This is an update to an article we wrote several years ago about whether or not the meta keyword tag was still used by Google, Bing or Yahoo. There is a great conversation between industry experts in that article.
It has now been 9 years since Matt Cutts announced in a YouTube video that Google no longer uses meta keywords as a ranking signal, yet, this question still comes up often.
First, I must answer this question. No, the keyword meta tag is no longer used by Google, Bing or Yahoo!
The History of Meta Keyword Tags
To better understand, let’s talk about the history of meta keyword tags and why they were created. Before Google, search engines were very basic. They crawled the web and created a searchable database, similar to today’s search engines, but, were not very intelligent. We had Altavista, Lycos, Yahoo, WebCrawler, Infoseek and other early, mostly defunct search engines. These engines crawled the web and used the meta tags including the keyword meta tag to know what topics a website was about.
Obviously, this method relied on the trust of the webmasters in hopes they would only put in keywords related to their site, however, this quickly fell apart as webmasters learned they could rank for highly searched keywords by just adding them to their meta keyword tag. This abuse pushed the need for a better way to rank websites.
Search engines came up with new ranking factors to try and combat this spam when a newcomer showed up on the scene. Google had shown up with an algorithm that took may things into play, mostly based on the authority of a site based on “PageRank”. The more sites that linked to you the higher your site was ranked. In addition, the higher those sites ranked the more “cred” they passed on to your site’s ranking.
As years passed, all search engines became smarter and had a much better ranking algorithm. Since meta tags for keywords were often spammed, many started to find ways to do away with this method and look at your actual content.
Can I Be Penalized for Using Keyword Meta Tags?
With Google, the answer looks to be a flat no. During a Search Engine Roundtable, Gary Illyes of Google was asked if the meta keywords tag was seen as a spam signal. Gary responded back with “It doesn’t”.
— Gary "鯨理" Illyes (@methode) July 16, 2017
The reason behind this is that Google doesn’t pay any attention to that field. Because spamming this field will do nothing for your ranking, Google does not penalize you for abusing the meta keyword tag by keyword stuffing it.
When it comes to other search engines, the waters are not as clear. Bing has stated in the past that it uses the keyword meta tag as a spam signal when stuffed with keywords not relevant to the page. It is hard to know exactly how their algorithm determines this, however, I choose to just not use it and find out.
You can also be penalized for using keyword meta tags by your own competitors. While there are many tools out there to find out what a website ranks for, it takes some work to know what they are trying to rank for. By adding this tag in plain text via the meta keyword tag, you have now informed all competitors what you are trying to rank for.
Can I Still Use Meta Descriptions Tag?
Yes, and you should. Meta descriptions are still used by most search engines including Google. There is some argument if meta descriptions are still a ranking factor for Google, but, it has more uses than just helping your ranking. When someone searches for your website, they first see the blue line of text, this is your Title tag. The description they see below is your meta description tag. This is a quick summary and introduction to what your page is about and should entice them to click over to your website.
I Don’t Care, I Want To Use Keyword Meta Tags Still…
Sigh. Alright. If you are not worried about potential backlash from Bing, you can still use keyword meta tags on your website. They need to be placed in your head tag of your site.
Even the most popular SEO plugin for Yoast has made this option available to those who still want to use meta keyword tags, however, they do have a message for you below the option to enable it:
Need More Help?
Feel free to comment below and our team will try to answer your questions you may have. Data Driven Labs is also ready to help your business be found with our affordable SEO packages, complete without meta keywords.
this option is not available in yoast 2018 update
Someone told me that Google Apps use Meta-keywords for recognition, is that correct?
Jeremy Hutchcraft says
Thanks for the article. Chris. Surely I am not the only one who was still using keywords! right…? right?
Chris Edwards says
And you still are :p. At least I now know what keywords you’re going after 🙂
There are actually a lot of people still using them. You’re not the only one. This article is to help educate everyone. We often read about things we should be doing with SEO, but, when they become deprecated, nobody really talks about that.
Rika Ellis says
I still use them to and only saw now that they are, to some extent, useless. Now what? I think I must do some courses on SEO cause clearly I’m out of the loop. Thanx for the article Chris, this was usefull
Big change not using keywords and thanks for that info. So small businesses like mine have to learn how to do something different. I can’t afford to hire outside SEO help at all. What can people like me do to improve our website rankings? Do I have to have links to other websites now, even if they are my competitors? Can you create an article that explains what we can do? I tried the SiteSell and that was strange because they use keywords and rank them and then say they just help find the best websites. I was to write articles that pointed to those other websites. $35.00 a month seemed pricey for me to do all the work so I cancelled the thing. I’m back to me alone doing it. Please help. Was I on to something like what SiteSell was doing? Write articles with information linked to other sites. Is that the new norm?
There is no way to game the system in SEO anymore. Just honest hard work and content for your business. I am not sure what industry you are in but uploading content via your website, Facebook and twitter to distribute content will be your guide to building brand, SEO, PR, and social presence. If your good at written, write, if your comfortable behind a camera, shoot content with your phone.
Denis Sanchez says
Thanks Chris, good article… But I have a question How can I replace Meta keywords use in my html file. I do not want to pay a third people to do that. I mean is there an other choice ?
Chris Edwards says
You can just remove that line, however, if you are not familiar with the code, I would not suggest doing this yourself. They should not be hurting you as long as you are not using them in a blackhat kinda way. I would recommend just leaving them for the time being.
Amazon uses meta keywords. What do they know?
I’d like to echo what someone else asked. What are the best practices for good search results if keywords are no longer being used?
Keywords are being used except not from the meta keyword tag. Focus on using your highest value keyword (s) in the title and on page content. Do not stuff content because it is possible to over optimize and reap the exact opposite of what you want.
john smith says
Thanks for sharing…………………but some case meta keywords important. I can’t understand. meta keywords importance or not/
How would one go about hiring you?
Chris Edwards says
Feel free to visit our contact page to reach out to us. We would love to help you out with your digital marketing needs.
Vijendra Singh says
Nice Post !!!
I found this while searching for Keyword meta tag relevancy in modern SEO for Google.
Thanks for the article, I have just started using keysearch and it flagged not having meta keywords as a big error so I needed to check up on that!
In a related note, the later Yoast updates no longer have the option to add a meta keyword
So, we are building a brand new website, and I was told to use as many met key words as possible. Is this a huge waste of time?
I Nyoman Indra Darmawan says
I just wanna say thank for your article. It open my mind about keyword functionality on SEO.
Initially, I feel a little confuse, why popular wordpress plugin like Yoast, doesn’t provide keyword field on it’s configuration.
For the whole life i learn SEO and sometime suggest my friend who wanna improve their website rank, i only know, keyword is like a key to introduce to search engine, what main topic of the website.
I a little surprise to know, the most necessary meta tag, precisely it becomes a not recommended meta tag at all.
Keziah Simon says
Thanks Sir….It actually helps me for the interview
I found your article to be incorrect and a huge advantage to me for all who buy into your rhetoric. I will continue to use keywords and watch them help customers reach there goals time and time again.
I have a website that shows when searched on google as xxxxyyyyzzzz but most people search for it as xxxx yyyy zzzz. When searches with the spaces it doesn’t appear. How can I correct this?
Hello iam sreelatha,thank you for sharing your amazing ideas and thoughts.meta keywords means involving title tags and description tags,alternative text tags right?
vishal kushwaha says
I have still question need to know is meta keyword is useful for current scenario so how we do optimize that in our work bcz right now am fresher I know all task and work behind off-page SEO but can you please tell recent effective task list that we do more powerful optimize our website. this two question from my side?
its nice blog …
i think, now google is not picking the meta title. it’s picking page name as title. i have created 3-4 website recently and used yoast for meta title and description.
but google is not picking the meta title, it;s picking the page name which was used while created it.
Is this an update or am i doing something wrong?
Chris Edwards says
Sometimes, Google may rewrite the title. However, most the times this issue is due to an issue with Yoast. Yoast may not always change the title tag due to a WordPress theme issue. View your source code to see if what is in your TITLE tag is correct. If it is, check to see if you have more than one TITLE tag on your site. Yoast has a full article on how to fix this.