Does anyone care about meta tags

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In the early days of the Internet, meta tags played an important role in how websites were indexed, classified and viewed by the fledgling search engines.

A variety of meta tags sprang up to offer helpful information (not to website visitors, but to search engines) about a webpage. Makes sense to do that if you want to appear in search results, right?

For completeness sake, a meta tag is an HTML tag, inserted into the header area of a webpage. A webpage's header is enclosed between <HEAD> tags at the top of the page. The header section can contain a lot of different tags, but predominantly it's meant to include stuff not directly displayed to a visitor.

The two most commonly used meta tags are keywords and description. The keywords tag allows you to come up with a short list of words or phrases that best describe your content. The description tag should hold a brief (no more than a couple of sentences) summary of the webpage.

The problem was that unscrupulous webmasters could easily abuse the system by adding deliberately misleading meta information in an attempt to harvest unsuspecting visitors via the search engines. That changed fairly quickly though...

It didn't take long for search engines (based on web crawlers) to realize that there was little point in relying on the impeccable honesty of the Internet community (he says, with a tinge of sarcasm), and meta tags quickly became all but redundant - redundant from the point of view of being able to significantly alter your page ranking in the major search engines, that is.

More often than not you will find people advocating the complete uselessness of meta tags, and they are correct from a certain perspective (that of the search engine itself).

But I would strongly advise you to make the effort to add good keywords and a very good description - short, but helpful to human readers. The reason is that:

meta descriptions are often displayed below the title link of a search result.

In other words, the meta tags won't boost your search engine rankings, but, if your webpage does come up in a search, having a focused meaningful description that speaks directly to the viewer can be far more valuable than appearing one to two places higher up the list. Write the meta description for human readers.

Remember, that if you have a good website it should be quite easy to automatically generate meaningful meta descriptions directly from the content on your webpage. You shouldn't have to go back over each and every page and type in a couple of sentences.