Answering more popular picks: meta tags and web search

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

In writing and maintaining accurate meta tags (for example, descriptive titles and robots information), you help Google to more accurately crawl, index and return your site in search results. Meta tags provide information to all sorts of clients, such as browsers and search engines. Just keep in mind that each client will likely only interpret the meta tags that it uses, and ignore the rest (although they might be useful for other reasons).

Here's how Google would interpret meta tags of this sample HTML page:

<!DOCTYPE ...>
<title>Traditional Swiss cheese fondue recipes<title> # Utilized by Google, accuracy is valuable to webmasters
<meta name="description" content="Cheese fondue is ..."> # Utilized by Google, can be shown in our search results
<meta name="revisit-after" content="14 days"> # Not utilized by Google or other major search engines
<META name="verify-v1" content="e8JG...Nw=" /> # Optional, for Google Webmaster Tools
<meta name="GoogleBot" content="noOdp"> #  Optional
<meta ...>
<meta ...>

<meta name="description" content="A description of the page">

This tag provides a short description of the page. In some situations this description is used as a part of the snippet shown in the search results. For more information, learn how to Improve snippets with a meta description makeover and create good titles and snippets in Search Results. While the use of a description meta tag is optional and will have no effect on your rankings, a good description can result in a better snippet, which in turn can help to improve the quality and quantity of visitors from our search results.

<title>The title of the page</title>

While technically not a meta tag, this tag is often used together with the "description." The contents of this tag are generally shown as the title in search results (and of course in the user's browser when visiting the page or viewing bookmarks). Some additional information can be found in our blog post Target visitors or search engines?, especially under "Make good use of page titles."

<meta name="robots" content="..., ..."> and <meta name="googlebot" content="..., ...">