Most people in the SEO world have known for a long time that Google does not factor the contents of meta keywords tags into their search ranking algorithm. This fact has been officially announced by Google’s Matt Cutts. In this YouTube video, Matt also talks about the potential usefulness of meta description tags which I’ll try and cover in detail in a future post.
Given that this information is public, I am surprised how many times I still see meta keywords tags that contain hundreds of keywords (known as keyword stuffing or keyword spamming) placed there in a vain attempt to improve a website’s rankings and clearly Google’s message still has not reached everyone so maybe this post will help propagate the message amongst the SME community as this blog matures. Some of these keyword stuffed meta tags will of course be legacy tags from a time when keyword tags may have been beneficial for improving rankings and the webmasters simply have not bothered to clean them up. And if they are ignored by the search engines then it probably doesn’t really matter whether they’re cleaned up or not.
However, I still come across a surprising number of examples of newly created spammed keyword tags.
A couple of weeks ago, I had an enquiry from a prospective client who had become frustrated with his web designer. Leaving aside the fact that the website was not complete after 1 year or that it didn’t work in the most basic sense, the designer had claimed to have completed the SEO for the website. “SEO” started – and ended – apparently, with filling the meta keywords tag full of as many keywords as possible. But, worse than that, he had duplicated the meta keyword tag several times on the same page. One look at the page title tag – perhaps the most important single element on the page from an SEO standpoint – revealed to me he knew nothing about SEO.
Whether this arose from a simple lack of skills or from an attempt to mislead the client doesn’t really matter. Either way, it resulted in a very poor service. It highlights again how difficult it is for business owners and managers to evaluate SEO specialists. There seem relatively few options open to them other than (i) to acquire enough knowledge about SEO to enable them to make an informed choice (ii) rely on references or an opinion from someone they trust or (iii) risk making a costly error.
Check your own keywords tags
If you are unsure about your meta keywords tags and the SEO skills of your web designer, you can easily find out by looking at your website’s source code.
With your website’s home page on the screen, look at the menu bar in your internet browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome etc.) and select “view” then “source”. Alternatively “right click” on your mouse and select “view page source”. The exact steps may vary depending on your browser but it’ll be something similar.
You will then see the source code used to generate your web page and you can either scroll down looking for the “meta keywords” tag or use your browser to “edit” then “find” or “search” or similar for “meta keyword”.
You will then see something like the content in the screenshot at the top of this post.
Or, hopefully not!
Some argue that one might as well have a complete keywords tag because, for a few seconds work, even if Google doesn’t use it, other search engines or applications may so why risk missing out on any benefit no matter how small or how unlikely? Indeed, I have come across more than one business directory where it was a condition of entry that your website had a title tag, meta keywords tag and meta description tag completed.
If you do still prefer to use the meta keywords tags, probably the best thing to do is keep them short, sweet and unique to the page in question.
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