HTML tutorials for the rest of us...
Meta Tag Primer - part 2

meta - name

The basic structure of the name type meta tag is as follows. You'll note each is made up of name and content.

<meta name="blah" content="blah blah blah">

Meta tags go in the head section of your document...

<meta name="blah" content="blah blah blah">
Bulk of my page here

You can insert multiple meta tags...

<meta name="blah1" content="blah blah">
<meta name="blah2" content="blah blah blah blah">
<meta name="blah3" content="blah blah blah">
Bulk of my page here

So far pretty simple, eh? Well, surprise... it's doesn't get much more difficult than that. We're going to look at description, keywords and robots...



Fairly self-explanatory. A description of the page or site. In your description use words and phrases that you would like to show up in a search. For example, if your site is about widgets, and you would like your site to (hopefully) show up when someone searches for "widgets", your description meta tag might look something like this...

<meta name="description" content="Joe's Widget Company - your complete widget headquarters. All sizes and colors of widgets from extra small to extra woofy. Online ordering and overnight delivery available.">

You can use one generic description for every page in your site, or you can write a different one for every page. In some search engines it is this description that shows up under the page title in the results. This is how your widget page might turn up in some search engines (assuming your page title is Joe's Widget Company)...

Joe's Widget Company
Joe's Widget Company - your complete widget headquarters. All sizes and colors of widgets from extra small to extra woofy. Online ordering and overnight delivery available.



Basically just a comma-delimited list of keywords and short phrases...

<meta name="keywords" content="widgets, widget holders, ergonomic aids, tools, braces, Joe's Widget Company, widgomatic">

Now, don't get too crazy with keyword and description meta tags. The search engines have gotten pretty smart lately and they have ways to weed out overdone keyword lists. Whatever weight they give to keywords and descriptions will be diminished if you did something like this...

<meta name="description" content="Lots of widgets and more widgets and widgets for widgets, not to mention widgets and the worlds biggest collection of widgets. Joe's Widgets are the widget of widgets.">
<meta name="keywords" content="widgets, widgets, widgets, big widgets, small widgets, red widgets, blue widgets, yellow widgets, tall widgets, widgets widgets,">

If you overload your meta tags with the hope of ranking higher, you might instead find yourself penalized and your page might be tossed out of the index all together. So, don't be silly about it.

One minor item of note that you may want to consider when putting together a list of keywords is misspelled words. You might also want to use the word "wiget" or "wigits" in your keyword list. You never know if some well meaning bumpkin accidently misspells widget. This way you might be the number one widget salesman to show up in his search! It certainly doesn't do any harm and you might pick up a few visits because of it.



A search engine uses a computer program find and index (catalog) web pages. It "moves" from one page to the next by following links. This type of computer program is called a "spider" or a "robot". These robots can be told what links to follow or not follow, pages to index or not index. One method is to use a robots.txt file in your root home page directory. Another common method (assuming you wanted to control the robot) is to make use of the robots meta tag in individual pages...

<meta name="robots" content="all|none|index|noindex|follow|nofollow">

( FYI - Whenever you see a list of items separated by a pipe -> | , the pipe means "or". You (normally) may choose one from the list of items. )

Let's go through each item and describe what it does...

all This is the default. It means that the spiders (or robots) can index this page and follow all links on this page. If you want robots to index everything and follow everything, then just skip the robots tag. The robots will index and follow everything automatically. To "index" means to place in their database so it is available for searches.
none none instructs the browser to basically ignore the page. Don't index anything and don't follow any links.
index The robot should index the page.
noindex The robot may not index the page, but it is welcome to follow links on the page.
follow The robot may follow links on the page.
nofollow The robot is welcome to index the page, but may not follow any links on the page.

If you're thinking there seems to be a bit of overlap in those instructions, you're right. For the most part, all you need to worry about are none, noindex and nofollow, or just leave that meta tag out for the robot to index and follow everything.

A few examples...

How do I prevent the spiders from indexing my page?
<meta name="robots" content="noindex">

How do I prevent the spiders from following links on my page?
<meta name="robots" content="nofollow">

How do I get a search engine to completely ignore my page?
<meta name="robots" content="none">

What do I do if I want the search engines to index the page and follow all links?
Don't add a robots meta tag. The spiders will index and follow everything automatically.

One more thing about the robots meta tag, or rather about robots in general. The spider programs used by search engines are usually very well behaved and they obey what's in the robots meta tag or in the robots.txt file. Some spiders however, such as those used in email harvesters are bad robots. They could care less what you specify and they index and follow whatever they want. For the most part they don't do any harm... they just collect information (usually email addresses) for whoever is running the spider. Then those email addresses are usually zipped up or put on a CD and sold to some schmuck who will then turn around and attempt to sell you (by email) some program where you can lose a bunch of weight while you get rich quick or something. A nuisance yes, but it's a minor nuisance.

How can I prevent a bad robot from getting to what's on my web page?
Don't put your page on the Internet?