What are Meta Refresh Tags?

A. Rohlandt

Meta refresh tags are also referred to as meta redirects. They either cause a page to reload or cause another page to load. The use of meta refresh tags is discouraged by some who prefer, instead, the use of 301 or 302 HTTP redirects.

Sites that use meta refresh tags may be identified as spam by search engines.
Sites that use meta refresh tags may be identified as spam by search engines.

Meta refresh tags have to be inserted in the head section of the web page. When viewing the page in HTML format, the head section can be identified by the code <head>. A meta refresh tag will look like this: <meta http-equiv="refresh" content="600">

The meta keyword identifies its HTML function, and the http-equiv="refresh" attribute informs the internet browser that the tag is using an HTTP command instead of an ordinary meta tag. Web servers use HTTP headers to instruct a browser to either reload the web page or to redirect, and this is what the "refresh" command does.

There is also the option to set the number of seconds before the browser reloads. The last piece of the meta refresh code, "content="600", shows how much of a delay is set before the page reloads. The best known function of meta refresh tags is to reload pages that feature content or information that updates frequently. One example of this is a weather site, where the information changes often.

Redirection is another use of meta refresh tags, and this is their function in most cases. When the meta refresh tags are used to redirect a user to another web page, the code instead reads like this: <meta http-equiv="refresh" content="2;url=http://google.com/">.

The part of the code that reads content="2;url=http://google.com/" tells the browser the amount time to wait before performing the redirection and which page it is to load. In this case, the redirect is set to occur in two seconds, and the page will be redirected to google.com.

Using meta refresh tags can have some drawbacks. Sites that uses them may be identified as spam by search engines. A very fast redirect can leave users who have outdated browsers stuck on a page, and refreshing a page can confuse the user. The use of meta refresh tags also raises concerns about security. Such concerns are why it is considered better to use a HTTP or server redirect.

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