Is The Meta Keyword Tag Still Used By Google, Bing and Yahoo?

2018 Updated Article: View Article

One of the most asked questions I receive from clients and webmasters is does Google still utilize meta keyword tags in SEO ranking factors. Many SEO professionals debate over this controversial issue. The debates are based on an article published by Matt Cutts of Google released in September of 2009. The article, which was also accompanied by a video, informed us that Google no longer uses meta keyword tags as a SEO ranking factor. It was after this statement was made that many asked what all the other search engines were doing in regards to the use of meta keyword tags, and after much research, this is what I found out.

Google’s Standpoint: Not Used

As the article above stated, Google has mentioned they no longer utilize meta keyword tags in their algorithm for search rankings. Google did say that they will not guarantee any permanence in this decision in that there is no promise that it will never be used again, however, they did say it was highly unlikely they will use meta tags as a deciding factor in the future. There are still individuals who believe meta keyword tags can have negative ranking effects by using them on Google, however, I have been unable to substantiate this in my findings or find anything official that backs up this theory.

 Yahoo’s Standpoint: Rarely Used

It was around the same time in 2009 that Google announced they were no longer using meta keyword tags that Yahoo announced, at their SMX East Conference, that Yahoo’s search engine would also no longer use keyword meta tags in their ranking algorithm. It was this announcement that was followed up with an article from Search Engine Land specifying they conducted an experiment and found the Yahoo statement to be false. Yahoo responded rather quickly to Search Engine Land with this statement:

What changed with Yahoo’s ranking algorithms is that while we still index the meta keyword tag, the ranking importance given to meta keyword tags receives the lowest ranking signal in our system.

Words that appear in any other part of documents, including the body, title, description, anchor text etc., will take priority in ranking the document – the re-occurrence of these words in the meta keyword tag will not help in boosting the signal for these words. Therefore, keyword stuffing in the keyword tag will not help a page’s recall or ranking, it will actually have less effect than introducing those same words in the body of the document, or any other section.

However, when no other ranking signal is present, unique words that only appear in the meta keyword tag section of documents can still be used to recall these documents.

In Summary, Yahoo accredits virtually no weight to meta keyword tags. If there are no other ranking factors on your website other than meta keyword tags then Yahoo will use the tags as a last resort for your pages ranking.

Bing’s Standpoint: Not Much Weight

Bing has affirmed that they do not support the meta keyword tag and have stood by it for a very long time until Duane Forrester, a Project Manager for Bing posted the following in a blog article:

I’ll make this statement: meta keywords is a signal. One of roughly a thousand we analyze.

Getting it right is a nice perk for us, but won’t rock your world. Abusing meta keywords can hurt you.

Search Engine Land emailed Duane asking if this comment was true. Duane replied with the following:

Yeah, you’re pretty much bang on Danny. In fact, it’s not like we’re actively trying to encourage folks to start using the tag. And you’re right – the scenario I describe is more of a spam signal, which ultimately leads to rankings (or not, as the case may be).

After seeing this conversation, it is apparent that while Bing is subscribing to a similar view as Yahoo in the fact that it does not put much weight on the use of meta keyword tags, you do run the risk of them being used against you as a negative ranking factor.

Should You Use Meta Keyword Tags for SEO?

Meta keyword tags should be used with extreme caution. I have provided information on how Google really does not use this as a ranking tool at all anymore and, how the other two major search engines do indeed take a peek at this tag. You should tread carefully as improper or spammy use most likely will hurt you with Bing, or even have your site marked as spam. If you so choose to use meta keyword tags, be sure to avoid overstuffing the keywords and do not include keywords that are not related to the specific page you place them on.

The other side of the equation is making sure your competition is not aware of your SEO plan. The downside to meta keyword tags is that, in theory, your competition can easily see exactly which terms you are targeting and in turn can pursue the same terms to rank for. If you choose other methods to attempt to rank for your terms you can do so without giving away the secret sauce to your keyword term list.

To summarize, you are running the risk of more potential harm than good when using meta keyword tags. The idea behind these tags is rather outdated and they are not worth the potential risk of the negative impact that can occur from improper use.

I will end this article with a statement made by Dr. Peter J Meyers, Marketing Scientist as Moz:

Here’s the other problem – Meta keywords has been used as a negative ranking signal, and probably still is to some degree. In other words, you might not gain much or anything from using it, but if you spam it, you could get devalued. My gut feeling is that the negative signal is much, much stronger than the positive one, and even Google may still use it as a negative signal. I’m certain that Yahoo/Bing has used it as a negative signal (not sure if they still do).

I tend to agree that the competitive fears are overblown. Any decent site’s keyword targets should be pretty clear – otherwise, it’s not a very well SEO’d site.

Personally, if you want to use them, use them – but keep them short, sweet, and relevant. Once you do, get on with your life.

What Should I Focus On Instead

Since the Keyword Meta Tag is no longer being used, your focus should switch to other SEO ranking factors. There are several easy SEO quick fixes you can do to your site to get started on the right path. In addition, put your focus on the Title Meta Tag and the Meta Description tag, ensuring to use proper keywords without keyword stuffing. The meta keyword tag may be gone, but, there are plenty of ways to SEO your website.

Still Not Sure? Call The Professionals

There are many steps in SEO beyond your meta tags. Data Driven Labs has the experts that specialize in helping small and medium-sized business rank better in search engines. Learn more about Data Driven Labs Affordable SEO Packages.

Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. Of course it does. Google these days ranks pages based on topic so if you have snippets in your meta description, it is definitely going to count. I see it all the time. If the keywords are not in the content yet however are in the description it will appear on the serps based on the description

  2. Despite Google says the meta keywords are no longer in use I have my own doubts. Working with SEO every day, I have seen remarkable differences in the SERP when changing from one keyword to another. It’s not about keyword stuffing, not at all. It’s just about a healthy way to indicate to Google what the content is all about. One, two or three keywords might even increase your position.

    • Exactly. I think that is the right approach too. If you think about it logically that’s how it should be. The keyword meta is there for a reason – not stuffing no, but to indicate what your content is about. If you fulfill that requirement and not abuse it I see no reason why it should not work. So I think you can use it properly and that should help your SEO efforts only as much as it should, but if you try to abuse it it won’t work.

  3. Peter, the keywords Google uses for ranking are inside the “description” meta tag. But the article is about the “keywords” meta tag, and I think avoiding that particular tag is the best policy nowadays.

  4. First of all I just want to say thank you so much for this post and yeah of course for this tips. I really didn’t know much about how to approach in nut shell but after reading this post I think I have got enough knowledge. So thank you so much for this post.

  5. Google indexes every piece of text on your entire website.
    Every word.
    Why on earth would it then rely on your – possibly skewed – presentation/opinion of keywords via a meta tag? – it already has all the information it could possibly need.
    It can definitely sort out what is a bona fide keyword in your text without any outside help..!

    • Just because you can’t think of use-cases does not mean there aren’t any (e.g. login page for web application located on a separate domain name, or when the whole website is in flash, or uses images with important text, etc.).

  6. Well, I am working hard to improve my skills to find good keywords, because in a last month or so, I got to know, that keywords are the base of my blog, if I can’t find good ones, then there is no point blogging.

    So, that’s why working hard on it now. although finding it difficult, but will succeed soon.

  7. Nice write up. I thought you’d find this interesting: From Northcutt’s Ranking Factors (https://northcutt.com/wr/google-ranking-factors/) “Since 2009, Google has said that they don’t look at meta keywords at all. Despite this, the tag is still widely abused by people who don’t understand or believe that idea. It’s theorized that because of the latter fact, this tag may yet serve to send webspam signals to Google.”

  8. Thank you so much. I’ve had to take a new domain & am literally starting over. (long story) Decided to take the time to research/review SEO & keyword. Clearly, I did not understand how to structure SEO or even how best to use keywords. What I like most about this post is it’s clarity. Again, thank you.

  9. Only keyword meta tag is not that much effective otherwise title meta tag is still one which affects the ranking. Having a better title tag is must for seo.

  10. So, if keywords don’t work anymore, what’s the best way to get a site ranked. a lot of detail in the reply is greatly appreciated. I know description is one by using a few key words in the description and in the body of the pages. I have Abantecart. Each product has it’s own key words links. Outside of this, what else can I do? I sell coffee and really need help getting business coming in. I don’t have a lot of experience so all your help is really appreciated. Thanks

  11. Hello, first you need to totally rethink the way you see ranking.
    Search bots are no longer responsible for your pages rank, people are, people being your visitors. Bots respond to the reaction of surfers.
    So if your site is full of crappy, spammy, boring useless, irrelevant content, people click off, bots demote you until you are ranked 23 million~
    SEO as we understood it 5 years ago is dead, it now has to be seen and managed in conjunction with CONTENT.
    Shift your thinking from SEO to CEO [Consumer Experience Optimisation] and you are well on the way.
    In short, if your consumers or audience like your page, the bots will rank it higher.

    In regard to Keyword meta tags, just because Google doesn’t use it doesn’t mean it is useless, Google and the US are not the only game in town, there are other countries where Google is not popular and home grown bots use a different set of algorithms. Baidu in China is one – a huge market- and when I last checked, some time back, Yandex in Russia still placed weight on them.
    In short, if your market is out of the US, don’t assume Google is your only or best choice.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

AUTHOR

Chris Edwards

Chris is Co-Owner of Data Driven Labs and a 17-year internet marketing expert in web design & development, SEO, digital marketing, and analytics. He often speaks at conferences around the world on everything WordPress and analytics.

Article Topics