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Where Google Stands on the “Keywords” Meta Tag

To Sum it Up, They Ignore it

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Google does not use the "keywords" meta tag in its web search ranking. Google’s Matt Cutts explains this in a Webmaster Central video. This is not breaking news, by any means, but there are a lot of people out there that still put a lot of stock into this.

In fact, Cutts mentions that people have sued each other for meta tag keyword theft, when really this is just a waste of everybody’s time, because they don’t even play a role in the ranking of sites on Google. Have you been under the impression that the keywords meta tag was important to ranking in Google? Comment here.

"About a decade ago, search engines judged pages only on the content of web pages, not any so-called "off-page" factors such as the links pointing to a web page," says Cutts. "In those days, keyword meta tags quickly became an area where someone could stuff often-irrelevant keywords without typical visitors ever seeing those keywords. Because the keywords meta tag was so often abused, many years ago Google began disregarding the keywords meta tag."

Just because Google ignores the "keywords" meta tag, that doesn’t mean it ignores all meta tags. In fact, there are several that the search engine definitely uses. For one, Google sometimes uses the "description" meta tag as the text for search results snippets. But even then, the "description" meta tag isn’t used to influence ranking.

Description Meta tag

Google also recognizes the "google," "robots," "verify-v1," "content type," and "refresh" meta tags. Information about how Google understands these can be found at this page in the Webmaster Tools help center.

"It’s possible that Google could use this information in the future, but it’s unlikely," Cutts says of the "keywords" meta tag. "Google has ignored the keywords meta tag for years and currently we see no need to change that policy."

So the moral of the story is, if a competitor is jacking your keywords, and using them in their own "keywords" meta tag, this will have no effect whatsoever in how they rank in Google when compared to your site. Cutts says other search engines might use the information, but Google doesn’t.

Google does note that its enterprise Search Appliance has the ability to match meta tags, but this is of course separate from Google web search.

As I have said before, these videos and other tips Google frequently gives out are worth paying attention to for any webmaster looking to rank well. Whether they’re talking about duplicate content, meta tags, or paid links, they’re all aimed at telling webmasters how it is, and clarifying any misconceptions to the contrary. Whether you agree with Google’s methods in all cases or not, the tips are for your benefit.

Like it or not, Google controls what people find on the web when they search. The company’s huge market share is just something that is. There is always the possibility that could change in the future, but at this point, it looks like webmasters are not going to be able to ignore Google for a long time, if they hope to be found on the web by searchers.

We realize (and Google surely does too) that many well-seasoned marketers already know that Google ignores the "keywords" meta tag, but webmasters are born everyday, and not all of them have been so heavily seasoned to this point, and that’s why Google puts this information out there. There is always misinformation (particularly when it comes to search), and sometimes the record just has to be set straight. Who better to do that than Google itself?

Do you find Google’s Webmaster Central videos useful or do you think they’re mostly just retreads of things you already know? Share your thoughts here.

Where Google Stands on the “Keywords” Meta Tag
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  • http://abrcity.com/ abrcity

    thnaks for this explanation,it should clear some stuff about google ranking and SEO

  • http://www.janesvilleseo.com JanesvilleSEO

    I know that this has been said before, but its nice that it is SAID. Keywords Meta are useless, unless you have an internal search, such as GSA (Google Search Appliance)

  • http://www.besttoworld.com kimutaku

    Thank you very much,I have read it now.

  • http://www.make-a-great-website.com Jacob Godwin

    This isn’t breaking news. We’ve known this for years.

    I only do it for Yahoo, as I believe they still use the keywords tag. Not sure how long that will last now that they’ve partnered with MS.

    • Chris Crum

      No, it is not breaking news, but clearly not everyone knows, and there is a lot of misinformation out there. I think many people find it helpful when Google clarifies these things themselves (much like the duplicate content stuff).

      You also have to keep in mind that not everyone has been doing this for a long time.

  • http://friendly-internet-marketing.blogspot.com/ Hari Babu

    Ya, google does not give more importance to the keyword, because now days internet marketing peoples are more stuffing the keywords in the pages. But proper optimization of Meta tags will give a good result, this is get in my experiences.

  • http://www.lizardseo.com Steve

    I use keywords more for organizational purposes with the websites I optimize. That way on every page I know exactly what I am optimizing that page for.

  • http://blog.hichamaged.net/ Hicham Maged

    This is not a breaking news however many webmasters are not aware about this as I believe, Chris so it’s good that ‘Google’ themsleves are claryfying the myths. I wonder how many myths we are not aware about, yet! Thanks for sharing, Chris!

  • Mae Francis Proctor

    Thank you, I am one that have Google home Biz and I was so confussed about everything. but I just found out is that all I have to do is post Links to Google and that is hard for me not knowing what Iam doing. but Im glade I don’t have to worrie about Keywords!
    again Thank you!
    p.s. if you hve any insite on what websites to use and how to link the web sites to Google please let me know!

  • http://www.dreamspinnersinc.com Dayle D’Ann

    what does the Google sitemap do?

  • Kate

    Yet another in a long line of “helpful announcements” from Google which doesn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know or help us in any way to improve our ranking/traffic.

    Tidbits like this are merely designed to remind us who makes the rules and reinforce our dependence on Google’s “good will”.

    If Google really wanted to be helpful, why does it wait years (until the information has become common knowledge anyway) to make facts like this clear? Instead, it encourages ambiguity and uncertainty, forcing website owners to speculate and scrabble about for crumbs of information, and to wait for the next “helpful revelation” from Google. We saw a perfect example of this last week, when we were told – after years of being led to believe the very opposite – that Google doesn’t penalize websites which publish duplicate content (and even then we were told that, while there was no penalization as such, ranking could be affected).

    Google has way too much power.

  • http://www.tmdesigner.it Tmdesigner

    ..Nothing New !

  • http://www.promotionismybusiness.com Promotion Is My Business

    Really Chris, have you ever considered acting like a journalist and asking some mildly challenging questions that a lot of small-business owners want to know like why is it so hard to get legitimate questions answered from Google, etc., rather than just being a mouthpiece when Google’s public relations department.

    • Chris Crum

      So you’re saying that people asking Google questions about whether or not they take the “keywords’ meta tag into consideration for ranking is not a legitimate question? And that I am a mouthpiece for their PR department because I point to what they say about doing so?

      • Katex

        It sure looks like that. I’ve wondered for some time if WPN isn’t a branch of G’s PR dept.
        Asking G whether they take account of keywords is like getting an interview with the pope and asking him if he’s in favour of contraception. We know what the answer is going to be. And anyone who doesn’t hasn’t being paying attention (and paying attention is exactly what Google wants website owners to do, hence these occasional tidbits of “information”).
        I’m sure we can all thing of far more important/relevant questions we’d like to see put to Google.

        • Kate

          Think, not “thing”.

        • Chris Crum

          Had this been me interviewing Cutts, it is probably not a question I would’ve asked, but since it is a video Google shared on their own, and I thought that it may actually help some people (as it evidently has) I thought I would pass on the information.

          Congratulations if you were already privy to that info. Matt is just answering questions from real (to the best of my knowledge) users. Some of them are more commonly known than others. Does that mean that everyone knows these things? No. If you already know it, consider yourself ahead of the game.

          • Kate

            Fair enough. But the very fact that some website owners were not aware that Google doesn’t take account of Meta keywords proves my point, which is that G deliberately creates a climate of uncertainly (and paranoia) by forcing people to guess and speculate on what’s going on – what the “rules” are – rather than explaining them in an open and forthright manner. Google only “reveals” facts after they have already become known to the dogs in the street. Google could very easily have made an announcement ten years ago (or however long ago it was) that they were no longer taking account of keywords in the Meta tag. Why didn’t they? Because it is in their interest to keep people guessing and waiting for their next tidbit of information. It is all part of the strategy of making website owners dependent on them. Then, when they do throw out a morsel of (usually worthless) information, website owners (including several here) are grovelling in their gratitude. The whole thing is pathetic, imo, and the sooner G gets knocked off its monopolistic perch the healthier it will be for everyone.

  • http://www.netgenerator.de Webdesign Berlin vom Fachmann: NETGENERATOR

    Yeah nothing new, but I think over 50% of the non-professional webmasters still believe on that meta-tag for keywords.
    Greets,
    Oliver

  • Spy Cams Spy Equipment

    I can’t tell you enough how much I love these tips and Google video tips. I think it is a great severvice to us all. Please keep up the great work. I have 2 sites and I can’t tell you how much time and energy went into Keyword Meta Tags, ouch. I am new and still trying to get rated with my 2 sites. I would love suggestions if some one would be kind enough, not trying to be some millionaire but really just trying to keep my home. So much to learn but I am eager.
    Terry Sachetti MN

  • http://www.bmlee.com Guest

    would other search engines take meta keywords tag seriously? or are they just same as google?

  • Makx

    Of course Meta information has its use and Keywords included, also with Google. How very silly to have Keyword meta tags excluded. All meta information has definite reasons to be there, closely related to page content. Matt Cutts may say what he wants, it seems.

    • Guest

      Making good sense here!

  • http://DONSCYCLEWARE.COM DonC

    I haven’t been putting a huge amount of effort into the Meta tags. Now they will receive even less.

    Perhaps “everyone” but me was aware of Google ignoring them. It was news to me :)

    DonC

  • http://www.antivirusmarket.co.uk Neil Patmore

    Now google just has to sort out the inbound link spamming – the keyword spamming of today.

    Neil Patmore

    (The irony I know. This is a joke btw …)

  • http://www.gardenfurnituresets.net garden furniture sets

    Interesting that google pays no attention to these tags at all these days.

    I know webmasters of old used to keyword stuff using white text in to the white background until the search engines became savvy to what they were doing.

    Thanks WPN :0)

    GFS

  • http://www.alexhamilton.net airplane art

    Not quite sure what this means again so its another question to my website guy!

    I think I’m right in saying this meta description that Matt was saying about is still used, is what is displayed in the search results?? The description of the main website.

    But I’m probably wrong, I usually am!

    Regards
    Alex Hamilton
    aviation art

  • http://blog.princeporter.com Porter

    I was under the influence they had much less power in rankings, I wasn’t aware they were completely out of the picture. Good to know, thanks for the information.

  • http://canalandnarrowboat.co.uk Robin

    I cannot add much to what’s been said already about keywords – it certainly does no harm and may be useful for some search engines.

    What amazes me is that many web page “creators” (I will not call them designers – that suggests that they ought to know what they are doing) will include the Keyword tag and sometimes even a useful Title tag ( but sometimes just “home” or “My Site”). BUT not a Description tag!

    Surely of all the tags this is the most important from SEO point of view, unless of course one just enters something mundane like, for example: “This is the home page of my site about canals”!

    “Doh!…..”

  • http://www.advertisingmiami.com mike poller

    G does not care one bit about helping you “improve your traffic/ranking.” G cares about delivering the best search results to their users, in hopes of increasing that user base and selling more ads. G believes that they can do a better job of classifying our web pages than we can, because you and I have an agenda (self promotion) and you and I are prone to exaggeration in our keywords. And they are probably correct.

    • Chris Crum

      Yes, Google has long maintained that everything they do is done with the user experience in mind.

  • http://www.threetoedcrow.com Tim Buttles of ThreeToedCrow

    Chris

    I really appreciate the great articles you put out on a continual basis. Several I have reposted on my blog and/or retweeted.

    Look’en forward to the next installment … 8>

    Thx

  • http://www.practicalsports.com Hunting Dude

    “But even in then, the “description” meta tag isn’t used to influence ranking”

    Change your meta description and see if your ranking changes, I have several sites that will move in Google rankings by changing this. Keywords may be useless to google, but other search engines still put some weight on this and if that converters into a sell, optin, whatever, why would you not take the few seconds to add them.

    • Chris Crum

      I have seen others dispute the meta “description” ranking issue as well.

  • Guest

    Words to the wise, always believe everything you read or hear. Corporate people always tell the truth, just look at Enron, Worldcom, Bernie (steal all your money) Madoff….. and by the way, nofollow is sending your page rank to you tube…..

  • http://www.blogdesigncenter.com Custom Blog Design

    The primary purpose of the meta tag has nothing to do with Search Engine Rankings but provide information about the current web page itself. It’s unfortunate that meta tags have been abuse just like any precious commodity the human kind discovers. That does not mean you should stop using meta tags altogether. They will certainly not improve your page ranking but are use by some directories (Description Meta Tag) to retrieve information about your web site. Besides Bind and Yahoo are still reading those meta tags.

  • Guest

    But what about all the other search engines? After all Google does not control 100% of organic search. They are standing at about 65%. I am sure a few of the other search protals out there might take a look at the keywords meta tag.

    • http://www.cpasitesolutions.com/ CPA Site Solutions

      I don’t believe the official 65% figure for a second. My numbers (we’re a nationally focused US business with no international ambitions or value) put Google at 80%-85%.

  • http://www.cpasitesolutions.com/ CPA Site Solutions

    Yahoo and Bing still use the Keywords tag, so it’s not a good idea to drop them entirely, but Google doesn’t and hasn’t for a long time and Google is the lion’s share of the market.

  • http://www.printglobe.com PrintGlobe

    I

  • http://alcoholrehabtoday.blogspot.com/ brice

    Thanks for the info. For some time it has seemed that the keywords meta tag has been fairly unimportant. My own approach is not to ignore the tag completely. Rather, I use it but I don’t put a lot of effort into it and I sure don’t expect it to provide a great benefit. As others have said about using the meta tag, it may not help, but “it couldn’t hurt”.

    • http://www.3ac.co.uk Gary Taylor

      Although its not going to aid your ranking in Google, the use of meta keywords will still come in use with other search engines and especially with many directories which use the data to improve results for their visitors. I will still continue using them, out of habit more than anything. Although if you want to stay ahead of the game, turn to your on page optimisation and think content, content, content. In mobile search however, we have found meta keywords have a weighting on rankings. Deos any one know if Google provides clarification on whether or not this will still be the case?

  • Carl Bennet

    In my experience they still using keywords, now instead of the keyword tag you put your keywords on the description tag and text. nobody can index without keywords.

    Also look like you have to buy some ads from them in order to get out of the sandbox. I’m new on this SEO stuff but something feels definitely wrong with google, artifitial, manipulated. My page ranks reasonably well on yahoo and bings but zero in google, it only shows up on the more weird searches, terms not even related with the subject that I target and I have 190 pages all with original content about the same subject.

    I won’t play anymore, advertising on craiglist and the organic traffic from other SE is enough. I’ll do what I think I have to do, screw them.

  • http://www.playingcardsandmore.com Tom

    Thank you Cris for your continued efforts, many of us smaller guys appreciate it.

  • Guest

    Nothing new here. The spammers (aka the scammers) figured this out long ago.

    That is why you see so many (scam) sites ranked in the top 10 search results of Google these days. They are all filled with paragraphs of keywords strung together to form incoherent sentences that have little or no meaning (other than to get high ranking from Google) — sad. These paragraphs are then followed by Google adsense ads used to line the pockets of the scammers.

    The web is in a sorry state — legitimate sites are being pushed down the list (in most search engines).

    I suspect page 2 or 3 will eventually become more popular than page 1 !

  • http://www.NotHere.com Scott WM.

    No argument. Google has never used keywords as a means to apply page-rank to one website over another (as to which websites rank above others in the over all page-rank). Google does in fact always use keyword suggestions for categorical placement if and when… For instance, if you sell lawn chairs you should include ‘lawn chairs’ in your keywords as well as in the html text that appears on the page itself, because this distinguishes the purpose of the website and/or individual web-page in the categorical sense. Google thrives on producing relevant results to search queries ~ links that match the words applied by users in search results rather than producing links that don’t match. What good would that be? Whether you are number 1 or number 1,000 in your category is also dependent on the links concept ~ links from other websites that link to your website in which the categorical placement also matches… Page views and time spent by unique visitors to your website is also measured (don’t ask me how)… But, if you use false keywords that do not apply to your website or its content, or apply false links that conflict with the actual theme of your website just to appear in more categories, and Google picks up on it – and they will sooner or later, the system will penalize your website for years to come, and in extreme cases of keyword abuse even ban your website forever. Keywords not relevant? Tell that to the high-rollers, and toward those for whom honesty is the best policy. In short, honesty is the basis of the programming to which Google applies its own algorithm – minor fluctuations aside to throw off deceivers. Keep it in mind. Trust me… :)

  • http://www.semwisdom.com Seattle Search Marketing

    http://www.semwisdom.com/blog/meta-keywords-seo

  • http://morganservice.net Don Morgan

    I noticed long ago that keywords had little or no effect on any search engine. Title, Meta Description and URL determine placement as far as I can tell.

  • http://islandtropicalman.blogspot.com/ Islands Tropical Man

    I don’t use Meta Tag that much but I am still using it because the other search engine bots will look for for it when they crawl through my website.

  • http://www.convima.com J

    ..especially with Yahoo, Bing and some other search engines and directories. So as some have pointed out before, it doesn’t harm you if you still put keywords in the source code of each page and in fact, apart from Google, they will do the trick.

    Also they can be useful for blogs or other on-site searches…but hey, no one forces you to still use them. But as long as they aren’t counter-productive, I’ll surely still use them.

  • http://www.naturedayspa.biz susan

    i think meta tag is still a good solution for google.thanks for the information

  • http://www.e-bookssite.com JP

    I am still going to optimize my title along with my two meta tags to the content on my page. Google is retarded in their rankings. One day your on the first page for about 4-5 days then your gone, no where to be found. Yet, first page sites are so poorly optimized (not all) it’s a wonder why they are even there. Google isn’t the only search engine. Why take a chance, what if you got 10′s or 100′s of pages out there laying in a grave because they are missing a meta tag?

    • http://www.diamond-accessories-the-world-of-shopping.com Craig

      I knew Meta Tags was not used for ranking with Google but is still good practice for search results NO? I had the same experience as JP with Google throwing back our site.We were on page one in several of our markets. ( was no easy task) then Google sent us back to position 700 ouch. Then I may have found the problem. I use a dropship companie’s designed web page and when they upload new products that just throws the content out of wack and Google says no more front page. Does that sound about right ? Any suggestions?

      • http://www.e-bookssite.com JP

        Sounds right to me. I built my own website, so I controlled the content. I was on the front page at position 3. I wrote from scratch an article and added it to my site. I put a snippet of it at the bottom of the front page. My site then disappeared into another world and I haven’t seen it since. Burn Google Burn

  • http://hollybolly4all.blogspot.com Yamcha

    i was just doing keyword research for my website but thanks for this news… but i will do little bit of keyword research to get ranked in other SERPs coz they are still watching keyword tag in pages!!

  • http://www.online-rich.com Free Money Making Opportunities

    I knew that Google doesn’t consider the “keywords” meta tags, but there are many other Search Engines that might use the meta tags for ranking the sites. Don’t forget that Google is not the only SEO, though it is the biggest one.

    • http://www.best-short-stories.com bestshortstory

      This is news to me. Can you put keyword tags at the bottom of your pages, though? and do other search engines notice the keywords in meta tags. Maybe this is why I’m ranking much higher on Yahoo Search than on Google.

  • http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-6902379270204769711 West Coast Vinyl

    We never paid much attention to keywords for energy efficient windows in our meta tags. But do pay attention to title and description tags.

  • http://www.exactnumerology.com Michael Searles

    Nope! Didn’t know that – and I suspect I am not alone.
    Still heaps of SEO service providers targeting new customers with a pitch on ‘keywords’ in their sales pitches.

  • http://www.sketch3d.co.uk SKETCH3D

    Well, most know that Google doesn’t use the key words, but there is no harm putting them in and it only take minutes if you know your subject.

    I have found well written description data important in the text shown in web results.

  • http://www.technotate.com TechNotate

    Despite what is written regarding Google’s position on keywords for ranking…
    realistically, keywords must carry some weight so long as web page content is
    in agreement. Otherwise, how can a product, service, or application begin to be
    classified by category or targeted by search queries? Instead, I suggest Google
    ignores those ‘stuffed’ keyword meta tags which are irrelevant to the content.

  • http://www.lunalogo.com Logo Design & Conversion

    This is fact Google does not give importance in meta keywords although Yahoo & Bing uses meta keywords in ranking.

    • http://www.goforth-andy.com Andy

      So if the other engines still use these tags, so must we.

  • http://dwhitewebdesign.com Daniel

    i never knew that google don’t use keywords in search engine placements etc – i assumed they all use the keywords tags – but i do see google’s logic – many people use keywords that have little or no relevance to the webpage / website in order to get listed.

  • http://www.suround.com suround

    if Google has announced it no longer uses meta tags, better blog owners do not need to install a meta tag, because the indexing process is taken from the verification process of the Google webmasters. in my opinion, the installation meta tags only to clarify the indexing process and the ease of a Google search as well as characteristics of a website.

    • Guest

      blah blah blah blah blah etc.
      you sound like a broken machine

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