What Are Meta Keywords?
Meta keywords indicate the main keywords in a page. In other terms, it can be defined as the set of words which are frequently being looked for on the search engine. This Meta tag is added in the <head> section of a webpage which is invisible to the users and is visible to the search engines. The below example shows how Meta keywords are included in the HTML code of a web page and appear secretly compared to regular keywords.
<meta name = “keywords” content = “Importance of meta keywords, meta keywords, meta tags, meta element keywords, meta tag keywords” >
The keywords mentioned in the element’s content attribute would be used as a ranking factor by the search engines. Hence it is important to make sure that all these included keywords in the content attribute reflect the content of the web page. It is redundant to rank the pages for irrelevant keywords because searchers pay attention to the services they are looking for, and are least bothered about the irrelevant results.
Why Were Meta Keywords Used?
Back in 1995, when there was no Google, AltaVista, and Infoseek were the popular web search engines. The web was just blooming at that time and it was innocent. Hence the Meta Keywords tag was used as a ranking factor by search engines at that time.
Webmasters realized that Meta Keywords tag was a convenient place to stuff the keywords as it was invisible to the users. It was something like you would ask Google (later when Google was established) to rank you for whatever keyword you wanted. Hence people started using this tag effectively.
Are They Extinct Now?
Meta keywords were once big players in SEO. As the web started becoming more popular and commercial, people started stuffing the tag with irrelevant keywords, just because those keywords were trending and would help in bringing lots of viewers. Since meta tags were too easy to spam with and were overused, almost all search engines discouraged the usage of these tags. Even before Google, it was Alta Vista which considered this keyword spamming as a Black Hat technique and stopped using Meta keywords as a ranking factor in 2002.
What Google Says Regarding Meta Keywords:
With effect from September 2009, Google web search officially started disregarding the keyword meta tag completely. It means it stopped using the Meta tag “keywords” in their algorithm for search rankings. Google also said that this decision is not permanent and there is no assurance that they will never use it again. But they did say that it is highly doubtful they will use Meta keywords for ranking purpose in the future.
Yahoo, Bing And Other Search Engines:
In the same year 2009, Yahoo at the SMX East Conference announced that it would no longer use Meta keywords in their ranking algorithm. Later an article announced that they conducted an experiment and found the statement made by Yahoo is false.
To this Yahoo responded, and stated that they are still indexing the Meta keyword tag, giving it the least importance in their system. Keywords which are visible to the user and appear in any other part of the page, such as the ones in the body, title, description, anchor text, etc.., are given top priority for ranking the page. Re-occurrence of these keywords and keyword stuffing would not help in ranking the page at any cost. Hence Yahoo stated that it would be more effective to include keywords in the body of the page, or anywhere in the page to boost the ranking.
Concluding everything Yahoo said that if there are no factors to rank the webpage except the Meta keywords tag, then these tags are used as a last resource for ranking the webpage.
Bing also stated that they look at them, but do not support them. It means they use them as a spam signal rather than using them as a ranking signal. Getting the right keywords is a nice perk, but it’s given the least importance in terms of ranking. Contrary to this, including keywords such as the ones that do not appear in the webpage, stuffing keywords which are not relevant to the topic can make the site to get penalized.
By summarizing the above points, we can state that improper usage of Meta keywords can do more harm than good when used in the wrong way.
Can We Use Meta Keywords Now?
Still, 19% of the websites do use meta keywords. But, it is better not to use Meta Keywords now. But if you still want to use it, keep it crisp, sweet and relevant. Any decent site’s Meta keywords would be pretty clear which indicates that the site is a very well SEO developed site. Meta keywords, in fact, should be used with extreme care. Google has stopped considering this tag as a ranking tool. Yahoo and Bing use this tag, but with least importance. You should be more cautious with Meta keywords as improper stuffing can lead to a negative impact like spamming the website. Even the most popular Yoast plugin for SEO enables this option only if the user demands.
By concluding the above points, the risk of potential harm is high rather than good when we use meta keywords. The idea behind using these tags is rather obsolete. There is no much advantage from using it, but if the tag is spammed there are high chances that the website can be penalized.
Instead of focussing on Meta keywords tag it is better to focus on other SEO Ranking Factors. We have Meta Title tag, Meta description tag, keywords in the content and many more Off-Page Factors as well. It is better to spend time on all those factors. They improve your rankings. Meta keywords can do the least for you.