Meta keywords are a type of a HTML <meta> tag. Meta tags are used “behind the scenes” of a website page to communicate information about that page to search engine crawlers. The Meta Keyword tag is used — or more accurately, was used — to let Google and other search engines know which keywords were most relevant to the content of a given web page.
What Are Meta Keywords Used for Today?
If you’re wondering, what are Meta keywords, that’s the short answer. For SEO purposes, it’s arguably not important even to know the short answer, because Google, Bing and other widely used search engines no longer pay much if any attention to data in the Meta keyword field.
Why Meta Keywords Fell Out of SEO Favor
In the early days of SEO, the late 1990s and early 2000s, Meta keywords were used responsibly by webmasters to help search engines zero-in on the main themes of a given page of website content. Because webmasters were accurate and restrained in the keywords they inserted in the Meta keyword field, and also because search engine technology was not as sophisticated, Meta keywords were quite useful in helping search engines properly rank content.
This Meta keyword Garden of Eden deteriorated at a devilish pace once the SEO industry began to overuse and misuse the Meta keyword tag. One big problem was keyword stuffing — the practice of loading the field with 10, 20, or maybe even 50 keyword phrases that were roughly relevant to the page’s content. Another big problem was the use of completely irrelevant keywords, inserted to draw in traffic for searches for high-volume keywords mainly for the sake of padding organic traffic statistics.
It’s important to note that some of these practices were undertaken by unscrupulous (Black Hat) SEOs, with a conscious attempt to game the system by taking advantage of holes in search engine ranking algorithms. But also, some of these practices were executed by perfectly legitimate SEOs that were simply trying to take full advantage of a perceived opportunity to cover as many legitimate keywords as possible within the Meta keyword field.
Regardless of the motivations behind the overuse and misuse, Google began to take less and less notice of the Meta keyword tag. The tag was no longer providing meaningful ranking data, and Google, along with other search engines, had refined their algorithms to a point where they could interpret the essence of a page of content without using the keyword tag as a crutch.
Should We Use the Meta Keyword Tag on Our Website?
It is not necessary to populate the Meta keyword field. It serves no perceptible SEO purpose, and human website visitors can’t see it.
Google will not penalize you for using the Meta keyword field. If you happen to have Meta keywords loaded on your site, you certainly don’t have to drop everything and get rid of them.
Other Meta Tags that Are Important for SEO
Now that we’ve addressed the question, what are Meta keywords, let’s touch on two other Meta tags that do have importance for SEO.
- Title Tags — The title tag is similar to a page title, only again, “behind the scenes” and written mainly for search engine crawlers. Google and other search engines put a great deal of weight on the Meta title. Every page of your site should have a unique Meta title that is as relevant as possible to the page. It should also incorporate the primary keyword phrase of that page, particularly if it is a target page in your SEO campaign. Meta titles do show up from time to time for human readers, for example in the browser bar and social media shares.
- Meta Description Tags — These tags create snippets of text that appear under the link on Google’s search engine results pages. Meta descriptions have no direct SEO value, but they do influence search engine users to click on a page when they see your link. Therefore, having persuasive description tags can significantly boost click-throughs and organic traffic.
In addition to these, there are several other types of HTML Meta tags that can be used on a web page. Some of them, such as the Robots tag, are useful in SEO for blocking certain website pages from being crawled by Google, but are not universally necessary.
The important thing in dealing with Meta keyword tags and other HTML tags is to work with a web developer with a solid understanding of current SEO best practices. This is the best way to avoid inadvertently hurting your SEO campaign by unwittingly mishandling Meta tags.
To discuss how to improve your website for SEO in more detail, contact us now or call 855-883-0011.