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6 Meta Commands that You Need to Know

Sep 16, 2008
SEO experts know that all search engines use spiders. But before you reach for that shoe to crush the pesky little critters, you should know that spiders are nothing more than robots, tools used by search engines to scour the web and look for webpages. Once the spiders have collected data, they bring the data back to the search engine for indexing.

Since 1996 meta commands have been able to control how these spiders behave. Here are the six most popular commands, along with guidelines on how to use them.

. meta name="robots" content="index"

This is one of the most common, and least helpful, meta commands. It simply tells the spider to add the page to its index, which all search engines automatically do anyway. Include it if you like, but know that it won't make much of a difference since all search engines will index your page unless you tell them not to.

. meta name="robots" content="follow"

This command requests that a spider follow the links on a page. Like the previous command, it is also redundant since search engines automatically follow links unless otherwise indicated.

. meta name="robots" content="noindex"

This is the opposite of the index command, telling spiders not to index a page. If your page only uses this command, however, spiders will still follow the links on the page. Why would you use this command? Search engines have difficulty reading dynamic pages. If you were to replace your dynamic pages with static pages, you could put the noindex tag on the dynamic versions. Search engines would have an easier time accessing your site because you directed them to your static page.

In its Webmaster Help Center, Google says,

"Consider creating static copies of dynamic pages. Although the Google index includes dynamic pages, they comprise a small portion of our index. If you suspect that your dynamically generated pages (such as URLs containing question marks) are causing problems for our crawler, you might create static copies of these pages."

. meta name="robots" content="nofollow"

This tag tells spiders to index the page, but not to follow any of the links on the page. Let's say one of your partners asked for a link on your site. Although you felt obligated to give it, you really didn't want that partner to affect your page rank. By using this tag, you are effectively telling the spider that there's nowhere else to go from your page.

. meta name="robots" content="noindex,nofollow"

This tag effectively makes the page invisible to all search engines, telling the search engine not to index the page or follow any links on it. What's the point of such a tag? If you place it on pages of a site that legitimately have duplicate content, you can keep search engines from devaluing them. For example, if your website has a page for England and a page for the United States that have duplicate content, the spider will bypass the page without penalizing you. Without the tag, search engines would see duplicate content and give lesser value to both pages.

. meta name="robots" content="noarchive"

Almost all search engines provide a cached version of a website along with the current listing. This cache shows what the page used to look like. If content on your website is time sensitive, this tag would keep spiders from indexing a cached version of your site. Let's say you own a business and you're having a huge sale to try to drum up sales. Once sales are up, you discontinue the sale. You obviously don't want a cached version of your website to show up on a search engine, leading people to believe that you're still having sale. This tag keeps users from accessing your time-sensitive information later.

Knowing how to use meta commands can enhance your websites effectiveness and relevance, and can help you build a user-friendly, successful website. For additional help in using META tags, consult an SEO expert or internet marketing specialist.
About the Author
Seomul Evans is a senior SEO Services with "SEO 1 Services" a Dallas firm providing SEO Marketing and freeinternet marketing articles .
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