~~~Search Engine Marketing Issues~~~

+++The Meta Keyword Tag+++

Can the Meta Keyword Tag Bring High Rankings to my Site?

Everyone knows that to obtain high search engine rankings all you have to do is put the keywords that you want to rank high with into your Meta Tags, right?

Not even close!

If it were that simple, I'd certainly be out of work. How many of you reading this have obsessed over your Meta Tags in the hope that it would bring you high rankings? How many of you have tried putting every relevant keyword you could think of into this Meta Tag only to have your site continue to be nearly invisible to the search engines? How many of you couldn't decide if you should put commas between the keywords? Spaces? No commas? ALL CAPS? Plurals? Have you wondered if you should use the same Meta Tags on every page? I do believe that I see a whole lot of hands going up out there! (Yes, I'm psychic!)

Don't worry; I'll get to all that in a moment. First, I want to show you the HTML code of this tag, in case you're not familiar with it.

The Meta Keyword Tag is usually placed beneath the Title and Meta Description Tags in the HEAD section of your pages' HTML code, as follows:

<TITLE>Your Descriptive Keywords Title Goes Here</TITLE>
<META NAME="DESCRIPTION" CONTENT="Your keyword-rich marketing description goes here.">
<META NAME="KEYWORDS" CONTENT="your keyword phrases,go here,separated by a comma,but not a space">

If the Keyword Meta Tag were a child, it would be put into a foster home due to all the abuse it has received over the years! Once upon a time, in the prehistoric days of the Internet (1995?), Meta Keyword Tags were a great little tool for the search engines to help them determine how to rank sites in their search results.

However, as always happens with anything this simple, the tag began to get abused. People (spammers) put keywords into the Meta Tag that had nothing to do with the content of their site. Because they knew lots of people were searching for things like "sex" for instance, they'd put that word in their Meta Tags a number of times in hopes of bringing in visitors, even though their site had nothing to do with sex! Personally, I don't quite understand that logic, because if it worked (it didn't), it would bring in highly untargeted visitors. Remember, all traffic is not created equal. The goal of any search engine optimization campaign is to bring in highly targeted traffic from those seeking exactly what you've got!

Over time, less and less weight was given to this poor abused Meta Tag, and more and more weight was given to the visible content of the pages. (For the record, content was always given more weight than Meta Tags.) Today the Meta Keyword Tag is quietly living in its foster home and is fairly irrelevant to getting found in the search engines. If you were pressed for time and had to give up one Meta Tag, this would be the one to give up. To be sure, some engines still do index the words within this tag (most notably, Inktomi and AltaVista), but they use it as a very minor supplement to the words in the body copy and the Title Tag of your page.

Should I Bother with Meta Keyword Tags?

Since the search engines use a wide variety of factors to determine site rankings, optimizing pages to rank high is a cumulative effort. Therefore, you should certainly use every legitimate optimization technique available, including the Meta Keyword Tag. At best, it may help boost your site a bit in those engines that still read them. At worst, it won't hurt your rankings (unless you brazenly stuff them full of keywords). If you are going to use them, make sure you use a different Meta Keyword Tag for each unique page of your site. The content on each page is different; therefore your Meta Tags should also be different.

What Should I Put in This Meta Tag?

First let's recap what needs to be done *before* you ever attempt to create your Meta Keyword Tag:

1. Keyword research through WordTracker to find keyword phrases that people are actually searching for. (That's my affiliate link to WordTracker.)

2. Choose two or three relevant keyword phrases to focus on for each page of your site.

3. Write or rewrite the site's copy based on your chosen keyword phrases.

4. Create a unique Title Tag for each page using the same keyword phrases your copy was based on.

5. Create a unique Meta Description Tag for each page as a marketing sentence, also based on your chosen keyword phrases for that particular page.

When everything is in place, creating your Meta Keyword Tags is now a snap! (If you skip any of the steps above, your Meta Keyword Tags will be fairly useless, so don't cheat!)

I usually start this tag out by first entering the keyword phrases I used in my Title Tag. Then I comb through each paragraph of visible copy on the page, note any important "bonus phrases" and copy & paste them into the Meta Keyword Tag field. Since you shouldn't generally have misspellings in your visible copy, you can add them to this Meta Tag. I happen to separate the individual phrases with a comma and no space, but that's just my preference. Using no commas at all in this tag is basically the same thing, and perfectly acceptable since most engines appear to treat commas as a space. (If you get nothing else out of this article, please understand that you shouldn't obsess over the age-old comma or no comma debate!)

What About Keyword Repetition?

Another common abuse of Meta Keyword Tags was -- and still is -- the repetition of words. Spammers found that if they repeated keywords enough times, the search engines would "think" they were relevant to the page and perhaps give it a high ranking for those words. Because of this abuse, too much repetition can now hurt you rather than help you. A good rule of thumb is never to insert the same word twice in a row in this tag, even if you're using different variations, and even if a comma separates them. (Variations include plurals, ALL CAPS, different tenses, etc.)

That's all there is to it. If everyone treated this Meta Tag with the respect it deserves, and put only relevant keywords into it, perhaps we could get it out of its foster home and back to its rightful place in the family of Meta Tags!
May 9, 2002

CEO and founder of High Rankings®, Jill Whalen has been performing search engine optimization since 1995 and is the host of the free High Rankings Advisor search engine marketing newsletter, author of "The Nitty-gritty of Writing for the Search Engines" and founder/administrator of the popular High Rankings Search Engine Optimization Forum. In 2006, Jill co-founded SEMNE, a local search engine marketing networking organization for people and companies in New England.

High Rankings is an internationally recognized search engine optimization firm located in Framingham, MA specializing in search engine optimization, SEO consultations, in-house training, site audit reports, search marketing seminars and workshops. High Rankings has a 100% success rate for substantially improving client rankings and targeted traffic.

Jill speaks at national and international conferences and has been writing about SEO and search marketing since 2000. She's been quoted in such publications as The Wall Street Journal, U.S. News & World Report and The Washington Post. Her articles have appeared in numerous print magazines and online websites including CIO Magazine, CMS Focus, The Internet Marketing Report, ClickZ, WorkZ, Inc.com, Entrepreneur, Lycos Small Business, WebProNews, SiteProNews and others. Jill has also appeared on many online and offline radio programs such as Entrepreneur Magazine's E-Biz Radio Show, SearchEngineRadio and the eMarketing Talkshow.

Search Engine Guide > Jill Whalen > Can the Meta Keyword Tag Bring High Rankings to my Site?