META Keywords: Are they still important for SEO?

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META keywords, SEO, does Google still use it, how many keywords should I include… so many questions around this tag; so let’s solve it once and for all.

So what is it?

Wikipedia defines the tag as follows:

The keywords attribute was popularized by search engines such as Infoseek and AltaVista in 1995, and its popularity quickly grew until it became one of the most commonly used meta elements. You can read more here.

What does it look like?

Below is an example of the META keywords tag:

<meta name=”keywords” content=”meta keywords, tag, on-page”/>

Do the search engines still use it?

Very simple answer, Google doesn’t! Here is a video by Matt Cutts talking about the META keywords tag:

But, Bing, which also powers Yahoo, does use this tag as a signal. Bing’s Senior Product Manager, Duane Forrester, had this to say:

I’ll make this statement: meta keywords is a signal. One of roughly a thousand we analyze. Getting it right is a nice perk for us, but won’t rock your world. Abusing meta keywords can hurt you.

Here’s a video from SEOmoz which Duane Forrester who explains a little more:

My views on the META keywords tag…

I’ve deliberated time and time again about whether or not to stop using the META keywords tag, and I can honest say I still use it and optimise it to match page content.

Whilst I know it doesn’t do anything for Google, Bing still uses it and whilst this search engine still delivers traffic, all be it very low, I’ll continue to stick with it – but it’s certainly at the bottom of the pile when it comes to SEO.

How do you correctly format them?

Having used this tag for many years, I’ve found, even when Google used this tag, 3 – 5 keywords or phrases within it works best. Also its important to do all the terms in lower case and divided with a comma and space.

Even in 2012 I’m still seeing websites stuff this tag with 20+ keyword variations – this is just crazy and looks spammy!

Final thoughts…

Whilst the number one search engine Google doesn’t use this tag as a ranking signal, I still feel it’s important to cover all of your bases and get the most you can out of a webpage, even if its just 0.5% and for Bing to look at.

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