What are Meta Keywords?
Meta keywords are a set of keywords that are included in a webpage's HTML source code to help search engines understand the content of the webpage.
These keywords are not visible on the webpage itself but are added in the code for SEO purposes.
Users who want to see the Meta keywords of a webpage can view the HTML source code of the webpage.
However, the use of Meta keywords has become less important over time as search engines have evolved and now prioritize other factors.
What is their format?
In an HTML file, Meta keywords are included within the <head> section of the webpage's source code. The format used is typically as follows:
<meta name="keywords" content="keyword1, keyword2, keyword3">
For example, if you were targeting keywords related to digital marketing, the Meta keywords might look like this:
<meta name="keywords" content="digital marketing, SEO, online advertising">
To view the Meta keywords of a webpage, you can either press Ctrl+U or right-click on the page and select "View page source" to access the webpage's HTML code.
Historical overview of meta keywords
In 2002, Danny Sullivan wrote an influential article titled "Death of A Meta Tag" which chronicled the historical significance of meta keywords in HTML and their eventual decline in importance.
Before Google, search engines like AltaVista and Infoseek relied heavily on meta keywords to determine the relevance of a webpage.
Webmasters would include numerous meta keywords in the HTML of their pages to improve their search engine rankings.
These meta keywords were placed in the head section of the HTML.
As other search engines like Inktomi and Lycos also began to support these tags, webmasters continued to use them as a critical strategy for ranking their pages.
However, by 1997, search engines started considering the excessive use of meta keywords as spam and a deceptive strategy for improving rankings.
As search engines became more sophisticated and developed new algorithms, they began to focus less on meta keywords.
Today, the use of meta keywords is considered to have little to no impact on search engine rankings.
Are they useful?
There is a range of opinions among SEO experts about the usefulness of meta keywords.
Some experts believe that including them can be beneficial, while others do not think they have much impact on search engine rankings.
Some even suggest that they are only a minor factor in ranking algorithms.
The effectiveness of meta keywords may also depend on the search engine being used, as different search engines may have different approaches to using them.
What does Google think about them?
Google thinks the meta keywords are unimportant and does not use them in ranking. According to Google, one should not worry about if their competitors copy one’s meta keywords.
Our web search (the well-known search at Google.com that hundreds of millions of people use each day) disregards keywords meta tag completely. They simply don't have any effect in our search ranking at present.
Google has never used meta keywords as a ranking factor. Therefore, those using Google should not worry about working on meta keywords.
Why does Google not approve of them?
Back in the day, webmasters used the technique of using too many keyword tags to make them noticeable.
Unfortunately, the site owners started stuffing the irrelevant keywords, which resulted in abusing this meta tag.
That was the time when Google started ignoring keyword meta tags.
Google also said:
“It’s possible that Google could use this information in the future, but it’s unlikely. Google has ignored the keywords meta tag for years and currently we see no need to change that policy.
Google Search Appliance considers meta keywords
The Google Search Appliance was a hardware device developed by Google that allowed businesses and organizations to integrate Google search technology into their private networks or intranets.
The appliance was discontinued by Google in 2016, and it is no longer available for purchase or support.
Google Search Appliance is a different product designed for businesses to use for internal search purposes.
This product can match meta tags, including keywords meta tags.
However, Google Search Central tells us that their main search has nothing to do with these meta tags.
Also, the device is created for enterprise purposes, and the ranking of the main search engine is not connected to it.
What do other search engines think about them?
Russia's largest search engine, Yandex, has stated that meta keywords can be used to help determine the relevance of a webpage to search queries.
However, Yandex does not consider meta keywords to be a significant ranking factor in its algorithm.
In 2018, an SEO expert from China published a blog post advising against using meta keywords when optimizing a website for Baidu - a Chinese search engine.
The expert cited a forum post from a Baidu engineer which indicated that Baidu had stopped using meta keyword tags in its ranking algorithm since 2012.
Some SEO websites assert that meta keywords still hold some significance for Baidu's search engine rankings.
This is based on a statement by Baidu in 2020, where they indicated that the title, description, and keywords are important factors for evaluating a page's value.
Bing declares (2014) them to be “dead in terms of SEO value”, which shows it is not a ranking factor.
Back in 2011, Bing suggested that meta keywords could indicate low-quality pages. Nonetheless, it cannot work for SEO.
In 2020, Christi Olsen - a representative from Microsoft - tweeted that Bing does not use meta keywords. She stated that Bing excludes and ignores meta keywords in its ranking algorithm.
It is a South Korean search engine which does not mention meta keywords in its documentation. It tells us that meta keywords are not important for Naver too.
According to Google and other search engines, meta keywords cannot do you a favour regarding SEO.
However, those search engines who consider it a low-weight factor praise them only in terms of relevance and not ranking.
Therefore, you can use them as a factor to identify low-quality pages that either use “stuffing” or copy others’ keywords.