Meta Tags: Still Useful?
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For website developers who have been in the business for quite some time, the term “meta tags” brings forth memories of early website editors little more complex than notepad, websites that only had to fit an 800 pixel wide page, and times when “Web 2.0” was an unknown phrase. These developers were intimately familiar with meta tags and all of their capabilities and power. But do they still have any power today?
Websites developers who are newer to the business are not quite as familiar with meta tags. They are used, but most people do not know why or even bother including them most of the time. All they know is that if they want to do a website “right,” then they should include a short description of the website along with some keywords.
The concept of meta tags is that they provide information about a web page directly. Rather than reading through the content of a web page, you can simply open up the code, take a look at the meta tags, and get a pretty general impression of what the web page contains.
This is not all that practical for the average Internet user. Who is going to look at a website’s code instead of just reading the text?
The real use of meta tags is to make it easier for other computers to understand the purpose and content of a web page. Specifically, search engines can refer to meta tags to get various pieces of information about a web page much more easily than by looking through the text and interpreting it as a human would. For a basic search algorithm, meta tags make it very easy to index web pages and give a basic idea of what each is about.
The reason that meta tags are out of vogue now is that the technology behind search engines has become much more advanced. The need for meta tags is much reduced, so their usage has fallen to match.
However, just because meta tags are little used does not mean that they are not useful. Certain individual meta tags are still very relevant and can have a large effect on the search engine ranking of a website.
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