HTML Meta Tags

Someone was asking the other day how our Facebook Like WordPress Plugin is different from others. So I started explaining¬† how the plugin writes so called “meta tags” into the HTML headers- something I haven’t seen in others.

When describing meta tags, most people’s eyes sort of glaze over. They don’t really know what they are and yet they are an important part of SEO- Search Engine Optimization. So I thought I’d give a little bit of detail on them.

What are Meta Tags?

Meta tags are HTML. They’re found in the <head> section at the top of your page. Meta tags take the following form:

¬†¬†<meta name=”{type}” content=”{contents}” />

So that’s what meta tags are — that’s great. But what do they do?

How Are Meta Tags Used

Meta tags are used by search engines to help determine what your web site is about. They give information on the contents of the page, how the page should be indexed and the preferred URL to use when referring to the page.

Types of Meta Tags

There are four basic meta tags types that are in common use. There are actually dozens of them, some not important and some obsolete. They are:

  • Description – Describe page; 250 characters.
    This tag is used to fill in the description that is listed in the search engine’s results page. The description tags is not required. If you do not declare one, then the search engines will create a description from the contents of your page. So if you want to be able to specify exactly what your page’s content is about, then you should use one.
    Example: <meta name=”description” content=”This is my description.” />
  • Keywords – Declare keywords; 25 words or phrases.
    This tag is used to help describe the keywords that you are targeting for your page. Most web crawlers (the programs that scour the Internet for content to add to search engine indexes.) now ignore this tag, so it is considered of lesser importance. This is because most search engines today look at the contents of your page in order to find the keywords.
    Example: <meta name=”keywords” content=”comma,separated,keywords.” />
  • Canonical – Specify Canonical URL
    This tag is used to describe the recommended URL to use for the current page. This tag is used when you are displaying content in multiple ways, such as an archive page of blog posts, and the individual blog posts. Why is this important? It helps to guide the search engines to a single URL as the source of the content — otherwise the search engines would see the same content in multiple places and think that you’re repeating yourself. The Canonical meta tag can also be used to tell the search engines what your preferred domain is, as in or
    Example: <meta name=”canonical” content=”” />
  • Robots – Declare Search Engine indexing behavior
    This tag is used by the search engines to determine what actions should be taken with the current page’s content. Some of the values that can be put in the content area are “follow” and “index.” If you want search engines to index your page, use the “index” directive. If you don’t want the page to be indexed, you can use “noindex.” The “follow” directive tells search engines to follow the links on this page in order to find more pages to include in their indexes. The default values are “index, follow” — so if that’s what you want, you don’t need to specify a robots meta tag.
    Example: <meta name=”robots” content=”index,nofollow” />

As mentioned before, there are other meta tags and their names can be almost anything. Most of these other tags are used for very specialized search engines. An example of this would be the “abstract” tag, which was originally intended to indicate the abstract, or short description of a professional paper or thesis. It’s not wrong to use these other meta tags but they should be used when actually necessary. Otherwise, they will only cause your web pages to increase in size but provide very little value.

The meta tags used for the Facebook Like WordPress plugin are only used by Facebook to get additional information about the page in order to add that information to someone Facebook News Feeds. If your pages are not using the Facebook Like Plugin, there is no reason to include these tags. If you’re curious about what these tags look like you can read Facebook’s Documentation on the Social Graph, which is what they call their Like button feature.

How to Add Meta Tags to Your Blog

There are numerous WordPress plugins that you can use that give you control over the meta tags for your site. The one I feel that works best is the All in One SEO Pack. This plugin allows you to fill in keywords and descriptions as well as specify any additional meta tags that may be required by your site.


Meta tags are not difficult to use. With the proper WordPress plugin, you can have control over the contents of your meta tags and be able to describe your pages and content to the search engines to work for your SEO strategy.

3 Replies to “HTML Meta Tags”

  1. If I could give a grade to your blog, I’d give it an A+, maybe even an A++! Keep up the good writing.

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