Improving SEO is as indispensable as it gets to online marketing. Any website or blog would do whatever it can do to get high rankings on search engine results pages. There are all sorts of advice about what to do and what not to do to improve your SEO strategy. Meta keywords are one of those debatable topics related to SEO.
What are meta keywords? How effective can they be?
Many SEO experts suggest that they are a thing of the past, yet, many are still using it. We shall find out why meta keywords are a subject of debate in the digital world.
Definition of Meta Keywords
Meta keywords are a type of metadata tags which reflect what your content is about. Thanks to Twitter and other social media platforms, most people are familiar with tags. The reason they are called “metadata” tags is that they are data about the data on your page.
Unlike primary keywords, for example, meta keywords do not appear on the web page’s content. Obviously, they do not target readers or even humans.
They are only visible in the code (HTML) of a webpage, and they exist only to be read by machines, i.e. search engines. Meta keywords give instructions to the search engine to rank your website based on the keywords you have added. This is what they may look like:
You can find this information if you right-click anywhere on any webpage, then click “view source code.” So in brief, meta keywords are a list of keywords that you insert in the code of your page to tell the search engine what your content tackles.
Many websites in the past have exploited this tactic of SEO, which you will find out more about blow.
Where Did it go Wrong?
Back in the days when web searching was still a new industry, meta keywords used to be valuable to better SEO results. However, these days did not last long.
You know when people say that we are all born innocent and straightforward, and as we grow older we become complicated and deceiving? To a great extent, this is what happened to web searching. So do Meta Keywords still matter?
Meta keywords allowed website owners to “directly command” the search engine to rank their articles based on whatever they inserted as meta keywords. You can guess what happened next.
As the search industry grew more popular, and therefore more commercial, website owners manipulated the tool. They started to insert keywords which were totally irrelevant to what the page really contains, just because those keywords were trending and would bring lots of viewers. In the digital marketing world, this is called black hat SEO or SEO spam.
What Happened Next?
In 2009, Google announced that meta keywords are no longer effective in the ranking process. Although Google is pretty close-mouthed when it comes to explaining how their algorithm works, this is one of the few occasions where they were not discreet about it.
The reason why Google and other search engines decided to devalue that tool was to maintain the quality of search results. In order to guarantee that researchers reach credible results whenever they perform search queries, they had to give up on that ranking factor since websites were abusing it
Should you Stop using Meta Keywords?
Now, this is controversial. Many SEO experts suggest that you should not use them at all. Nevertheless, nineteen percent of websites still use meta keywords. It comes naturally to ask why they are still using them if they do not count in the ranking.
Let’s say that if there is 0.001 chance that search engines may look at those tags, users do not want to miss on that chance. As previously mentioned, search engines’ algorithms are always kept top secret, so that nobody would manipulate the results.
Therefore, some websites still prefer to use meta keywords to be on the safest side, because who knows about those algorithms anyway? On the other hand, the remaining eighty-one percent are not convinced with this theory.
What if You Want to Use Them?
If you wish to use meta keywords in your code, you should be careful about using them, in order not to be blacklisted by search engines. You definitely do not want that to happen.
The first and most important condition is to avoid using high volume keywords which are irrelevant to your content, this will not get you anywhere and is considered as spam. Second, it is recommended to use ten keywords at most, do not “stuff” your list with more keywords in the hope of getting more viewers.
This may be a bad signal for search engines. In addition, in reference to selecting keywords, the best tip is to include long tail keywords and common misspellings of your main topic. Meta keywords are a good place to include common misspellings because nobody likes to include spelling mistakes in the content.
How do Search Engines USE Meta Keywords now?
Generally, Search Engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo do not tend to rank meta keywords anymore. So they are almost un-needed nowadays. Yoast, the amazing WordPress Plugin even go out of their way to say no to meta keywords.
So, why would you want to continue using meta keywords when all they seem to do is waste your time? Yoast even has gone as far as removing the meta keywords toggle out of their updated plugin in favour of the other SEO techniques. This feature has been removed since mid-February 2018.
Google and Meta Keywords
Since Google is the number one search engine in the world, and we know this because of how we live our lives. We all say ‘I’ll Google that’, when we don’t know something. It would just be weird if we said, ‘Let’s Bing that’, or ‘Wait, I’m going to Yahoo that’.
It might be best to let you know how Google still uses Meta Keywords.
Realistically Google is very similar to other search engines such as Yahoo and Bing. It does not use the meta keywords like it once did. In short, using them might be just a waste of your time and your main focus should be more on the Title Tags and the Meta description, which is talked about below.
Meta Tags that Matter
There are other meta tags which Google and other search engines consider significant. Most websites use these meta tags and they can help your website reach high rankings.
Title tags are the titles which appear on search results pages, this is the part where researchers can click to go to a specific website. These are important because they directly express what your page includes. Title tags are the first thing Google users will see when they search for anything.
If you can grab their attention with a relevant and informative title, they will want to see more of your page. Focus on the length of your title tag, do not make them too long because Google allows a limited number of characters. Make the most out of it, and make your title straight to the point.
Meta Descriptions are located exactly under title tags on search results pages. They are the second thing that your viewers’ eyes will fall on. These descriptions are like teasers to your content.
You should make sure they are interesting, and reveal what your page includes in a sentence or two. Meta descriptions also have a limited number of characters. Do not make them too short nor too long, experts suggest that 160-character-long is the most suitable length for meta descriptions.
Meta Tags and YouTube Video Tags, are they similar?
One area where meta keywords are still quite common is YouTube.
When you upload a video to YouTube you are able to add many ‘Videotags’. These help your videos rank within the YouTube algorithm. The only difference between YouTube and Search Engines it is much more easy to see if your tags are actually working, with different Google Extensions. This is very much like the way Search Engines used Meta Tags to allow your sites and posts to rank.
YouTube has not taken the step of updating its Algorithm by taking away the importance of keywords. This is solely due to how big this change would to the whole platform. It would also make it much harder for your videos to rank as YouTube does not have as many SEO techniques that help your videos rank.
This is because it is a video and is not static content. With static content, there is the content, headings, titles, descriptions, keywords, readability, images, links, whereas YouTube can only have titles, descriptions and keywords.
Here people can exploit this feature quite easily. If there is a specific topic ranking trending and is ranking well. Using these keywords can help your video rank. YouTube is trying to help this but it is very difficult.
Alternative to Meta Keywords: Focus on Content Length Instead
Whether you decide to use meta keywords or not, the choice is entirely up to you. If you decide not to, rest assured that you are not missing on a ranking factor anyway. The most important aspect if you decide to use them is to be careful that your keywords are not misleading to the search engine.
In addition, spend more time investing in your website’s content itself or other more important SEO tips. Remember that other meta tags, such as title tags or meta descriptions, are the window to your website. They will actually affect your SEO results and your number of viewers. Make sure your window looks nice and inviting to researchers. Finally, make content your top priority and work on improving it rather than focusing on meta keywords.
Summary: Should You use Meta Keywords?
As stated above, meta keywords are mostly a waste of time. In addition, our recommendation would be for you to focus more on the tags and target keywords for your content.
Here’s how you should go about doing this:
Each page on your site should have a unique primary target keyword. This should be used to inform both the content of the article itself, as well as all of it’s meta tags.
However, while you do this it’s vitally important to avoid keyword stuffing. Instead, your body copy and meta tags should contain target keywords in a natural and descriptive manner.
For more information on how to do this, check out our guide to SEO for beginners.