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How to Use Meta Tags for Search Engine Optimization
Copyright 2002 Herman Drost 

Statistics show that only one of every four Web Sites have
Meta tags. However using these tags can give your site 
an advantage over other sites that do not. Meta tags enable most visitors to initially find your site from the search engines. 

What are Meta Tags? 
These are HTML tags that provide information
that describes the content of the web pages that the visitor
will be viewing. Web Site owners use this resource to control their positioning and descriptions in the search engines. Most search engines incorporate reading meta tags as part of their indexing formula. 

Where to Place Meta Tags
They should go in between the <head>
and </head> tags in your html page. 

Types of Meta Tags
The Doctype tag The DTD (Document Type Definition) tag precedes the opening <HTML> tag. It is generally
the first element to be used on any page. It distinguishes the version of HTML in use from other versions of HTML and tells the browser what tags to expect when laying out the page. 

<!doctype html public "-//wc3//dtd html 4.0 transitional//en"> 

If a browser doesn't understand a tag, it just ignores it. This, in effect, renders <!doctype> useless. For the proponents of strict standardization, a statement like <!doctype> would ensure standardization. If a browser didn't recognize the statement, it could ignore the page. 

META Tags and Document Identification
The syntax for the <meta> tag is: 

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<meta name=”namevalue” content=”contentvalue”> or 
<meta http-equiv=”namevalue” content=”contentvalue”> 

The <META> tag requires the CONTENT attribute and adds either
the NAME or HTTP-EQUIV attribute. These define the general
information you are creating or changing in the document, and
the CONTENT attribute defines the value of the general

HTTP-EQUIV Attribute
<META HTTP-EQUIV> tags are equivalent to HTTP headers.
To understand headers, you must understand the process 
that occurs when you use a Web browser to request a
document from a Web server. You request information using your
browser and the Web Server receives your request via HTTP, the
standard Web protocol. When the server finds the page you
requested, it generates an HTTP response. The initial data in
that response is called the HTTP header block. This header gives
the Web browser information useful for displaying the page. 

Common Examples of the HTTP-EQUIV Attribute Value
Language META Tag
This is an optional tag. It declares to users
the natural language of the document being indexed. Search engines
which index websites based on language often read this tag to
determine which language(s) is supported. This tag is
particularly useful for non-english and multiple language

<meta http-equiv="content-language" content="en"> 

Content-type Tag 
The Content-Type entity-header field indicates the media type 
of the entity-body sent to the recipient. This is an optional tag. 

<meta http-equiv="content-type" content="text/html;

Expires META Tag 
An optional tag that defines the date when the file will be considered
expired in cache and a new page will be generated. Only use when
your website is running a limited time event or there is a preset date 
when your document will no longer be valid. 

<meta http-equiv="expires" content="Tue, 04 Dec 1993 21:29:02 GMT"> 

Refresh META Tag 
An optional tag used as a way to redirect or refresh users to another 
web page after X number of seconds.
This META tag is often used as a "bridge" page which is accessed
first by users and are then redirected to another web page. 

<meta http-equiv="refresh"

NAME Attribute 
<META> tags with a NAME attribute are used for
information types that do not correspond to HTTP headers. 

Common Examples of the HTTP-NAME Attribute
Keyword Tag Search
Engines that support META tags will often use the keywords found
on your pages as a means to categorize your website based on the
search engines indexing algorithms (proprietary algorithms which
index your website in search engine databases). 

Ensure you choose keywords that are relevant to your site. Avoid
excessive repetition as many search engines will penalize your
rankings for attempting to abuse their system. Search engines
give priority to the first few words in your description, so
focus on your main keywords and then elaborate further by using
synonyms or other related words. 

<meta name=”keywords” content = “keyword1,keyword2,keyword3”> 

Keyword values are usually separated by commas. The maximum
keyword allowance is 1000 characters, however, it is believed
that anything over 255 characters is ignored. 

Description Tag
Search engines that support META tags will often display the 
Description META tag along with your title in their results. 
When creating your META tags, make the first sentence
of your description field capture the attention of a user and
use the rest of the description tag to elaborate further. 

<meta name=”description” content=”This camping site is about
outdoor camps”> 

Keep this description to no more than 25 words (maximum
allowance is 150 characters). Not all search engines recognize
this tag. 

Don’t let your site be one of the four web sites on the Web that 
do not have Meta Tags. Optimize it now, so you have
a greater chance to be listed in the search engines. Getting
listed, will bring more traffic which may mean more sales.
Herman Drost is a Certified Internet Webmaster (CIW) owner and
author of 
Low Cost Hosting and Site Design 

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