Just when I finally stopped getting the dreaded "Do I need commas or
no commas in my Meta keyword tag" question, there's been a new stream
of Meta tag questions being asked at the forum and in my email box.
I'm not sure of the reason for the sudden interest, but it's probably
because people are starting to worry about other engines besides
Google now. I have written articles about all of the tags, but it
seems like a brief summary is probably in order.
It's important to note that there's a big difference between Title
tags, Meta description tags and Meta keywords tags. First of all, the
Title tag is *not* a Meta tag. So if you see/hear me say something
about Meta tags, I'm by no means talking about the Title tag.
Title tags are extremely important towards your goal of achieving high
search engine rankings. What you write in these tags can indeed
affect how your site ranks in all the major engines. (See the
recently updated "All About Title Tags"
) You should always
work your major phrases into the Title tags on your pages, and make
sure that each page of your site uses a unique tag.
Meta description tags, on the other hand, don't actually appear to
affect your rankings in the search engines. Still, they are very
worthwhile to use because they allow you to control the description of
your listing in some engines for some search queries. (See my past
newsletter article, "Getting a Great Google Description"
.) The gist of that
article is that your Meta description will show in the search results
only *if* it happens to use the exact phrase that has been queried at
the search engine. So use this tag for marketing purposes, i.e., to
entice people to click on *your* link as opposed to the other 10 in
the search results.
Meta keywords tags are a different animal altogether. Google, for
one, doesn't pay any attention to it. I've tested this myself, and am
100% positive that Google doesn't index the words placed in the Meta
keywords tag. Yahoo (and all of its search properties) plus Teoma/Ask
Jeeves, do look at the Meta keywords tag, and do index its contents.
BUT, and this is a huge BUT, that doesn't mean that filling this tag
the same keywords you've optimized your page for will boost it in the
Let me say that again.
Just because Yahoo knows what words you've put in the Meta keywords
tag does not mean that the words you put in there will give your page
To me it's common sense.
Let's say you've optimized a page for "black hat SEOs." So, you've
used that phrase in your Title tag, you've written your content about
black hat SEOs, and you've got some links pointing to the page that
use "black hat SEOs" in the clickable portion of the link. Do you
really think that also adding "black hat SEOs" to your Meta keywords
tag would be just the thing it needs to get it found for that phrase
in Yahoo? I don't. Maybe, just maybe if 2 sites were identical
except one had the phrase "black hat SEOs" in the Meta keywords tag,
that one would show first, but 2 sites are never identical. (Plus the
engines are always trying to put a stop to duplicate content.)
Does this mean you shouldn't use the Meta keywords tag? No, not at
all. You certainly don't *have to* use it, as it shouldn't affect
your rankings for the keyword phrases that matter to you most;
however, you could still use it for phrases that are somewhat obscure
and just don't belong visibly on your page. I talked about this a
couple of years ago in this article: "No Meta Keywords"
. I really think that
misspellings and technical synonyms are the best (and possibly only)
use for this tag.
As to the age-old comma/no comma question (and I actually did get this
one asked today!), it makes no difference. Commas are seemingly
invisible to search engines, so it's pretty much the same thing to
them whether you use them or not!
I hope this helps clear up some of the confusion about Meta tags, and
to also clarify that when I say that Meta tags are dead that I'm most
definitely not talking about Title tags, as they are not a Meta tag.
And I'm not talking about the marketing value of a Meta description
tag. Certainly, if it makes you feel good to use your Meta keywords
tag and put your main keyword phrases in there, then more power to
you. It won't hurt anything, and who knows...maybe that page that
fits the "all else being equal" scenario will show up one day and
you'll have them beat by a Meta keyword! ;-)
September 15, 2004