I can’t count the number of times I’ve been asked by clients to add a list of keywords to their website so they “show up in Google” and I need to explain that it just isn’t that simple. Yes, there was a time when it did make sense to update your Meta Keywords Tag with a group of keywords relevant to your product or service. The truth is, Google hasn’t paid attention to your keywords tag for years now and completely ignore them when deciding who will rank where within the search engine results pages.
Matt Cutts, the head of Google’s Webspam team, has confirmed that they no longer use the keywords meta tag as one of their ranking criteria and haven’t done so since at least 2009. Why the change? About a decade or so ago, most search engines (including Google) simply judged the relevancy of a website to a particular search phrase based on the content of the website. There were little to no “off page” ranking factors taken into consideration such as the number and quality of links pointing to the site. Online marketers and spammers found it easy to “stuff” their content and meta tags with useless or irrelevant keywords to help propel them to the top of the search results. Google’s ultimate goal is to present the most relevant and best quality information to their users for any particular search phrase. In order to weed out these spammers, Google and the other search engines updated their algorithms to ignore the keywords meta tag and take numerous other factors into consideration for ranking purposes.
Google has ignored the keywords meta tag for years and currently we see no need to change that policy – Matt Cutts, Google Webspam Team
Google uses over 200 signals in their web search ranking but the keywords meta tag is no longer one of them. So in short, there is no reason to update this tag when one of my clients sends me a list of keywords with the hope of outranking their competition. In fact, it can even have a negative effect. There is anecdotal evidence that the search engines still do scan the keywords meta tag simply to penalize spammers who still insist on trying to game the system with this outdated method.
The reality is, that if you’re trying to rank for even a somewhat competitive search term, meta keywords won’t help you do so. Instead you should be focused on providing your users with engaging, meaningful content on a technically well optimized platform along with quality, relevant backlinks and regular social engagement. That’s what builds great rankings, meta keywords have nothing to do with it.