Meta Keywords Tag
Anyone want to really nerd out on this topic? A couple of us have been having a discussion in another thread about the "meta keyword tag", but it probably should be it's own thread.
If you're not aware of what the meta keywords tag is, the tag can sometimes be found in a web site's <head> tag and was used (a decade or so ago) for establishing site relevance. It has gone the way of the Dodo bird as it was one of the earliest methods of spamming search engines with bogus content and perceived relevance. As with most things web, it was something that started out as good, but quickly joined a long list of oft-exploited web site marketing loopholes.
As an example of what this tag is, this is lawnsite's tag keyword meta tag:
<meta name="keywords" content="dixie chopper,exmark,toro,lawnsite,lawn care business,lawn mowing business,lawn business forum,aerator,commercial mowers,lawn mowing,shindaiwa,gator blades,irrigation,scag mowers,sulky,walk behind mowers,landscaping,lawn maintenance,walker mowers" />
So where do things stand with their use? Google has been saying for years that they no longer use them, while Bing uses them to actually identify those sites trying to game the search engines.
(As a loose example of Bing's use of this, if your meta keywords tag is comprised of nothing but Pepsi product references, but your content is completely Big K Cola-related, Bing can bump those up against each other and decide whether you're legitimately trying to discuss Pepsi on your site or just trying to pull Pepsi info searches to your site by deceptive means. If they decide something isn't right, they can use that to help push you down the rankings, or filter you out all together. )
These are a couple of references to use to form your own opinion:
Google Search Quality guru, Matt Cutts, not only addressed this in 2009, but he seemed to feel strongly enough about it, and wanted to clear up the high volume of misconceptions and repeated questions, that he addressed it again in 2012. If you watch both, there are two amusingly ironic aspects to his "submitted" questions, as well as the following examples.
Google Web Masters Blog Post re: their use (notice the seo-friendly link name):
SearchEngineWatch.com meta keywords article:
"The only search engine that looks at the keywords anymore is Microsoft's Bing – and they use it to help detect spam. To avoid hurting your site, your best option is to never add this tag."
That last article is helpful as it addresses the variety of meta tags, as well as the Matt Cutts' videos touch on them as well.
My own thoughts?
My own mix of subjective and objective views on this is that, while some still think it's a useful component to include in your sites, I view them akin to an obvious poker tell (who doesn't love finding your competition's tell?) and actually an aid to your competition as it's a one-stop shop for the keywords you, or they, are targeting.
I personally use the meta keyword tag data, but not on my own web sites. I do run queries to pull competitors' meta tags so that I can have a quick snapshot of what they're currently targeting, look at their rank, and decide if I need to make any corrective action of my own. For this reason, they are supremely useful, just not as they intend them to be.
Thoughts? Questions? Things you've noticed in your own analysis?
a guy who knows both the lawn business and web strategy