What Search Engine Crawlers do with your Meta Tags

Meta tagsWe all know that our meta tags get crawled and indexed due to the fact that it comes out on the snippets and several other reasons. But we’ve also heard that it doesn’t have any weight on page rankings. So how does it work? How does a search engine treat the meta tags in your webpage? What does search engines do with your meta tags?

Meta tags are codes in your website’s <head> portion. They are invisible to the users and are by far, the only legal way to have unseen keywords in your website. Don’t you ever wonder what search engines do with your meta tags since we know that it doesn’t affect page ranking anymore? I know I do. So I read some articles about it and found out from Search Engine Land what exactly your meta tags is being used for by the search engine crawlers.

There are three things that a search engine crawler does with your meta tags:

1. Indexing: When a search engine crawls your page, it replicates a copy of your HTML code and stores it in its database. This is called indexing. All your meta keywords are indexed by Google – it is aware of your meta keywords and has stored it up. Even so, it doesn’t mean it uses it in any way else. It just stores it up.

2. Retrieval: Also termed  by information research professionals as “Recall”, is how a search engine reacts to the people surfing the web and looking for something.  The search engine retrieves what it has indexed about your website and will compare it with the search query of the user. It matches if the documents it has indexed are relevant with the search query the user has initiated. While it does look at the sites it has indexed, it does not necessarily mean that it will go through the indexed document completely – meaning that it will not necessarily go through the meta keywords for retrieval and matching with the search query. I know Google doesn’t, although I’ve read that Yahoo does.

3. Ranking: Now this is where it goes down to business. Ranking is also termed as “Precision” because it is all about putting the best, and most accurate and relevant stuff up top. The ranking algorithm between search engines vary. Some say that for Yahoo, meta keywords still hold water albeit very shallowly so. For Google, I’ve heard that meta tags hold no weight at all in their ranking algorithm. Any way you put it, meta tags can do very little to none with your page rankings.

Now that we have that established, what exact uses does meta tags have in your website? What does SEO experts use meta tags for? I’ll be talking about this in my next entry so watch out for it!

Tips for keeps: Don’t focus too much on your meta tags. Yes it does help, but it helps minimally. You should focus on SEO factors with more weight in relation to your site’s page ranking.

This entry is part of the SEO Hacker School series: Using Meta Tags for SEO

Next Lesson: How Meta Tags should be used for SEO

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  • Thank you Sean for the insight. Knowing how search engines work will help to better optimize blogs accordingly.

    Search engines will not go through the entire document it has indexed, then, will it just scan through the keywords it has indexed to determine the best relevant pages to present? Most probably.

    One more thing, I’d like to have your idea about the title tag of anchor tag. Do you think it is necessary or is beneficial to specify the Title attribute of A tag while creating hyperlinks?

    • Hi Suresh,
      Yes I do think it is important to indicate that even if it hasn’t really shown up as a big factor. The reason behind doing so is for the people who want to know a bit more information about your link and also for the search engines to better identify what your link is about.

  • Sean R. Nicholson

    Thanks for the great clarification! I hear too many so-called “SEO Experts” tell their client that they can get their content indexed in the search engines in 24-48 hours. While technically true, they don’t further explain that indexing isn’t enough and that true ranking can take 30-60 days.

    The unreasonable expectation that they set for thei clients rarely works out for hem, when they fail to deliver real, valid traffic.

    Again, thanks for the article!


  • I have ever heard that Meta Tags are obsolete, and therefore Meta Tags are ignored by search engines in as far as getting traffic is concerned just like Sean R Nicholson said in the comment above, great article Sean

  • A great intro to using HMTL metas tags and the usefullness (or not!) of them!


  • Chris Jones

    Title of listing on SERP’s = Title Tag
    2 line description of each entry in SERP’s = meta description tag
    Google site verification = meta name
    All meta tags have a purpose SEO isn’t all about rankings people

  • nice information on search engine crawlers

  • Lovely write Sean. Thanks for explaining this as well.

    Keep it up!