The <META> tag which in the early days of search engine optimization was the king of tags, today has dwindled in its royalty. Although there are search engines that use meta tags for their results, the use of them as an SEO practice is minimal today.
Google pays some attention to the <META NAME="Description"> tag for its content but attributes little SEO weight to it. While it is not nearly as important to Google as it once was, it is still not a tag to eliminate.
Important Meta Tags and their uses in Search Engine Optimization:
As there are numerous commonly used tags, this tutorial offers insight into them and recommended use for SEO Best Practices as well as marketing strategies to get searchers to click to your site from the search results pages.
<META NAME="Description" CONTENT="Search Engine Placement">
This tag describes the content of the site. Today it's the tag to use to get visitors to click to your site. Here you want to employ a marketing message that will attract the searcher. So its where you want to put a good message that makes a user want to click through to read the rest of the page. A good description uses 75 to 100 characters (about 30 words or 2 short sentences). This tag should NOT be used for keyword stuffing. It should be in sentence format, not in keyword format. Every page should have a different meta description as well as a different title and content. Do not use a tag on from a different site, even if the site was a high ranking site, because it will not work properly for you. Each Page is different and requires different tags to get a higher quality score.
Its main purpose is to send a message to search engine searchers. The meta description tag is used by some search engine to give a description of your website when it shows in the search results. So make good use of a marketing strategy with it.
<META NAME="Keywords" CONTENT="Search Engine Placement">
The Keyword tag once reigned as an almighty tag until Google decided to ignore it due to webmaster spam. Webmasters flooded it with every keyword they could thing of, relevant and irrelevant keywords were used to eventually render this tag worthless. It is still used by other search engine with more priority then Google. Google will consider the tag if it has limited usage. A good useful keyword tag should have a limited number of keywords. Somewhere between 5 and 20 is a good range.
<META NAME="robots" CONTENT="index, follow">
Equivalent to the robots.txt file. The meta robots tag tells the search engine spiders what to do with your site. "index", "noindex", "no-archive", "all", or "none" are the most commonly used. The meta tag used above tells the search engine spiders to index the page and follow the links. "all" would do the same as "index, follow".
If "noindex, nofollow" were used the spider would not index the site or follow it, "none" or "no-archive" would do the same. Check for these on the pages of websites that you are considering trading links with. If you see any of the "none" variables, do not trade links, as the link is not indexed it has no value. You should also note that if you use a robots.txt file that also tells robots not to index certain pages, then the pages will not be indexed regardless of the robots meta tag. Robots.txt files are read first and they take priority over any meta tags, so be sure that your robots.txt file isn't telling spiders not to index the site.
Nosnippet (GOOGLEBOT Specific - Doesn't Help Ranking)
<META NAME="GOOGLEBOT" CONTENT="nosnippet">
The "nosnippet" tag is for Google only so the GOOGLEBOT is targeted by the meta name. Nosnippet removes any text used by Google in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) listings. All that will remain in the SERPs is the DMOZ (Open Directory) description and category if the site is listed in the Open Directory. If the site is not listed and the "nosnippet" tag is used, only the Title will remain in the Google Results Pages.
Meta Pragma (Doesn't Help Ranking)
<META NAME="pragma" CONTENT="nocache">
Used to keep the search engine from keeping a Cache (indexed copy) of the page in its database. The theory behind this tag is that it will force the spiders to re-visit your site more often. (No longer necessary or possible through this tag). This tag is commonly used by Search Engine Optimization Software that is suppose to help you auto-generate tags and pages that will rank well. The tag is really a waste of space and causes a lowered value of your Keyword Rich Text, as it moves it lower down the page and adds additional content to the code of the pages.
<META NAME="Copyright" CONTENT="Copyright © 2003-2007 SEO Image, Inc., All Rights Reserved.">
Used to copyright web page. Not useful in search engine ranking. Very limited usage by any Search Engine. It seems to be an unused tag, as sites can still copy your content and no priority is given to anyone using this tag first. It is not helpful for search engine placement, and only recommended if you need to copyright something and have it archived online. Like this tutorial.
Meta noodp (Doesn't Help Ranking)
<meta name="robots" content="noodp">
Removes the Open Directory (DMOZ) title from the Google Search Results for the site. This gives webmasters full control of how their titles will appear in the Google Search Results. This was a heavily desired tag as most people do NOT like how the Open Directory titles sites. This tag only needs to be placed on the pages listed in the Open Directory. In most cases this is just your home page.
The rest of the tags are not necessary, although if your a medical site you might want D.C.Meta Tags (Dublin Core), If your Family Friendly you may want the Ratings (Pics-label) meta tag (meta http-equiv="pics-label") like those of icra.org. Overuse of any meta tag could be considered spam and possibly have a detrimental effect to your rankings. Take a look at our tags, specifically for this page as we have used it to target very few keywords. There are still many other meta tags, none are worth mentioning for search engine optimization purposes. Remember there are really only 3 important tags to use the rest we can live without.
About the Author: Alan Rabinowitz is the CEO of a prominent NYC <a href="http://www.seoimage.com/">SEO Company</a>, SEO Image. Visit SEO Image for more information on <a href="http://www.seoimage.com/search-engine-optimization.html">Search Engine Optimization</a>, Internet Marketing and Link Building. http://www.seoimage.com/