It might be a surprise for many SEOs but the meta keywords tag is still used by some search engines as part of their ranking process.
Major search engines (Google, Yahoo and Bing) no longer use it but other smaller search engines such as Yandex and Baidu (and possibly DuckDuckGo) still use it.
Don’t confuse meta keywords with other meta tags. Other meta tags (like page titles and descriptions) are used by search engines and they are valuable for SEO but meta keywords are not.
In this post you’ll learn everything you need to know about meta keywords and meta tags.
- What are meta keywords?
- Why meta keywords are no longer relevant for Google?
- Which Search Engines still use Meta Keywords?
- Should you remove meta keywords from your pages?
- What are meta tags?
- Meta tags that ALL search engines understand and are important for SEO
What are meta keywords?
Meta keywords are added to the head of a page and look like this:
<meta name="keywords" content="meta keywords, meta tags, SEO, search engine optimization">
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The name of the meta tag is keywords and the value is defined in the content part.
In the content part you are suppose to provide the keywords that you want the particular page to rank for in search engines.
Search engines read the meta keywords tag as part of the crawling and indexing process and use them in the ranking process.
Like other meta tags, meta keywords are not visible to the user but they are part of a page’s source code.
To view meta keywords (or any other meta tag) that a page is using, open the page in a web browser, right click and select VIEW SOURCE CODE.
Locate the top part of the page that is enclosed in
<head></head> tags and look for META.
Here is an example of the meta tags used by this page.
Why meta keywords are no longer relevant?
As you might have already guessed, having the keywords you wanted a page to rank in a meta tag, made it very easy to manipulate search algorithms and soon enough people starting spamming search engines.
The result is that the major search engines decided to drop meta keywords and remove them from their ranking process.
- Google dropped meta keywords in 2009
- Yahoo stopped using meta keywords in 2009
- Bing announced in 2014 that they no longer consider meta keywords for ranking purposes
Which Search Engines still use Meta Keywords?
It might be a surprise for many people but two important search engines still use meta keywords as part of the ranking process.
Baidu – the most popular Chinese search engine, is also using the meta keywords tag during the crawling and ranking phase.
Should you remove meta keywords from your pages?
It depends on the case. If you care about organic traffic from Yandex and Baidu and you already have the meta keywords in your pages, then you can leave them.
If your main focus is Google traffic then you don’t need to add meta keywords for the sake of Yandex or Baidu. It’s a very light weight SEO signal that does not deserve too much attention.
Best Practices for using meta keywords
If you do decide to add the meta keywords tag back then make sure that you avoid keyword stuffing. Add only 3 or 4 keywords that are highly related with the content of the page.
If meta keywords are no longer valid for Google, what you should do?
Google is by far the most popular search engine and while is not using meta keywords for years now, there are some meta tags that are very important for Google rankings.
What are meta tags?
Meta tags are snippets of text added to the head of a page that help search engines understand what a page is all about. These tags have a predefined format and are only visible to search engines.
Meta tags that search engines understand and are important for SEO
Besides the meta keywords tag which is only applicable to Yandex, Baidu and possibly other smaller search engines, some meta tags are important for SEO for ALL search engines.
In particular the:
- Title tag
- Meta Descriptions tag
- Meta Robots tag
The title tag has this format:
<title>What are meta tags and why they are important for SEO</title>
and is one of the most critical SEO elements.
The title tag is important for SEO because:
- Gives search engines a big clue as to what the page is about
- Is shown in the search results (first line of search snippet)
- Is shown as the tab title in browsers
- Is shown as the title of a post when shared in social media networks
For more information on how to optimize your page title tags for SEO, read the following guides:
Meta Descriptions Tag
The meta description tag has this format:
<meta name="description" content="Meta keywords are not used by Google, Bing and Yahoo but they are taken into account by other search engines."/>
and may be shown as part of the search snippet in the SERPS (search engines results pages).
The meta description tag is important for SEO because:
- A compelling meta description tag will encourage users to click on your search snippet and this means more traffic and higher CTR (click through rates).
- Search Snippets with a high CTR are more likely to appear in the top positions of the results than snippets with a low CTR. It’s an indirect SEO factor that is gaining more important the last few years.
- Search engines tend to highlight search terms appearing in a meta description tag and this makes them more relevant to users, which leads to more clicks.
For more information on how to best optimize your meta description tags for SEO, read the following guides:
Meta Robots Tag
The meta robots meta tag has the following format:
and is used to instruct search engines on how the particular page should be treated when it comes to search.
The most important values are:
- index – Allow search engines to index a page and show in the search results
- follow – Follow any external links found on the page
- noindex – Instruct search engines not to index the page and not to show it in the search results
- nofollow – Don’t follow external links from this page
For a detailed description of all meta robots tag values, read this guide from Google.
The meta robots is important for SEO because a misconfiguration can lead to a page not being index by search engines and this means no rankings or traffic.
Optimizing the meta robots tag is part of technical SEO, the process of optimizing a website for the crawling and indexing phase.
Meta keywords are an SEO technique of the past for Google, Bing and Yahoo. Other search engines like Yandex and Baidu still take them into account.
If you care about Yandex or Baidu traffic then you can add meta keywords to your pages but it is very important that you do it right by avoiding keyword stuffing.
Since the meta keywords will be read by other search engines as well, you don’t want to give them reasons to believe that you are trying to do spamming.
Other meta tags are super important for SEO for ALL search engines.
So, as part of your on-page SEO optimization make sure that you give special attention to your meta title tags, meta description tags and meta robots tags.