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Guide to Metadata

How to use Metatags

How to

Some Do's and Don't's of metatagsDo's and Don't's

Examples of metatagsExamples

The Dublin Core metadataDublin Core

WYSIWYG Editors like Dreamweaver or Frontpage provide simple tools to include metadata without the user ever having to look at the HTML code. And, of course, there is a number of metatag generators online. The metatag syntax is, however, simple and shouldn't cause problems for anyone vaguely familiar with HTML.

Metatags consist of a property/value pair where the name attribute specifies the property and the content attribute specifies the property's value. The following declaration sets a value for the language property:

<META NAME="Content-language" CONTENT="en">

Metatags are included in the HEAD section of the HTML code. The metadata for this page, for example looks like this:

<TITLE>Metadata - How to use Metatags</TITLE>
<META NAME="description" CONTENT="A quick guide for web designers on how to use metadata in HTML documents.">
<META NAME="keywords" CONTENT="metadata, metatags, Dublin Core, guidelines, web design, resources, HTML authoring">
<META NAME="Content-language" CONTENT="en">
<META NAME="author" CONTENT="mailto:iris@jarmin.com">
<META NAME="creation_date" CONTENT="February 1, 2000 00:00:01">
<META NAME="robots" CONTENT="all, index, follow">

Some Do's and Don't's

Keep metatags simple and concise

Very long descriptions and too numerous keywords will be ignored by some spiders, e.g. some search engines index only the first six keywords. Search engines can also detect metatag spamming (see below), where a keyword is repeated several times, and may penalize a site's ranking.

Prioritize keywords

Since some search engines only read a certain number of keywords it is important to list the most important ones first.

Avoid the REFRESH metatag for re-direction

Although a very handy tool, so-called bridge pages should be avoided because they tend to clutter search engine's databases and confuse users (especially those using assistive technology like screen readers).

Don't abuse metatags

Metatags supply the information used to categorize, prioritize and rank websites and the control over their content lies with the webmaster or author. Obviously this privilege can be easily abused.

The term metatag spamming refers to the repeated use of the same keyword. Although most spiders are intelligent enough to ignore such spam, they are unlikely to discover keywords irrelevant to the contents of a page (e.g. the inclusion of words like 'sex' in an attempt to increase traffic to a site).

Furthermore, in the United States a court case recently made it clear that the use of someone else's trademarks in the keywords metatag is not appreciated. (Please refer to the articles on the Resources page) On to Metatag Examples

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7 March 2000
webmaster at jarmin.com