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.