Quick Tip: How to Get Great HTML Meta Tags

written by aext on March 12, 2010 in Quick Tips with 20 comments

When you’re reading around the web about what to focus on when creating a web page, and you’re sure to find a host of opinions which, in total, insist that every single page element holds the secret to attracting traffic, pleasing visitors, or simply “doing it right.” Though some page elements are necessarily more crucial in terms of their uniformity than others, designers and developers can count on the essential nature of the HTML meta tag on any given web page.

Meta tags are capable of telling search engines and other interested parties key information about the contents of the page, the meta tag is arguably as important as the page’s actual title–yet it leaves greater room for taking advantage of keyword use and relaxing the rules of style.

Of the many attributes that can be defined using a meta tag, the description tag is likely to be the most meaningful for modern sites. As some search engines do not include support for a keywords tag (really only Yahoo uses this), creating a solid description that manages to work in keywords without over-stuffing can yield SEO-friendly results. (Though, limiting your keywords to two or three per page will help get you higher search engine rankings and more targeted traffic.) The language and robots tags are also likely to be used on a number of pages, though the majority of sites utilize English and specifically allow bots to scan and index at liberty. To achieve picture-perfect meta tags of these types, a simple copy and paste job is often sufficient.

It’s not a good idea to place long content inside HTML meta tags–5 to 10 words should be enough–and you shouldn’t use words you haven’t mentioned on the page as well. Most search engines have require a maximum of:

  • 60 characters for the title.
  • 160 characters for the description.

No matter which meta tag you’re defining, though, you’ll need to ensure that your syntax is in working order. Always close your tags and observe proper attribute spelling and usage:

<META name="description" content="Because when you use clean syntax and keep an eye out for errors, your work will benefit." />

Though meta tags are sometimes shrouded in an air of mystery by webmasters who insist that only their formula will work, paying attention to form and using keywords intelligently will go a long way towards making any page great.