The Keywords Meta Tag: Should we Skip It Entirely or Keep it?

The Keywords Meta Tag: Should we Skip It Entirely or Keep it? [in the picture: generic meta tags for a website]Everyone who has a website is continually looking for ways of improving the ranking of the site, the sales through the website, or the subscription to the site. Sometimes people don’t take the organic way of optimizing their website but rather employ “black hat SEO techniques“.

Some of these not-very-recommended ways of promoting or over-optimizing your website include such things as stuffing the meta tags of the website with either keywords, long titles with many key words, and long descriptions with a lot of words you target to optimize the page for.

Is the Keyword Meta Tag Bad?

In themselves, all the meta-tags are supposed to give an indication to the search engine of what that particular page is talking about. In other words, the regular user or visitor of the website does NOT see the meta tags (the title, description, keywords, content, property, etc).

It used to be that one of the best SEO (search engine optimization) practices was that people would make sure their meta tags exist and they are proper for that particular page. Unfortunately, many people used the meta-tags to manipulate the search engines and show up higher in the search results by keyword stuffing and other likewise practices.

Are the keywords bad? No, but it seem that because of these practices, and because the search engines are becoming smarter, little by little the meta-tags will be either dropped or ignored. Even more, Search Engine Land was saying that Bing would even consider the signal coming from the keywords meta tag as an indicator of spam! So they would even decrease the value of a website if they have a lot of keywords!

Should We Say Good-Bye to the Keywords?

Good question. We are now in the process of re-designing and re-vamping our website, and we are considering this. Most of our competitors are practicing the stuffing of their meta-tags with many keywords, and we are kind of jealous to see so many visitors being brought to them by the search engines because of that!

Google themselves say it clearly since 2009 that, Google does NOT use Keywords Meta Tag in Web Rankings! Check out what Matt Cutts also says about this. There was a lot of abusing of the keyword meta tag (and, I would say, the description and the title also, in many cases), so google and bing disregard it.

Skip the tag entirely“, just in case you’re freaked out about it, says Danny Sullivan (and I think he knows what he’s talking about). These days you have no idea why and sections of your website or your entire blog gets a penalization from google or other search engines. Why risk it?

What do you think? Should we say good-bye to the keyword meta-tag? Is it worth it to keep it, or should we skip it entirely? Or is it worth risking having the keyword meta tag on, with a very moderate number of key words which also appear on that page?

[picture credit: Meta Tags.]

7 comments

  1. Firstly, the part where you say ‘ the regular user or visitor of the website does NOT see the meta tags (the title, description, keywords, content, property, etc).’ is not entirely true.

    The description tag is what you see in a search listing as the black text under the page title (blue text). How influential is the description tag to increase click through? Very. So it’s worth testing and refining on an ongoing basis.

    Same for page titles.

    Remember, the experience doesn’t start once someone visits your website, it’s when they see your search listing. This is the bit many forget.

    Secondly, some webmasters use the keywords meta tag as a way to inform others of the keywords they are trying to optimise for. So when you have 4-5 or maybe 10+ people working on the site at the same time, it’s a good way to remind everyone what keywords to use consistently throughout the site and to a page level. It’s not for Google, but more for the web administrators.

    Finally, the keyword meta tag is now used by Google for its Google News section. http://searchenginewatch.com/article/2207067/Google-Wants-You-To-Use-Keyword-Metatags…-No-Really

    1. Thanks for the comment, Pritesh. You’re right about the description – it’s the part that people see in the search results. Sometimes though google or the search engine scrapes the paragraph where the keywords you search is mentioned and that’s what they post, so it’s not a general rule.

      The page title though is set, and it’s the “blue link” in the search results.

      The reason we are STILL asking about the keywords is what you also said – it’s good to keep in mind what are the main keywords for a page, for a category or section, and for individual products. It’s good to have this “set of keywords”, which needs to be small… – but will the search engine “penalize you” or “downgrade your value” because of these?

      As for the article you linked to, wow, mindblowing indeed! Hmm… Do you think it refers specifically to the websites that want to be included in google news? If yes, then many websites – like our online store – may not target that…

  2. From a writing standpoint, the meta tag for keywords is pretty irrelevant. I’ve worked for many sites that enjoy good traffic and have never filled in that little box.

    If you’re writing, just focus on developing a story that’s good for the audience. Don’t think ‘how would a search engine like this?’, think about how you can enhance the experience for the user and make them think your content is worth re-visiting

    It’s easy to write a piece stuffed full of keywords and rely on the hits trickling in, but how useful is that kind of traffic anyway? You want the people who are interested in your subject to come along and see that you know what you’re talking about and not just shoving in keywords.

    It makes your writing flow that much better, and makes it feel much more natural as well.

    I realize this was more about the meta tags but it all feeds into writing on the net – don’t ignore SEO, but at the same time make sure you have a balance, informative writing style.

    1. thanks for the comment 🙂 From the point of view of a copyright person, you are totally right.

      But when you write the description of the products for some static pages, you know, as if you would write for an online store, what do you think – should there be 4-5 key words (also mentioned in the meta-tags) which “define your page”?

      Or, should you just put it all in the content, having a strategy to bring out the important key words for that page? Or… both?

      1. Well Google basically came out and said themselves that the meta keywords do nothing. This is why so many companies got hit badly by the Panda update because they relied on meta tags and duplicated content.

        It’s important now to have unique content on all your product descriptions that incorporates your target keywords in a natural manner.

      2. I agree with Pritesh, The title tag and description tag is extremely important because that’s what shows up in the search results. As for meta keyword tag, they have relevance but not much it really is a combination of things. The title tag, the decription tag, the meta tag and your image tags, then you need one or two keywords in your website copy and also links. The main think is links to your website. However, what is going to by key really is valuable content. Google has made about 500 algorithm updates recently, one of them being Panda which has changing search as we know it. Popularity or how you will be ranked is going to be based on popularity determined by people, so the more likes, shares, comments you have the better. Google themselves are saying focus on valuable content rather than SEO. Remove any duplicate content you may have on your website, and a few other things. A few top ranking sites have already been affected. http://www.hongkiat.com/blog/google-panda-tips/ Hope this helps.

      3. YES, this definitely helps, Romany! We are currently looking into the best ways to have more social engagements with our friends, suppliers, customers, and even potential customers. It looks like the signal coming from the meta-tags is only one of the many other signals, and the social / reviews / sharing signals are becoming increasingly important!

        Thanks for the comment. No matter what, high quality content will be greatly appreciated by both the visitor and the search engine!

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