What are meta keywords?
Meta keywords are a type of meta tag that provide search engines with more information about a page. These keywords are solely for search engines and cannot be seen on the page by regular website visitors.
Although commonly used by search engines in the past to help determine what a page was about, meta keywords have been devalued by most of them for the past fifteen to twenty years. That being said, there seem to be indications that smaller search engines still use meta keywords to help understand what’s on a page.
Meta keywords used to be extremely important for SEO in the late nineties and early 2000’s and there was little doubt as to their effect on page rankings. Due to webmasters adding as many meta keywords to pages as possible and abusing the feature, most search engines such as Google devalued meta keywords back in 2002. Since then, opinions on the topic vary, with some SEOs still using them and others being strongly against using meta keywords for SEO.
An example of meta keywords on a page on amazon.com
Past uses of meta keywords
Meta keywords were a staple of SEO in the late nineties. Since it was one of the main methods early search engines used for understanding the topic of a page, they were used heavily to try and increase page rankings. You would add a list of all the relevant keywords you could think of in the meta keywords list in order to raise your position in the SERPs. Due to people spamming meta keywords to try and get an edge, almost all search engines had devalued them by the beginning of the twenty-first century.
Back in 2009, Google actually admitted to not using meta keywords in their ranking algorithm, which is something they hardly ever disclosed at the time.
What meta keywords are used for today
Meta keywords are not used much by SEO practitioners today, although some SEOs and web developers do still choose to use them. On very rare occasions, certain CMS’s or web developers may use meta keywords on a page to improve internal search. If a site allows its users to search the site for specific words, meta keywords may be used to make this process easier. That being said, this is generally considered an outdated method for providing internal search features.
As well as internal search, some SEOs still use meta keywords when optimizing for search engines other than Google, like Yandex and Baidu for example. Opinions differ on whether or not meta keywords are effective for optimizing your pages for these search engines. Some SEOs may also choose to add misspellings of important words in a page’s meta tag, which may help search engines in understanding which misspellings might be relevant to a page.
Although they were an important part of SEO in the past, meta keywords don’t offer much value to SEOs today. In rare cases where internal search uses meta keywords or when optimizing for search engines that may still use meta keywords, there are some advantages. However, for the most part, meta keywords don’t provide any kind of direct benefit to SEOs and are even considered bad practice by some.
If you are in an industry where a lot of your competitors use meta keywords, looking at the meta keywords they target can help you find relevant keywords for your webpages. This can be used to help understand the industry better, as well as get a head start on your keyword research work.
- Google does not use the keywords meta tag in web ranking Google Search Central Blog. Retrieved 09 January 2021.