DIY Canadian SEO….Chapter 2
The Whole <META> keyword tag Schmozzle…explained!
To carry on with our DIY Canadian SEO series I thought that today I’d give you the straight goods on the whole <META> keyword tag issue that seems to have been on many forums in the past few months…and what’s spot-on and what’s not!
First, what is a <META> keyword tag? Wiki offers this definition which works for me and should for you too! In one form, meta elements can specify HTTP headers which should be sent before the actual content when the HTML page is served from Web server to the client. For example: <meta name=”keywords” content=”wikipedia,encyclopedia”/> In this example, the meta element identifies itself as containing the ‘keywords’ relevant to the document, Wikipedia and encyclopedia….do you follow me here?
<META> keywords then give information about an HTML page to the browser but are usually not seen by the user who visits the site. Instead, they have been used in the past to help search engines (read Google here for example) to provide a classification of that web page and the SEO practitioner community quickly learned to manipulate their sites or their client’s sites by using this tag to gain high rankings! Then it appeared that Google et al started to pay attention around 2000 or so, to ignore these <META> keywords in their ranking algorithms. At least most of us learned that the <META> keywords had lost their “juice” and moved to other factors to gain better rankings….but that’s for a later article.
So, <META> keywords….do they matter at all anymore? Well, let’s see…
First here’s a link to Matt Cutts, the Google software engineer who speaks for them online…wherein he looks at the simple question “Does Google use the keywords’ META tag?”
And answer is – no they don’t! The <META> keyword tag is not used in their rankings. Period, end of story! Oh, they do use other <META> tags like description to provide communication between the page and the Google index but again that’s not on point here. So ignore it for Google rankings.
Next, Yahoo and their usage of the <META> keyword for rankings is a bit “muddier” but fairly easy to see what the right tactic is here too. The links below leads to a great blog piece by Danny Sullivan, one of the real gurus of search here —
Basically the issue seems to be that Yahoo stated just a couple of weeks ago, that they do NOT use the <META> keyword tag in their ranking algorithms. But, then Danny challenged that statement, by testing…and found that they DO still index the keywords….so did they lie, maybe? Well, it appears that wasn’t the case, but in fact, that maybe the Yahoo spokesperson just didn’t know….dunno if I believe that, but that’s what appears to be true. Yahoo says now, that yes, they do still index a <META> keyword string, but that this is given their rock-bottom “juice” in their ranking algorithms….and any other ranking signals present on the page will take precedence…..
So what’s that all mean? To be totally honest, I have not tested for this as yet, but we’ve been totally ignoring all <META> keyword usage for over 4 years now, so I’m not “chuffed” by their waffling on this!
Well, now things’re real muddy, eh! BING has a public position on the use of the <META> keywords right here —
But, then if you do read this, they say quite clearly, that “…there’s no need to ignore the tag. Take advantage of all legitimate opportunities to score keyword credit, even when the payoff is relatively low….” which means to me then that they DO rank for keywords. Maybe not much, maybe not even a little more than a teensy bit…but they do rank for that tag.
So, what’s a new DIY SEO practitioner gonna do? Google with over 80% of the search engine traffic, says don’t bother. Yahoo says that while they do read the tag, they don’t use if for ranking…and BING says that it’s not a “juicy” tag but that they do use same slightly.
Answer is then, do you put in the <META> keyword tag and then list your targeted keywords for the search engines to use, no matter how very very little? You may think that the answer to this would be yes….but in fact for a whole different reason, it’s NO. Do not use the <META> keyword tag at all, ever.
Why? Simple really, competitor intelligence rules on the web, and there is NO sense in showing your competition what keywords and phrases you value and are trying to gain rankings for. Provide no easily seen list for them to see what you’ve found are THE keywords to vie for….no sense in giving up all that keyword research and time and effort and work….to anyone who pops open the View > Source button, eh!
So the DIY bottom line on using the <META> keyword tag? Dont’ use it but be sure to drop by next week when we look at the <META> description tag and rich snippets!Google