Meta keywords were introduced by search engines back in 1995.
It was 20 years later that most search engines phased them out and Google explicitly stated they do not use them in 2009.
Even though they haven’t been in use for so many years, I still often get asked how to use meta keywords tags to improve SEO.
You can even see people online still debating the use of meta keywords in SEO today.
This blog will set the record straight.
You will learn everything you need to know about meta keywords and why you shouldn’t use them on your website today.
What Will I Learn?
What Are Meta Keywords?
Meta keywords (also known as a meta keyword tag) are words and phrases used to help search engines better understand what your page is about. They provide more context about the information on the page.
Meta keywords are placed in a meta keywords tag within a page’s HTML source code. This way search engines can find them but they aren’t visible to your website visitors.
An example of a page meta tag is:
<meta name=”keywords” content=”scuba diving, scuba diving equipment”/>
The meta keywords in the example above are:
- Scuba diving
- Scuba diving equipment
This meta tag tells search engines that the page’s content is about scuba diving and scuba diving equipment.
What Were Meta Keywords Used For
Meta keywords used to be an essential part of SEO.
They were often added at the same time as you were optimising your other meta-data like title tag and description.
Meta keywords helped-
- Tell search engines what your content is about
- Rank your content higher in the search results
Here’s how it worked:
Using a meta keyword tag you insert different meta keywords related to your topic into your page. This helped Google categorise your content and understand it better.
Google knew when someone searched for your topic that your content would serve them.
You get rewarded with higher rankings and more visibility in the search results because you helped Google better understand your content.
But is that still the reality today?
Why We Don’t Use Meta Keywords Anymore
Meta keywords seemed like a win-win.
Search engines could understand the context of your page better and your content was ranked higher as a result.
So why don’t we use them today? These are three main reasons.
Meta Keywords Are No Longer Used By Search Engines
People weren’t using meta keywords appropriately. Instead, they took advantage and added all the keywords they wanted to rank for.
In other words: they could easily manipulate the rankings.
This leads to lower quality search results for users which is everything search engines are fighting against.
But that’s not all…
Over the years search engines have gotten smarter and smarter. They no longer need you to explicitly tell them what your content is about.
Their advanced algorithms have become so advanced that just by crawling your page they understand it perfectly and can categorise it in their index appropriately.
This alone makes meta keywords all but irrelevant to search engines.
Meta Keywords Tags Are Dead In Terms of SEO Value
Meta keywords are ignored by search engines.
That means they will offer no value in terms of SEO rankings. Meta keywords simply won’t help rank your website anymore.
But will meta keywords damage your SEO? No.
Meta keywords are unlikely to harm your SEO. This is because search engines ignore them, so they won’t help but they also won’t hurt your SEO.
Meta Keywords Can Actually Help Your Competitors
You can learn a lot about how to improve your SEO from competitors.
Think about it:
If you’re ranking in the top positions on Google, your competitors will want to replicate what you are doing so they can rank as well.
You need to make sure that you protect yourself from your competitors as much as possible.
Meta keywords can actually give away your SEO strategy.
You add your target keywords as meta keywords embedded directly inside your web pages HTML code. Your competitors only need to crawl your web page and they will immediately see your meta keywords.
This makes it super easy to steal your target keywords for every piece of content you have produced.
All of the hard work you put into:
…Can easily be undone because you included your target keywords as meta keywords.
Meta keywords are just not worth it.
Do Any Major Search Engines Still Use Meta Keywords?
Short answer: Not really.
Meta keywords were phased out by almost all of the major search engines back in 2014.
Here’s how each major search engine views meta keywords today.
Google is the most used search engine in the world.
As of June 2021, Google has a market share of 92.47% of total searches done online. That means we care more about what Google thinks than any other search engine.
After all, they have the biggest audience.
Google hasn’t used meta keywords as part of its core ranking algorithm since 2009.
Matt Cutt the former head of the Google webspam team said it explicitly in this video:
According to Matt Cutts, the main reason for removing meta keywords from Google’s search algorithm was because “too many people have spammed that too much”.
Meta keyword tags became so overused they offered very little value to search engines and were removed as Google’s ranking factor.
Yandex is the most popular search engine in Russia.
Even more popular than Google.
The jury is still out on whether Yandex uses meta keywords to rank pages today. But their official documentation says that meta keywords “Can be used when determining the page’s relevance to search queries.”
Huge emphasis on the word “can”.
Despite what the documentation says, most Yandex SEO specialists still don’t think that meta keywords are an important (or proven) ranking factor for Yandex.
In 2014, Bing released an official blog post that stated meta keywords were dead in terms of a page ranking factor.
The CEO confirmed this again in 2020 when she tweeted effectively the same thing.
It’s safe to say that Bing totally disregards meta keywords for SEO rankings.
Baidu is the only search engine allowed in China.
That means it’s pretty big. In 2012 a Baidu engineer stated in their own forum that:
“Meta keywords have long been in the garbage heap of history, and we will ignore them directly.”
But on a page that was updated in April of 2020 in Baidu’s documentation it says:
“Title, description, and keywords are important for Baidu to evaluate a page’s value.”
Baidu may still use meta keywords for ranking pages but it is likely to be a very minimal ranking factor – if any at all.
Wrapping It Up
Bottom line: Meta keywords are dead and worthless
For 99.9% of site owners meta keywords are completely useless and filling out your meta keywords is a complete waste of time.
Your time will be better spent working on other parts of your SEO strategy that deliver actual results like:
- On-page SEO
- Creating great content
- Link building
These are things to focus on because these will actually help you rank higher in the SERPs.