META for Search Engines

When search engines such as AltaVista, Infoseek, and Webcrawler index and display information from your web page, they use two types of <META ...> tags: KEYWORDS and DESCRIPTION.

NAME allows you to sneak a few extra words into your web page for the search engine to index. For example, if your page has a big picture of a pumpkin, but does not actually have the word "pumpkin" in it, you might use this <META ...> tag:

<META NAME=KEYWORDS CONTENT="pumpkin pumpkins Halloween squash">

When someone does a search on one of these words, your page will be in the listing. KEYWORDS also increases you "score" in the search. When someone enters a search, the search engine tries to figure out which pages seem most relevent to that search, and lists those first. One of the scoring criteria is <META ...> keywords. If the search words are in the keywords, the page gets a higher score. This is a good way to increase your page's visibility a little. Unfortunately, this has led to the practice of "spamdexxing", putting many repititions of the same word in <META ...> keywords. The search engines now use special algorithms to detect spamdexxing pages and won't index those pages.

<META NAME=DESCRIPTION CONTENT="..."> designates the text to display when the search engine returns information about your page. If no description is given, the search engines usually return the the first 175 or so characters of the page, not counting the HTML tags. For example, consider a page that starts off like this:

Recycling Systems Corporation

1425 East Marina Street, San Jose, CA 77235
(513) 789-1921, info@.rsc.com

RSC is one of the leading companies in the industry, offering municipalities an array of recycling and waste disposal options unparralled by anyone else. With capabilities ranging from street collection to refuse differentiation, RSC can bring a new definition of municipal waste reduction to your home town.

If there is no <META ...> description, the search engine will display something like this (both of these examples come from Infoseek, but Alta Vista and Webcrawler are very similar):
Recycling Systems Corporation
1425 East Marina Street, San Jose, CA 77235 (513) 789-1921, info@rcs.idocs.com RSC is one of the leading companies in the industry, offering municipalities an array of recycling
However, if you have a <META ...> description like this:

<META NAME=DESCRIPTION CONTENT="RSC is a leading recycling and waste 
management company providing creative waste handling services for 
communities across the USA.">

then the search engine returns a much cleaner description:

Recycling Systems Corporation
RSC is a leading recycling and waste management company providing creative waste handling services for communities across the USA.
Although the CONTENT attribute can technically hold up to 1024 characters (as can any attribute value), the search engines only display approximately the first 175 characters (depending on spacing) so be sure to keep your description within that limit.




About the Author
Copyright 1997-2002 Idocs Inc. Content in this guide is offered freely to the public under the terms of the Open Content License and the Open Publication License. Contents may be redistributed or republished freely under these terms so long as credit to the original creator and contributors is maintained.