In a move that would have suprised absolutely no-one Matt Cutts has confirmed what nearly everyone else already knew – that the use of the keyword metatag from the standard Google Websearch was obselete. On a post on the Google Webmaster Central blog, Matt Cutts outlined the rationale for not using the meta keywords data within the index, with the following points being particularly of note:
- Meta Keywords are of use on other Google applications such as Google Search Appliance howeverthey are not currently used for the standard Google Websearch – quote – “They simply don’t have any effect in our search ranking at present.”
- One of the primary reasons outlined in the post was “because the keywords meta tag was so often abused, many years ago Google began disregarding the keywords meta tag”
- Google does support several other meta tags – the example provided (and most obvious) was the meta description. It should be noted however Matt Cutts did also mention here that the Meta Description was not used for ranking purposes either. Other meta tags of note that are supported are robots, google, verify-v1, content-type and refresh
- The Meta Keywords content could be used in future (never say never) however this was unlikely
- This applies just to Google and meta keywords should be used if your site is being optimised with more than just Google in mind – would suggest completely ignoring them is very short-sighted.
Given the fact Google have explicity now come out and stated their stance on the meta keywords it is interesting comparing this stance to the other engines. In Yahoo’s 2009 Small Business Promotion documentation they provided the following recommendations
How do I improve the ranking of my web site in the search results?
- Use a “description” meta-tag and write your description accurately and carefully. After the title, the description is the most important draw for users. Make sure the document title and description attract the interest of the user but also fit the content on your site.
- Use a “keyword” meta-tag to list key words for the document. Use a distinct list of keywords that relate to the specific page on your site instead of using one broad set of keywords for every page.
How should I write my keywords?
- Enter your keywords in order of importance, and be sure to use keywords that actually appear in your page content. Don’t repeat keywords more than twice (and not consecutively!), separate your keywords with commas, and keep the list to under 256 characters.
Why can’t I enter more than 256 characters for my keywords or description?
- Yahoo! and some other search engines recommend limiting your meta tags to no more than 256 characters.
This thus would suggest a rationale for continued use of both tags on your sites, although how long Yahoo remains a viable search player is open to debate, particularly given its relationship now with Microsoft.
Despite the fact that Google states it does not use the Meta Description tag as part of the ranking algorithm, the fact they place such a prominence on the duplication of meta description parameters within the Google Webmaster Tools interface does draw this into question, as Edward Lewis from SEO Consultants rightly queries
There have been other meta tags that have come and gone over the years, some bigger than others. These include
Many old school SEO’s will remember the revisit after meta tag so often used on many sites and very incorrectly so.
The revisit-after tag is not supported by any major search engine and was developed by Vancouver Webpages for their SearchBC local search engine and looked as follows:
<meta name="revisit-after" content="15 days">
In my days at university back in the nineties this was supposed to be the next big thing, something we had rammed down our throats. Unfortunately the use of Dublin Core within the mainstream never quite materialised and it has remained fairly underutilised since then.
- META Revisit-After Tag (searchBC)
- META Abstract Tag (IBM
- META Subject Tag (MS Word)
- META Classification Tag (Netscape)
- META Contact Tag (IBM)
- META Distribution Tag (No Official Resource)
- META Title Tag (Obsolete)
Source: SEO Consultants
What to do next
Whilst Google have now set their stall out, I would still suggest investing some time and effort and tailoring your meta keywords. Whilst I certainly wouldn’t prioritise it within my optimisation framework, there is enough evidence to support the use of it for other engines such as Yahoo to merit some time dedicated to keyword best practise – particularly if your site targets countries or demographics where other search engines play a far larger part, lets not forget Google is not the biggest search engine everywhere.