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Do the main Search Engines Even look at Meta Keywords?

 

Do the main Search Engines Even look at Meta Keywords?

 

I was asked by a client recently about whether it was important to add meta keywords to web-pages. My knee jerk reaction would be yes of course, they may not have any weighting for SEO purposes anymore but it would be deemed best practice.

 

To try and understand more on the subject I reviewed various articles and posts on the internet regarding ‘do Google and Yahoo use Meta Keywords’ and all this did was make the issue more confusing. I will say is that the consensus is that they are not required for SEO purposes, but search engines use them for spam signals. So a spam signal could be that abnormal amounts of keywords are put in the Meta Keywords tag which would have a detrimental effect on your SERP (search engine ranking position). The search engines would spot this when they crawl your web-pages which would set off a spam signal in their algorithm. The name given for this is keyword stuffing. Now you can spend hours trolling through articles and best practice guides on what is the correct way to add the meta keywords tag to your web-pages. Between 4 and 8 would be the norm, but where it no longer of use to the search engines, is there any point? Well from a business decision if it was going to take you 100hours to go through 100 web pages and add the information where it’s not going to do you any SERP favours, why waste your time?

 

So the history tells us:

 

Matt Cutts from Google stated that Google do not and have not used Meta keywords in years.

 

Bing: Duane Forrester, Senior Product Manager for Bing said ‘“Meta keywords is a signal. One of roughly a thousand we analyse. Getting it right is a nice perk for us, but won’t rock your world. Abusing meta keywords can hurt you.”

 

So I decided to run a little test of my own so I could tell it they had any effect on SERP’s at all, and you may be surprised to hear that there was a big change in Google (where supposedly they don’t even look at Meta Keywords).

 

The keyword I created was dfhsjsalkafrjesrgtrjkeskg test’. Now do not try this with your own website. I put this in the home page Meta keyword tag of my website to let it get crawled by the search engines. In Google.co.uk, my ranking fell off the side of the planet. Funny considering it was the only update I made to the site in that period, where Google aren’t even meant to be looking at Meta Keyword tags. See spreadsheet for results.

So to avoid looking at graphs of ranking positions that head South like the image above, make a decision on Meta Keywords. If you know what you’re doing and don’t keyword stuff the web-pages, carry on, but it will have minimal effect in the Search Engines Ranking Position. It is best practice, and no one really knows how much it will help if at all as all signals in algorithms are closely guarded secrets. I would add them, purely because they’re there then, so that if a search engine does decide in the future to use the Meta Keywords as a signal for quality, then I don’t have to worry about it.

So to avoid looking at graphs of ranking positions that head South like the image above, make a decision on Meta Keywords. If you know what you’re doing and don’t keyword stuff the web-pages, carry on, but it will have minimal effect in the Search Engines Ranking Position. It is best practice, and no one really knows how much it will help if at all as all signals in algorithms are closely guarded secrets. I would add them, purely because they’re there then, so that if a search engine does decide in the future to use the Meta Keywords as a signal for quality, then I don’t have to worry about it.

Author: Brendan Smith


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