Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Is the Keywords Meta Tag Still Useful For SEO?

Many people who are new to the SEO industry come across articles from the 1990s that stress the importance of meta tags. Such advice is quite outdated. A lot of search engines do not even look at this tag anymore. Some of the search engines that do look at this tag, only do so to identify spam. There are still benefits to including a keywords meta tag for every important page of your website.

Why Don't Some Search Engines Use This Tag Anymore?

Back in the early days of the web, the search engines did not rely on links to determine how relevant a website is for a particular keyword. Instead they primarily looked at on-page factors to determine rankings. To get rankings and traffic, it was a competition of who could get their target keywords into all the right places of their website. One key spot to put their target phrases was the keywords meta tag. For some search engines this was the first on-page location they would check when ranking websites.

The problem with this ranking strategy is that it was extremely easy to manipulate. Some people would simply copy their competitors meta tags in full. Other more crafty internet marketers would include hundreds of words in their keyword tag. The spammier marketers would list countless irrelevant, high traffic keywords - everything from adult to pharmacy keywords. These people didn't care how relevant their traffic was; they just wanted traffic volume. These spammy techniques would work quite well and you could get rankings for nearly any keyword that you included in your meta tags. It became one of the first search engine optimization techniques that was widely used by spammers.

Eventually search engines had to ignore this tag because it no longer determined who was relevant. Who would've thought that website marketers wouldn't be completely honest when creating their meta tags? In a perfect world, search engines could just rely on the honesty of website marketers to determine relevance. With millions of dollars on the line in some industries, SEO professionals pushed the boundaries of what was considered ethical marketing. Everyone was suddenly in a rush to get a piece of the newfound website fortunes.

Then Why Is the Keywords Meta Tag Still Useful?

Although many search engines stopped relying on this meta tag, others simply put less weight on it. They would still check to see if a keyword is in this tag, but it was no longer the silver bullet solution. Including your target keywords in your meta tags still helps rankings on Yahoo and other smaller search engines. Even if you rely on Google for your traffic, you should not ignore the potential traffic that Yahoo can provide. You need every bit of help you can get to improve your rankings.

Another benefit of including a keywords meta tag is that it helps keep pages focused on certain keywords. A content writer could check this tag to see which words to include in their writing. A link builder could check this tag to see which phrases they should be targeting for link anchor text.

Is There a Downside to Including Meta Keywords?

As long as you don't try anything spammy with your meta tags, they won't harm your search engine rankings. Just ensure that you are only including words that are relevant to the page content. Ideally all of those words would be included in the page text as well. Avoid repeating keywords too. If you get spammy, be prepared for penalties from the search engines in time.

One potential downside that some people are worried about is the competitive intelligence that it provides. At a glance, competitors could see exactly which phrases a page is targeting. I don't give this argument much credit. Strong competitors can find out your exact target keywords by analyzing your page content and links. There are even automated tools that provide this analysis. Really if a competitor needs to see your meta tags to know this information, it is unlikely that they are actually a serious competitor.

No comments:

Post a Comment