Sunday, October 24, 2010

Helpful Web Page HTML Meta and Link Tags

Web pages can include extra HTML tags that your site visitors don't necessarily see, but that help search engines like Google and Bing, other web sites link Facebook, and applications like the iPhone browser know more about your page. This blog entry describes the most common and some other useful tags. All these tags, except for JavaScript, belong in the "head" HTML section of your web pages. Note that some of these are "meta" tags with "name" and "content" attributes, and some are "link" tags with "rel" and "href" attributes.

Basic Meta Tags

Title - The Title tag contains text that shows up at the top of the browser when someone visits your page. Search engines also use your title as the main link to your page when it shows up in search results. An example Title tag looks like this:

<title>This is where your page title goes</title>

Description - A description tag can contain more text about your site. Visitors don't see this information when visiting your page, but search engines generally show it just below the page title in search results. This is a good place to include additional keywords and a call to action. An example Description tag looks like this:

<meta name="description" content="Click on this site for more information on what you're searching for." />

Keywords - Though most search engines ignore contents of the Keywords tag, including it may be helpful if your site has its own search engine. Use it to include additional words not necessarily on your page that visitors might search by. Here's an example Keywords tag:

<meta name="keywords" content="web page editing authoring header meta tags HTML CSS JavaScript JS" />

Robots - This tag lets you tell search engines whether or not to index or cache your pages. If you don't want search engines to store a copy of your page, use a tag like this:

<meta name="robots" content="noarchive" />

Canonical - If your page can be reached at several different URLs, this tag lets you tell search engines which link you prefer them to use. See my other blog post for more information about this tag. Here's an example:

<link rel="canonical" href="" />

Including Site CSS and JavaScript Libraries

It's good practice for your site to use a common CSS stylesheet and JavaScript file that the browser can cache and reuse. Browsers will store these files so your visitor doesn't have to download them again with every page. Moving common formatting and scripts out of each page makes your page size smaller which means they'll load faster.

Stylesheet - This tag tells the browser where to find the general formatting for your site. Here's an example Stylesheet tag:

<link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" href="/sitestylesheet.css" />

JavaScript - This tag tells the browser where to get your site's general script library containing functions that are reused on several pages. This tag belongs near the top of the "body" section of your web page. Here's an example JavaScript tag:

<script type="text/javascript" src="/sitejavascript.js"></script>

Browser Icons, and Apple iPhone and iPad Icons

These tags let you tell browsers and other applications which icon to use to represent your site when a visitor bookmarks your page.

Shortcut Icon - Web browsers will show a small icon, generally 16x16 pixels, in the address bar and bookmarks. To tell the browser where to find the icon, include the "shortcut icon" tag. Here's an example:

<link rel="shortcut icon" href="/favicon.ico" />

Apple Touch Icon - Apple iPhones and iPads will show a 57x57 icon when a visitor bookmarks your site. Here's how to tell Apple where to find your icon:

<link rel="apple-touch-icon" href="/logo57x57.png" />

Viewport - When the iPhone browser displays your page on its small screen, it can't always figure out just how wide or narrow to show it. Use the "viewport" tag to tell the iPhone Safari browser exactly how wide to display your page.

<meta name="viewport" content="width=650" />


If you've ever shared a link on Facebook, you probably noticed that Facebook sometimes shows an irrelevant image from the page. To let Facebook know which image you prefer to use, include a "medium" and "image_src" tag.

Medium - This tag helps Facebook know how to display a shared link to your site. You can specify news, blog, image, video, audio, and mult for the "content" attribute based on your page's content. Here's an example "medium" tag for textual content.

<meta name="medium" content="news" />

Image_Src - This tag tells Facebook which image to use when someone shares a link to your page. If you would like to let the Facebook user select from more than one image, you can include this tag any number of times with different "href" image URLs. Here's an example:

<link rel="image_src" href="" />
<link rel="image_src" href="" />

RSS Feeds

Alternate - If your site has an RSS feed, most browsers will show an RSS icon near the address bar that visitors can click to subscribe to your RSS feed. To tell the browser where your RSS feed is, include a link to it like the one below. If your site has more than one RSS feed, you can include more than one "alternate" link.

<link rel="alternate" type="application/rss+xml" title="Your Feed Name" href="" />
<link rel="alternate" type="application/rss+xml" title="Your Feed Name" href="" />

Advanced Topic: Site Search

Modern browsers like Firefox or Microsoft Internet Explorer version 7 and higher let users add custom searches to search your site even when they're not on your site. If your site has its own search feature, you can set up a small XML file that tells the browser where to find your search.

First set up an XML file, generally named "opensearch.xml", like the example below and upload it to your server.

<OpenSearchDescription xmlns="">
<ShortName>Site or Search Name</ShortName>
<LongName>Your Site or Search Engine Name</LongName>
<Description>A longer description of your site or search engine.</Description>
<Image type="image/" height="16" width="16"></Image>
<Url type="application/opensearchdescription+xml" rel="self" template="" />
<Url type="text/html" rel="results" template="{searchTerms}" />
<Query role="example" searchTerms="Example" />

If your search engine supports real-time search-as-you-type suggestions, add a line like this to your XML file:

<Url type="application/x-suggestions+json" template="{searchTerms}" />

Then include a "search" tag like the one below in the header of all your pages with a link to the search XML file your uploaded:

<link rel="search" type="application/opensearchdescription+xml" href="" title="Your Site or Search Engine Name" />