaster Central Blog John stated that Google does not hold weight on the meta keyword tag, however using them in your code will NOT go against you. SO there is no harm in having this code within your HTML

It’s 2010, Do Meta Tags Still Hold The Weight They Once Did?

Googles Algorithm is constantly fluxating. They shift importance of what webmasters should do time and time again. For example, currently Google is putting much emphasis on the time a site takes to load. The faster a page loads, the better chance it has of being indexed pretty well organically – but this is a whole other subject.

The fact of the matter is that meta tags are still important, they however are not as important as they once were. This doesn’t mean that they should be omitted from the meta tag search engine optimization process.

Does Google Put More Emphasis On Certain Meta Tags?

Yes, Google does put more emphasis on certain meta tags.

Here are some meta tags that are still utilized by Google:

  • <title></title> = accuracy will be valuable to webmasters in Google
  • <meta name=”description” content=” “/> = valuable to webmasters, Google often places your description in their search results.

And there it is, the basics in meta tags search engine optimization!

Jennifer Gayadin is a Search Strategist for Path Interactive, a NYC Search Marketing Firm

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