Meta tag or meta element?

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Written by Chris Hirst. Posted in Internet Marketing and Search on 29 January 2012.
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Meta "tags" are the subject of much discussion in SEO forums and "blogs", and as usually happens in many cases they are full of inaccuracies and common myths. This article is NOT going to be about Internet search engines and what meta elements they use or not, this is about clearing up the naming problems. Every industry or marketplace needs a standard parlance (a method of refering to things used within that industry) so that all who are involved in the industry know what each other is referring to in discussions thereby avoiding mis-understandings and errors. The fact is that there is only ONE meta tag

<meta name="name" content="value">

<meta name="name" content="value" />

Tthe alternate tag ends being for HTML (>) or XHTML (/>) doctypes. The use or meaning of the basic "tag", without the name or content attributes having values is undefined and requires a value for the name attribute for it to have a meaning, and as such there can be many meta tags in a single document, some of these are "well known" and used widely, such as the meta keywords element
<meta name="name" content="word word another word" />

 The words in the content attribute should be related to the document content and user agents that read the meta keywords can use them to categorise the document. The meta description element,
<meta name="description" content="A short sentence to describe the document" />
May also be used by user agents to provide a summary or synopsis of the document contents. There are many other meta elements the "robots" meta element
<meta name="robots" content="value" >

Which is used to exclude compliant "bots" from certain actions on the page see for more detail. There are also meta elements that are created by the website operator such as Vancouver Webpages did for the vw-96 meta elements, these were for their own on site search tool. There is also the Dublin Core Metadata iniative.
So please if you want to be understood by your peers and colleagues in the search industry, refer to the meta elements by name not just as "meta tags"
I have to say thank you to Shey (Admin at TycoonTalk) for inspiring this.

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Author: Chris Hirst

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