What are meta tags

You can use meta tags to convey information about your website to a search engine. The meta tags can be found in the header of an HTML document and are not visible to visitors to your website. They can contain information such as content, publisher, author, and copyright. A comprehensive definition of meta tags as well as numerous examples can be found in the following article.

Meaning of meta tags

Search engine technology has changed significantly over the past 20 years. At the end of the 90s it was much more difficult to classify the pages by topic and to deliver a result that matched the search phrase. The meta information in the HTML document was all the more important. In the early days of search engines, the meta tags were accordingly an important ranking criterion. And as with other ranking criteria (backlinks, keywords, etc.), many took advantage of the opportunity to use the tags to bring their page forward and manipulated it. There was manipulation, for example, by adding keywords to the keyword tag that were not related to the page content.

With the further development of the search engines, the importance of the meta information gradually decreased, also due to the Black Hat SEO measures in this context. Nowadays many meta tags are simply ignored by the robots, e.g. the keyword tag. Others are “picked up” by the robots, but have no influence on the ranking, as is the case with the meta description, for example.

The same structure enables clear statements

According to USVSUKENGLISH, meta tags are always structured according to the same principle. They consist of the meta name (the property) and the content or the attributes belonging to the content and properties.

The basic structure looks like this:

<meta name = ”name” content = ”content”>

In principle, the meta tags allow you to provide any information about the document. In addition to this descriptive aspect, the tags can also be used to implement HTTP commands for the browser. With these commands you can, for example, ask the browser to redirect to another page.

Tags that serve as instructions for the browser have the following basic structure:

<meta http-equiv = ”name” content = ”content”>

In order to follow the metadata, however, the browser would have to read the HTML document before it is delivered, which many browsers fail to do due to the impact on performance. Whether the metadata is read out depends on the browser.

Examples of meta tags

The following three meta tags are the most important tags in search engine optimization:

Title tag – page title

– is a ranking factor

– is displayed as a title in the search result

– can influence click rate (see also snippet optimization)

For optimization tips, see: Alt Tag and Title Tag

Meta Description

– a brief description of the site

– appears in the SERPs under Title and URL

– not a ranking factor, but, when they well designed, is positive impact on the CTR have

Robots day

– to control the indexing

– e.g. prevent indexing of a certain page (value: noindex), request not to follow a link (value: nofollow)

More meta tags:

Content Type / Language

Definition of the European character set, important for the correct representation of umlauts


Information on the author / publisher of the page


– Indication of key words that are important for the respective page

– is not used by Google

– is partly included in the ranking by other search engines, but only with very little weight: Is The Meta Keyword Tag Still Used By Google, Bing and Yahoo?

News keyword

– only for websites that are used as sources for Google News

– Indication of the most important keywords for the news article

– Example from Google Support: Search terms and search queries for news items

Page Topic

– Subject of the page – a keyword / a category assignment for the page

– Multiple answers are possible for a more precise definition


– Specification when the search engine spider should crawl the page again

Importance for search engine optimization

In the 90s, when search engines were not yet able to classify pages “independently” based on their content, meta tags were an important means of supplying the search engine with information and thus influencing the ranking. Today, however, the algorithm has developed so far that the information in the meta tags no longer plays a role in the position in the search results, at least as a direct ranking factor (excluding the title tag).

However, meta information can indirectly provide an advantage within the search results, at least with the meta description (and also the title tag), because this is displayed in the search result. If the description and title stand out visually from the other results or if they attract attention through clever formulations, this can very well lead to the user preferring this result, even if it is not in the foremost positions.

What are meta tags