Meta keywords are a type of <meta> tag contained within the HTML of a webpage or document. Widely regarded as useless for search engine optimisation after Google’s Matt Cutts announced in September 2009 that Google “Disregards keyword metatags completely”. In the same year Yahoo! stated a relatively similar fact and although Bing have previously claimed that it is one of around a thousand factors they were also quick to mention that abuse can lead to penalisation.In fact, there is evidence that Bing only use it to cross reference against actual page content and therefore as a spam signal.

Why are Meta Keywords disregarded as a ranking factor?

According to the gurus at Google and on the Google Webmaster Blog, it is due to abuse by SEOs (no suprise there). Early search engines were focussed on ‘on page’ factors, i.e the content found on a website to determine ranking. As such, webmasters realised that the meta keywords tag was a convenient place to input multiple keywords without necessarily having the user see them. As a result, it became a haven for keyword stuffing which eventually led to them being disregarded as a trustworthy signal. In fact, it was way before Google that other search engines had noticed this black hat behaviour, shown by Alta Vista discounting it as a ranking factor way back in 2002.

Why You Should Not Use Meta Keywords

Multiple search engines, including Google have publicly stated that <meta> keywords are not a factor when it comes to SEO, nor are they ever really seen by the general public. This does not mean that it is a free opportunity to engage in black hat keyword stuffing just because the user does not see it. As already stated, Bing are believed to use it as a spam signal and therefore it is a risk not worth taking.

Furthermore, keyword research has become a lot harder in recent years with the move to Google’s keyword planner and Google Analytics showing keyword data as ‘not provided’ for a large portion of traffic. A long list of keywords in your meta keywords tag will only give your competitors all of the keyword research that you have conducted.

In the end, if Google and other search engines have publicly denounced the tag, why would you use it? Especially since they have denounced it due to the manipulative spam that it was associated with.

Technical Implementation

Although we strongly advise against using meta keyword tags, if you were to include them they would be contained within the <head> of a page with the code:

<meta name=”keywords” content=”insert meta keywords here”>

It really is not an argument guys, the facts are clear. There are no benefits to using the tag, it just reveals your target keywords to your competitors and is also a spam signal for Bing. Stay clear.