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What is a Meta Refresh?

By Sherry Holetzky
Updated May 16, 2024
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There are two simple definitions for meta refresh, which encompass its two most common usages. One is an automatic refresh and the other is redirection, the process of redirecting a user to another webpage. Auto refresh is often used on a web site that contains continuously updated information such as news, sports statistics, stock tickers, and weather reports.

Using meta refresh has both positive and negative implications. While updated information is certainly a plus, some users don’t like pages that automatically refresh. They may not have had time to view all the information before changes occurred or a page may refresh too slowly for them. The amount of time between changes is therefore an important consideration when using meta refresh.

As for redirection, you have likely clicked on at least one link, which opens a screen that indicates that you will be redirected to another page in a certain time frame. Generally, there will also be a message that says if you are not redirected in a certain number of seconds; you should click the link provided. This type of meta refresh should be used only temporarily. Visitors to the site should be reminded to change their bookmarks to the new URL, or Universal Resource Locator, which simply put is the new web address.

The time frame in which the page or link will change is added to the page code in seconds. It is probably a good idea to add other links as well, such as the previous page and perhaps the next page, so visitors have an option if the meta refresh time frame is not to their liking. Also, keep in mind that not all browsers will support a meta refresh the same way. In some cases, the user may not be able to use the back button to retrieve the previous page.

While meta refresh may be used temporarily when a page has been moved, there are other reasons it is used as well, some of which are not viewed as appropriate by search engines. A web site may contain a page that is blatantly filled with keywords but no truly unique or valuable content. While a user will hit that page he or she may be redirected quickly before even seeing it. While at one time this tactic may have worked for improving search engine rankings, many search engines will no longer tolerate it. A search engine may in fact penalize a site or remove the page from its listings if such tactics are used.

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