FAQs » 12. What are meta-tags?
A meta-tag is the section of a website which is only visible to search engine spiders. This section is designed to provide the search engines with more detail about the site; its content, purpose, and the services offered, so that the engines can correctly categorise it in their database. The term ‘meta-tags’ is sometimes used interchangeably with ‘keywords’ or ‘keyphrases’, although this is not strictly accurate.
Towards the end of the 1990s meta-tags became the major focus of webmasters interested in increasing their search engine rankings, as the majority of engines relied on the information they contained in order to rank a site. However their popularity has since faded due to the growing number of people abusing them; over-repetition of keywords or the inclusion of irrelevant keywords in an attempt to increase site traffic being the most common methods of abuse. Currently search engines do not really include the meta-tags in their ranking of a site.