Why Meta Tags Are No Longer Relevant To Google but not Bing

To meta tag or not to meta tag: that is the question. Meta tags are essentially html tags hidden within the code of a website. It would be safe to say that almost every website on the internet (published before the summer of 2009) has some sort of meta tag imbedded in its code, invisible to the everyday user. Meta tags give additional information about a site to assist search engines in determining the main idea of what the site is all about. But these meta tags have fallen into misuse. Many websites load their pages with meta tags designed to improve their ranking on search engines many of which may not relevant to the subject or material on that specific site. Google has officially come out and said that the on site SEO tactic of using meta tags will no longer be considered relevant to search engine optimization. Bing (Microsoft’s search engine partner) however disagrees and continues to utilize meta tags as a SEO tool. At the time of writing this article, the jury at Yahoo was still out and would neither confirm nor deny whether it uses, or will continue to use meta tags or not.

The Rise And Fall of Meta Tags

Meta tags came to rise in approximately 1995 and in 1996 several search engine organizations created a standard for the use of meta tags. They were initially intended to be used constructively as a tool to help search engines categorize the endless number of websites on the internet. Unfortunately for readers and search engines, anyone with a high school education these days can easily design a website, and publish it to the internet adding meta tags willy-nilly using popular catch phrases, names or words that are totally irrelevant to the site. Their reasoning behind their efforts is that they are trying to optimize their ranking on search engines thus spoofing users into visiting their site. Yes, Virginia, there are frauds and unscrupulous people – even on the internet!

On Site SEO

Although Google has not ruled out the use of all meta tags, their spiders will essentially be reading page content to determine where your website appears on the search engine results page, if it even appears at all. On site SEO may need slightly more refocus during this period of change but it may be wise to direct your current focus on other aspects such as writing more interesting and relevant articles for your website (if you haven’t been doing that already). This will be a benefit to search engine users, SEO consulting firms and to those who write copy for websites. Google will also benefit from this by claiming superior accuracy in their search results as opposed to the competition.

Bing Backs Meta Tags

Bing, on the other hand, maintains that a well-architected website that has a <head> tag, <body> tag and document type description containing quality information that is relative to the site content, makes a difference between being highly ranked or completely missing from the search engine results pages.

The folks at Bing admit that the meta tag’s keyword attribute is not the be-all-and-end-all for SEO that it once was however. Bing recommends that you take advantage of the opportunities it presents by using it as it was intended. They also suggest that the following tag options are also still relevant:

1. Meta-content language tag;

2. Meta-content type tag;

3. Meta robots tag; and

4. Links tag.

So, in your plan for SEO, you will have to decide if Bing is more important to you than Google (or vice versa). What will the effect of not using meta tags have on the success or failure of your website? Or will the argument for or against meta tags become as irrelevant as the VHS vs. Beta controversy back in the day? Have a chat with a SEO consulting company if you’re not sure what to do next.

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