Note: If you are looking for a comprehensive list of Meta Tags and how to use them properly in your websites, please see my comprehensive article: Meta Tags Explained.
The Meta Expires tag defines the expiration date and time of the web document that is being indexed. It has been said that the Meta Expires tag is helpful for those periods when your business is running a limited time event/offer or if there is a preset date when your web document will no longer be valid for indexing. Once you have reached the listed date, the search engines are then supposed to delete your web page from their database.
This tag is commonly used in conjunction with the Revisit After Tag as a means to get search engines to come back to your website every few days.
Meta Expires Tag Example:
The following is an example of how you can use the Meta Expires tag:
<META HTTP-EQUIV="expires" CONTENT="Wed, 26 Feb 2004 08:21:57 GMT">
Note: Time zone must be stated in Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) not EST, PST or any other.
Use the following tag to expire content immediately:
The above tag is also said to disable caching so that search engines will load a new copy of the site from the server every time an end user visits the site.
Meta Expires Recommendations:
It is recommended that you do not use the Meta Expires tag. If you are looking for a way to stop Google from caching your site, the Meta Expires tag will not do this for you. While the concept is good, it is impractical for the search engines to follow. Google will still cache your web page even if you have chosen to use the Meta Expires tag. According to my testing, both search engines and browsers will ignore the Meta Expires tag completely, just like you should do. This tag is worthless and needs to be deleted from use.
If you would like Google to stop caching your web page, use the following code:
Note: The above tag belongs with your other Meta tags that you have entered at the top of your web page as well.
Here is an article from Search Engine Roundtable posted on March 21, 2005:
A thread at Search Engine Watch forums named Expired HTML Pages beating me out discusses one member, being upset that documents that are represented as being expired as ranking above his site. There is an expires meta tag that looks somewhat like <META HTTP-EQUIV="expires" CONTENT="Wed, 26 Feb 1997 08:21:57 GMT">
So should Google and other engines use this data to determine if a page should not be in the top results? As Phil Craven points out in the thread, "I've never heard of Google dropping pages because of a meta "expires" tag. They do use "last modified" information to speed up crawling, but not when it's in the page itself."
Meta Expires Tag Reviewed - information for webmasters & search engine optimizers.
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