You can use meta tags to give a search engine information about your website. Meta tags can be found in the header of an HTML document and are not visible to visitors to your website. They can contain information such as content, publisher, author and copyright. The following article contains a comprehensive definition of meta tags as well as numerous examples.
Search engine technology has changed significantly over the last 20 years. At the end of the 90s it was much more difficult to classify the pages by topic and to deliver a result matching the search phrase. All the more important were the meta data in the HTML document. In the early days of search engines, meta tags were therefore also an important ranking criterion. And as with other ranking criteria (backlinks, keywords, etc.), many took advantage of the possibility of using tags to move their pages forward and manipulated them. For example, the keyword tag could be used to add keywords that were not related to the page content.
With the further development of search engines, the importance of meta data gradually decreased, also due to the Black Hat SEO measures in this context. Nowadays many meta tags are simply ignored by robots, e.g. the keyword tag. Others are "picked up" by the robots, but have no influence on the ranking, e.g. the meta description.
Meta tags are always structured according to the same principle. They consist of the meta name (the property) and the content or of the attributes belonging to the content and properties.
The basic structure is as follows:
<meta name="name" content="content">
In principle, the meta tags allow you to enter any information about the document. In addition to this descriptive aspect, the tags can also be used to implement HTTP commands for the browser. You can use these commands, for example, to prompt the browser to redirect to another page.
Tags that serve as instructions for the browser have the following basic structure:
<meta http-equiv="name" content="content">
To follow the meta specifications, however, the browser would have to read the HTML document before delivering it, which many browsers do not do due to the performance effects. Whether the metadata is read depends on the browser.
The following three meta tags are the most important tags within search engine optimization:
Title tag - page title
You will find tips for optimization under: Alt tag and Title tag
In the 1990s, when search engines were not yet able to "independently" classify pages based on their content as they are today, meta tags were an important means of providing the search engine with information and thus influencing the ranking. Today, however, the algorithm is so far developed that the information of the meta tags no longer plays a role for the position in the search results, at least as a direct ranking factor (except for the title tag).
Indirectly, however, meta information can provide an advantage within search results, at least for the meta description (and also the title tag), because this is displayed in the search result. If the description and title differ visually from the other results or attract attention through clever formulations, the user may well prefer this result, even if it is not in the front positions.