A meta tag is an HTML element used to add structured metadata such as a page description, relevant keywords, and authorship to an HTML document.
The <meta> tag is used to add structured metadata – things like a page description and authorship information – to a webpage. Information added by a meta tag is not visible on a web page but is used by browsers, search engines, and other web services.
When you enter search terms into a search engine, each result the search engine presents includes a page title and short description of the content on the page. You decide which results to visit based on the page titles and descriptions. The titles and descriptions presented by the search engine usually come from one of two places:
- Generated automatically by the search engine using things like headings and paragraph text appearing on the page.
- Generated intentionally by the website using a <title> tag and a <meta> tag containing a page description.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is “structured metadata”?
Metadata is data about data. We say that data added to a web page with the meta tag is structured because HTML syntax will only accept certain specific attributes and values as valid forms of metadata. In other words, not just anything can be added as metadata to a web page, the HTML specification dictates that only certain forms of metadata can be provided using the meta tag.
So we say that data added with a meta tag is “structured metadata” because it is data about the data on a webpage that must be structured in a way that is compliant with the HTML specification.
In addition to page descriptions, what other types of metadata can be added with the meta tag?
The <meta> tag or element can be used to add several different kinds of metadata to a webpage. While the page description data element is the most common, other types of metadata that can be added include, and are not limited to, the name of the page author, the generator or software used to develop the webpage, copyright information, keywords applicable to the webpage, the primary language the webpage contains, and more.
The meta tag can also be used to perform certain browser functions such as telling the browser to redirect to a different webpage or to refresh the current page.
When you visit a webpage you probably won’t actually see any metadata. However, while metadata is not visible when visiting a webpage, it is critical to use meta tags properly when creating an HTML document.
- Meta tags are important to Internet users because they provide information, such as the page description, that is seen when a search engine is queried, and this information helps web users determine which search engine results are the most relevant.
- Meta tags are important to webmasters because they allow a webmaster to influence the page description used by a search engine, and proper use of meta tags is an important step in every SEO strategy.