Friday, October 16, 2009

Whither the keywords META?

Search engine gurus have been proclaiming for some time that the use of the META keywords tag is pointless. Fewer and fewer search engines are paying any attention to it at all, they said.

Here's the history of it: Back in the day, when search engines were new, and directories like Yahoo ruled supreme, the keywords META tag was the be-all, end-all of search marketing. You had to have the right keywords in your tag, and you repeated them a lot.

Sadly, as soon as you get something good, someone figures out how to abuse it. People who wanted to "game the system" started including many, multiple instances of keywords and keyword phrases into their keywords META tag. Sadly, the pornographers were among the first to engage this one. It got to be like an arms race. "Oh, I see you've included "sex" 100 times in your tag! I'll include it 300 times in mine!" It got to be absurd.

Not long after that, they also started including irrelevant words in their keywords META tags. Sites started appearing in searches and leaving the searchers heads scratching. "How did THAT get there?" There was a time in the early 90's where you couldn't do a search for ANYTHING, it seemed, with out at least one naughty site appearing in the list.

Well, it's no surprise that the search engines realized that this wasn't gonna work. Searchers were starting to mistrust the results they were getting.

Google came along and started indexing the results based on the words that were visible in the text, and valuing the sites based on how many inbound links a site was getting. Before long, other search engines were starting to devalue the keywords META tag.

Last week, Yahoo, the longest holdout, announced that they no longer valued the keywords META tag in the search results. After a short test, and a clarification, it's now pretty safe to say that the keywords META tag is pretty much useless in search engine optimization. Yahoo no longer uses it. says they don't use it. Google never did.

So, what good is it?

I, personally, still find some value in it. I work a lot of websites. Blogs, commercial sites, etc... It's not easy to remember and keep track of exactly which keywords I want to focus on when I'm editing and updating each individual page. If I put the keywords that I've researched to be strong in the META tag for that page, I have a valuable reference. I can look them up and remember what they are, and my edits and my tweaks will always be centered around those words.

Silly reason, you say? Well, I can't count how many times I've used this handy reference. Having some words in the tag doesn't hurt your ranking, even if it's not helping.

To recap, then:

The key to on-site search engine optimization is to use your keywords in the right places. Currently, those are:

  • The page title tag
  • The domain name and/or the URL
  • The visible text of the website
  • The page-to-page linking within your site
  • The description META tag
  • The ALT text attributes of your images

The key to off-site optimization has always been quality links from other sites and pages.

Go to it!

Mark also has other sites and blogs, including Mark's Black Pot - Dutch Oven Recipes, and his MoBoy blog.

1 comment:

  1. How often should you submit your URL to the search engines? Weekly? Monthly? And, what is the best way to do this?