The Truth About Meta Keywords: To Use or Not to Use?

Josh Ternyak

May 6, 2024

Understanding Meta Keywords

Meta keywords have been a topic of discussion in the world of SEO for quite some time. In this section, we will explore the history of meta keywords and Google's stance on their usage.

History of Meta Keywords

In the past, meta keywords played a significant role in how search engines ranked web pages. Website owners would include a meta keywords tag in the HTML code of their pages, listing relevant keywords to indicate the content of their website. However, this practice has evolved over time.

Before 2009, search engines like Google used meta keywords as a factor in determining the visibility and relevance of web pages. Website owners would strategically include keywords in the meta keywords tag, hoping to boost their search engine rankings.

Google's Stance on Meta Keywords

Google, one of the leading search engines, made a significant change in 2009 by discontinuing the use of meta keywords in ranking web search results. The decision was driven by the abuse of meta keywords by SEO marketers and professionals. Google observed that website owners were stuffing irrelevant keywords into the meta keywords tag, compromising the quality of search results.

According to Google, meta keywords are different from traditional keywords. They are not visible to users and do not impact search rankings. Google disregards the keywords meta tag and it has no effect on search ranking in Google's web search results. This decision was made to ensure that search results are based on the quality and relevance of the content rather than keyword manipulation.

It's important to note that Google's stance on meta keywords is not unique. Bing, another popular search engine, also excludes and ignores the meta keywords tag. Yahoo and Bing do not consider the meta keywords tag in their search ranking algorithms either. Yahoo mentioned the lack of support for the meta keywords tag in 2009, and Bing declared the tag as having no SEO value in 2014 [4].

While meta keywords no longer hold the same weight in search engine rankings, there are other meta tags that can still benefit SEO efforts. For example, the title tag and meta description tag play important roles in search engine optimization. The title tag helps search engines understand the topic of the page and the meta description tag provides a concise summary of the content.

In conclusion, meta keywords have lost their significance in SEO due to their abuse and the changing algorithms of search engines like Google. Website owners and SEO practitioners should focus on optimizing other meta tags and prioritizing high-quality, relevant content to improve their search engine rankings.

Impact on SEO

When it comes to the impact of meta keywords on SEO, it's important to understand how they have evolved over time and their relevance in search engine ranking. Let's explore the relationship between meta keywords and search engine ranking, as well as their usage by different search engines.

Meta Keywords and Search Engine Ranking

In the past, meta keywords played a role in search engine ranking, particularly with Google. However, Google stopped using meta keywords to rank web search results in 2009. Before this change, meta keywords were used by search engines to determine the visibility and relevance of web pages. However, due to abuse by SEO marketers and professionals, Google discontinued the use of meta keywords in their ranking algorithms.

Using meta keywords for search engine optimization is no longer effective, as major search engines like Google and Bing no longer consider them as a ranking factor. In fact, including meta keywords on your website could potentially harm your SEO efforts, as they might be seen as a spam signal by some search engines.

Usage by Different Search Engines

While major search engines like Google and Bing have disregarded the use of meta keywords, it's worth noting that some other search engines still consider them. For example, Baidu and Yandex continue to use meta keywords as a factor in web search ranking [1]. If you are targeting these specific search engines, including relevant meta keywords may still have some impact on your rankings.

However, it's important to prioritize the optimization of your website for the major search engines, as they hold the majority of the market share. Focusing on other essential SEO elements, such as high-quality content, relevant title tags, and meta descriptions, will have a more significant impact on your search engine visibility and rankings.

In summary, meta keywords are an outdated and irrelevant meta tag when it comes to SEO. They no longer have any impact on your rankings in major search engines like Google or Bing. Therefore, it is recommended to focus on other SEO tactics, such as optimizing your content and utilizing relevant meta tags that still hold importance, like title tags and meta descriptions.

Considerations for Meta Keywords

As the landscape of SEO evolves, it's essential to stay updated on the role and relevance of meta keywords. In this section, we will explore the considerations surrounding meta keywords in 2023 and compare them to other meta tags.

Meta Keywords in 2023

Meta keywords, once a significant factor in SEO, have lost their impact in recent years. In 2009, Google officially announced that they no longer use meta keywords as a ranking signal in web search results [1]. This shift occurred due to the abuse and manipulation of meta keywords by SEO marketers and professionals.

Bing, the second-largest search engine, also excludes and ignores the meta keyword tag. In fact, in 2020, Christi Olsen from Microsoft revealed that Bing doesn't use meta keywords and considers them to have no SEO value [3]. Yahoo, which is powered by Bing, announced the lack of support for the meta keywords tag in 2009, and Bing officially declared it as having no SEO value in 2014 [4].

Considering the stance of major search engines, it is clear that meta keywords no longer play a significant role in SEO. It's important to allocate your time and resources towards other SEO techniques that have proven to be effective in improving search engine rankings.

Meta Keywords vs. Other Meta Tags

While meta keywords have lost their relevance, other meta tags continue to play a crucial role in SEO. Two key meta tags to consider are title tags and meta description tags.

Title tags carry significant weight in search engine ranking algorithms. They provide a concise and descriptive title for each webpage, helping search engines understand the content and relevance of the page. Optimizing title tags with relevant keywords can positively impact your website's visibility in search results.

Meta description tags, although not a direct ranking factor, have a significant impact on click-through rates. Well-crafted meta descriptions provide a brief summary of the webpage's content, enticing users to click and visit your site. Including relevant keywords in the meta description can improve the chances of attracting organic traffic.

By focusing on optimizing title tags and meta description tags, you can enhance your website's visibility and click-through rates, ultimately driving more traffic to your site.

It's worth noting that while meta keywords have lost their significance, it's important to have a holistic approach to SEO. This includes creating high-quality content, optimizing website structure, and implementing other on-page and off-page optimization techniques. By considering these factors, you can improve your website's overall visibility and search engine rankings.

Best Practices for Meta Keywords

When it comes to meta keywords, there are certain guidelines to follow and alternatives to consider. While meta keywords have lost their significance in SEO, it's essential to understand the best practices associated with them.

Meta Keywords Usage Guidelines

Meta keywords are a type of meta tag that were historically used to indicate the main topics or themes of a webpage. However, major search engines like Google and Bing stopped using meta keywords in ranking web search results as early as 2009. This was mainly due to their abuse by SEO marketers and professionals, leading to irrelevant and spam-filled keyword stuffing.

In the present day, using meta keywords can have little to no impact on your website's search engine rankings. In fact, employing them might even harm your SEO efforts as search engines like Google could interpret them as a spam signal [3]. It is therefore recommended to avoid using meta keywords altogether.

Alternatives to Meta Keywords

Instead of focusing on meta keywords, there are other meta tags that hold more relevance and importance in the realm of SEO. Two key alternatives to consider are the title tags and meta description tags.

Title Tags in SEO

Title tags play a crucial role in SEO. They appear as clickable headlines in search engine results and provide a concise and accurate description of the content on a webpage. It is important to optimize title tags by incorporating relevant keywords that accurately represent the page's content. This helps search engines understand the context of the page and improves its visibility in search results.

Meta Description Tags

Meta description tags provide a brief summary of a webpage's content. While they do not directly impact search engine rankings, they play a significant role in attracting users to click on your webpage in search results. A well-crafted meta description that includes relevant keywords and a compelling call-to-action can increase the click-through rate and drive more organic traffic to your website.

By focusing on optimizing title tags and meta description tags, you can enhance your website's visibility and improve its chances of attracting organic traffic. These meta tags provide valuable information to both search engines and users, helping them understand the relevance and value of your webpage.

In conclusion, while meta keywords were once considered important for SEO, they have become outdated and irrelevant in today's digital landscape. It is recommended to avoid using meta keywords and instead prioritize optimizing title tags and meta description tags to improve your website's search engine visibility and user engagement.

Importance of Other Meta Tags

While meta keywords may have lost their significance in SEO, there are other meta tags that play a crucial role in optimizing a website for search engines. Two important meta tags to consider are title tags and meta description tags.

Title Tags in SEO

Title tags are one of the most critical meta tags for SEO. They serve as the main and most important anchor, appearing as a clickable headline in search engine results pages (SERPs), social networks, and browsers. An effective title tag can attract a user's attention and increase clicks and traffic to a page.

To optimize title tags for SEO, it's essential to include relevant keywords that accurately describe the content of the page. These keywords should be placed towards the beginning of the title tag to increase their prominence. However, it's crucial to maintain readability and ensure that the title tag remains compelling and informative to both search engines and users.

It's also important to keep title tags within the recommended character limit, typically around 50-60 characters. This ensures that the full title is displayed in SERPs and prevents truncation, which can affect the click-through rate.

Meta Description Tags

Meta description tags provide a unique opportunity to enhance click-through rates and polish brand SERPs. These tags appear in a SERP snippet alongside the title and page URL. They should consist of cohesive sentences that accurately describe the gist of the page, incorporating relevant keywords [5].

When crafting meta description tags, it's crucial to provide concise and compelling summaries that entice users to click on your website. Including relevant keywords naturally within the description can also help improve search engine visibility. However, avoid keyword stuffing and prioritize creating a concise and engaging description that accurately reflects the page's content.

Similar to title tags, it's important to keep meta description tags within the recommended character limit of around 150-160 characters. This ensures that the full description is displayed in SERPs and encourages users to click through to your website.

By optimizing title tags and meta description tags, you can enhance the visibility and click-through rates of your web pages in search engine results. These meta tags provide valuable opportunities to showcase the relevance and appeal of your content, ultimately driving more organic traffic to your website.

Enhancing SEO with Meta Tags

Meta tags play a significant role in enhancing the search engine optimization (SEO) of a webpage. Two important meta tags that can greatly impact SEO are heading tags and image alt attributes.

Heading Tags

Heading tags, denoted as H1 to H6, are crucial for text and content organization on a webpage. While they are not direct ranking factors in terms of hierarchy, the proper usage of heading tags has been emphasized in many industry studies [5].

Heading tags provide visual cues to both users and search engines about the structure and hierarchy of the content on a webpage. They help break up the text into logical sections, making it easier for readers to navigate and understand the information presented. Search engines also rely on heading tags to grasp the main topics and subtopics discussed on a page, which can impact the relevance and visibility of the content in search results.

When using heading tags, it's important to follow best practices. The H1 tag should typically be reserved for the main heading of the page, representing the primary topic or title. Subheadings can then be designated with H2, H3, and so on, depending on the content's structure. Properly utilizing heading tags not only aids in organizing the content but also contributes to a better user experience and improved SEO.

Image Alt Attributes

Image alt attributes, also known as alt tags or alt text, are an essential component of on-page optimization. These attributes describe the contents of an image and provide alternative text that is displayed if the image fails to load. Additionally, alt attributes play a crucial role in helping search engines understand what the images are about and how they relate to the rest of the content. This understanding is vital for ranking in Google Images [5].

By utilizing descriptive alt attributes, you provide search engines with valuable information about the images on your webpage. This can improve the overall relevance and visibility of your content in image search results. It is important to use relevant keywords in alt attributes when they accurately describe the image, but be cautious not to engage in keyword stuffing or use irrelevant keywords.

Including alt attributes not only enhances the accessibility of your webpage for individuals who are visually impaired or rely on screen readers but also contributes to a comprehensive SEO strategy. When optimizing your images, ensure that the alt attributes provide concise and accurate descriptions that align with the content and context of the webpage.

Incorporating effective heading tags and descriptive image alt attributes in your webpage can greatly enhance the SEO of your content. By following best practices and utilizing these meta tags appropriately, you improve the organization, accessibility, and overall visibility of your webpage in search engine results.

References

[1]: https://www.sitecentre.com.au/blog/meta-keywords

[2]: https://developers.google.com/search/blog/2009/09/google-does-not-use-keywords-meta-tag

[3]: https://www.semrush.com/blog/meta-keywords/

[4]: https://www.searchenginejournal.com/ranking-factors/meta-keywords/

[5]: https://www.searchenginejournal.com/important-tags-seo/156440/

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