What Are Meta Tags in HTML?
As a seasoned web developer, I can tell you that HTML has come a long way since the early days of blinking text and scrolling marquees (thank goodness!). One of the most important tools in any modern HTML developer's toolkit is the humble META tag.
META tags are a crucial aspect of HTML coding that can make a big difference in how your website appears to search engines and visitors alike. Simply put, META tags are pieces of code that describe the content of your webpage in a way that browsers and search engines can understand. Without META tags, search engines would be forced to guess at what your webpage is all about, and you might miss out on valuable traffic and engagement.
In this article, we'll take a closer look at META tags and explore what they are, why they matter, and how you can use them to improve your website's performance.
What are Meta tags?
First things first, what exactly are META tags and why are they so important in HTML coding?
In a nutshell, META tags are snippets of code that provide information about a webpage to search engines and other web crawlers. As the name implies, META tags are not visible to visitors of your website - instead, they exist solely in the code of your webpage and are used to provide information to search engines and other automated systems.
According to HTML & CSS: Design and Build Websites by Jon Duckett, META tags are "used to provide structured metadata about a Web page." This metadata can include things like the title of the page, keywords related to the content, a description of the page, and more. By providing these information in META tags, search engines are better able to understand what your webpage is about and can therefore display it more accurately in search results.
There are several different types of META tags that you can use in HTML coding, each with its own specific purpose. Some of the most common types of META tags include:
- Description: This tag provides a brief summary of the content on your webpage and is often used by search engines in search result snippets.
- Keywords: This tag specifies the relevant keywords related to the content on your webpage.
- Author: This tag provides information about the author of the webpage.
- Viewport: This tag specifies the dimensions and scaling of the viewport used by the webpage.
- Charset: This tag specifies the character set used by the webpage.
One of the most important use of META tags is to describe your Web page to search engines and social media sites. By providing accurate and descriptive information in META tags, you can help ensure that your website is displayed accurately and attractively in search engine results, social media shares, and other automated systems.
How to add Meta tags to your HTML code
Now that we've covered what META tags are and why they're important, let's look into how you can add META tags to your HTML code. It’s pretty straightforward and easy and you can do it during any phase of your website development process.
To add META tags to your HTML code, you simply need to insert them into the head section of your webpage. Jennifer Niederst Robbins explains this in her book Learning Web Design, "The head section of your page is the place for metadata - information about the document itself, like the title of the page, what character set to use, and what other files are necessary to display the page." META tags fall under this category of metadata.
There are several attributes and values that can be used in META tags, depending on the specific type of tag and the information you want to provide. Some common attributes include:
- Name: Specifies the type of information being provided (e.g. "
- Content: Provides the actual information being conveyed in the META tag.
- Charset: Specifies the character set used by the webpage.
- Http-equiv: Provides HTTP headers for the webpage.
For example, to add a description META tag to your HTML code, you would use the following syntax:
<meta name="description" content="A brief summary of the content on the page.">
In this example, the "
name" attribute is set to "
description" to indicate that this is a description META tag, and the "
content" attribute provides a brief summary of the content on the webpage.
As you can see, adding META tags to your HTML code is a straightforward process. By providing accurate and descriptive information in your META tags, you can help ensure that your website is displayed accurately and attractively in search engine results and other automated systems.
Common uses for META tags
META tags have a wide range of uses beyond simply providing information about a webpage. One of the most common uses for META tags is improving search engine optimization (SEO). In his book Search Engine Optimization All-in-One For Dummies, Bruce Clay explains, "META tags can be used to give the search engines information about your page that they wouldn't otherwise know." By including relevant keywords and a well-crafted description in your META tags, you can help your webpage rank higher in search engine results and attract more visitors.
In addition to SEO, META tags can also be used to improve accessibility and mobile optimization. For example, the
viewport META tag can be used to optimize a webpage's layout for different screen sizes and devices. Jon Duckett explains that "The viewport is the area of the browser where content is displayed...By setting the viewport META tag, you can control how the browser displays your page on different devices." This can help ensure that your webpage is readable and navigable on a wide range of devices, from desktop computers to smartphones.
META tags can also be used to improve social media sharing. By including Open Graph META tags on your webpage, you can control how your website is displayed when it is shared on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Open Graph META tags help social media platforms to fetch accurate information about your page, so that your shared link will show an attractive preview image, title, and description, making it more likely that people will click on it. By taking advantage of Open Graph META tags, you can make your webpage more visually appealing and shareable on social media.
META tags may seem like a small and insignificant part of web development, but they actually play a vital role in improving your website's search engine optimization, accessibility, mobile optimization, and social media sharing capabilities. By including relevant and accurate information in your META tags, you can help your webpage stand out and attract more visitors.
As explained above, there are different types of META tags that can be used for various purposes. From the description and keywords tags for SEO to the viewport tag for mobile optimization, each META tag serves a unique function. By understanding how to use these tags effectively, you can create a more polished and user-friendly website that is optimized for various devices and search engines.
So, don't underestimate the power of META tags! Take the time to polish the META tags in your website, and it will make a significant difference.