We have written earlier about many aspects of SEO and have also written about meta tags in our knowledge center. It is a well known fact that meta tags on the webpages get crawled and indexed by search engines. Many a times you may have also heard that they don’t have any role to play in page rankings on search engines. So how does having meta tags work and what do search engines do with the meta tags on web pages?
Our post on what are Meta tags was written to help you understand the basics. Now let’s try to go a step ahead or maybe a few steps ahead and know more about meta tags. They are tags written within the code of the webpages and thus are not visible to the web page visitors. A simple view source on the browser can show you the meta tags of a page. Do you ever wonder what search engines do with your meta tags?
There are three things that a search engine crawler / robot does with meta tags:
1. Indexing: This is the basic function of meta tags – to aid indexing. When a search engine bot crawls your page, it create a copy of the HTML code on a web page and stores it in its database. This act crawling and storing of a web page is called indexing. All meta keywords are indexed by Google.
2. Retrieving : How a search engine reacts to the people surfing the web and looking for something and serves results is termed as retrieving. What does it retrieve? Well, the search engine retrieves what it has indexed about your website from your web pages and compares it with the search query of the user. While doing so it tries to find the right match among the documents it has indexed looking for those pages which are most relevant to the search query the user has entered in the search engine. While doing so it may not necessarily go through the indexed document completely – meaning that it will not necessarily go through the meta keywords, title and description for retrieval and matching with the search query.
3. Aiding Ranking: This is what every website owner craves for. Ranking is about finding and putting the best, most accurate and relevant web pages on top of a search results page. This is based on a complex algorithm. The meta tags have a role to play here claim many and others feel they have no relevance.
4. Presentation : Yes, the metas are used by search engines when it comes to showing the details of a page on the search results pages. The title and description are picked up by search engines and shown on the search results. This is important that the Meta tags be written by an SEO professional who knows the impact of the writing the meta tags correctly.