Meta Keywords: What Are They and Should You Use Them?
Meta keywords are tags placed in the HTML code of a page to guide search engines, essentially. There are many types of tags, and the basic one is used to assign focus keywords to the site.
It looks like this:
<meta name=”keywords” content=”search engine optimization, backlinks, seo”/>
This particular type isn’t a part of the Google ranking program officially, so most marketers neglect them. You can still use them to your advantage, basically because of the range of types that can ease anything from page crawling to user perception.
In this article, we’ll tell you about the different types of such meta tags, how and why they are used, how to use them, and whether it makes sense to insert them in your code in 2021.
Do Meta Keywords Influence Google Ranking?
For at least 10 years, Google officially doesn’t count meta keywords as a weighing factor in search ranking. And it’s logical since you can put any phrases in the code, the users won’t see them, but the spiders will.
However, there’s one thing to remember: SEO goes farther than Google. There are other search engines like Yandex, the leader in Russia, that might still use it. The representatives are quite vague about it, stating that the SE “can be used” as a relevance determinator.
This doesn’t mean the keywords in the code are essential, but if you’re targeting Russian traffic, it makes sense to insert the phrases.
Let’s see what other SEs opinions on meta keywords are:
One of the leaders in China, Baidu is also quite unsure about them. According to one of their engineers, the system doesn’t count code phrases as an important SEO aspect. However, last year, an official statement included them, as well as meta title and description, as important parts of the page evaluation process.
Bing doesn’t care about meta tags. Or so they say. In several statements, there was a mention of the uselessness of these. However, back in 2011, one article hinted that Bing uses keywords to determine spammy pages.
The leader of South Korean Internet, Naver never gave a clear statement on the meta phrase importance or lack thereof. So, logically, we conclude that it doesn’t count on this factor or it has a very low influence on the resulting rating.
Why such neglect? Mainly because many webmasters choose to use a meta keywords generator. It doesn’t bring value to the users unlike meta title and description. So, why use it as a weighting factor for page ranking?
There are plenty of SEO tactics that don’t need the use of a generator and can still communicate to search engine spiders. It’s like an audition for the focus keyword, where text, web design, visual content, and all kinds of other aspects matter much more.
So, How Meta Keywords Can Be of Help?
Now, we’ve established what are meta tags and gave you a nudge on whether you should change your attitude to meta keywords specifically. But are they so useless for other purposes than SEO?
Here are some instances where you may need them.
Internal Website Search
If you’re using one of the following for internal search, you will need meta keywords:
- Elasticsearch products.
Most others don’t use them.
Internal Website Tagging
This is a more interesting approach. You can add one focus keyword to every page. If it’s a blog, a clear fact is that you will need a target phrase for each of them. This will make it easier for the website to rank higher.
After all, the use of such keywords doesn’t harm SEO as much as it doesn’t aid it.
So, if you’re writing a post about link-building, insert:
<meta name=”keywords” content=”link-building”/>
Using long-tail KWs will also help since you may have many publications about backlinks and their use.
Here are the benefits of such an approach:
- Avoiding keyword cannibalization.
In case your blog has dozens of pages already, chances are you may forget having used a target keyword and write another post for it. Promoting both of the articles will make it confusing for the search engine, which may remove your website from the picture at all. Or you may have one more important page to rank, but instead, the other post ranks, ruining this part of your marketing and SEO strategy.
- Finding gaps in your page rankings and cooperating to improve.
Analyzing page ranking is crucial for the success of your optimization mission. If you see that one publication doesn’t rank well for some reason, look for bloggers, journalists, site donors, etc. to work together on the article upgrade or extra backlinks for more user visibility.
- Preventing material overlap.
When working for a large website with thousands of pages, it’s clear that out of all the people on the team, at least two will have similar ideas. To avoid material overlap, you can scan pages and find meta keywords that are similar or the same.
How to find meta keywords for every page? There are digital tools for that, such as Ahrefs Site Audit (Page Explorer section).
An essential part of your SEO and marketing approaches, competitor research has many sides. Another Ahrefs instrument, Keywords Explorer, is useful if you want to find out more about their websites. While experts say that at least 90% of webmasters don’t need meta keywords SEO-wise, around 33% of the sites still have them in their code.
At least a couple of websites competing with you will be on the list. You can find their seed keywords and get suggestions for your own to fill gaps and finally take your place in the niche (and the first Google SERP, maybe).
This might take time, but using the right filters, you’ll definitely find at least one relevant idea.
Keep in mind, though, that the same option is available for the competing sites. They can spy on you. If you don’t mind, go ahead and use meta keywords for your convenience. But if you’re secretive, it might be a good idea to remove the tags from the most important or well-ranked pages.
The bottom line: meta keywords have little to no SEO value, according to official statements of different search engine representatives. However, they are still important for code navigation and competitor research. You can increase your website’s reputation and ranking by using them not directly for your SEO but to find keyword ideas and avoid material repetition on the website.
Now, let’s get deeper into the topic of meta tags and their value. After all, meta keywords are just a piece of a puzzle.
What Are Other Meta Tag Types?
As we’ve established the definition and importance, let’s look into the different types of meta keywords HTML.
If you’ve been in copywriting for quite a while, you should have got at least several orders where meta tags were a must-do. The most essential is the title. Its purpose is to give users an idea of what the article is about. While the <h1> heading may be long or have the key idea at the end of it, the meta one should be concise enough to fit into the Google SERP title field.
To boost brand awareness, many sources add the name of their brand or website to the title.
The meta title length should be under 60 characters, according to Moz.
This type of tag is still widely used and you should write it at least for the key pages of your site. They improve aesthetics and visibility, helping users to understand whether or not they should read the piece.
How to write it:
Go to the <head> section of the page code and write
<title>Title | Brand/Website Name</title>
WordPress has many useful plugins like Yoast that will show you the right place for the tag.
So, is it essential?
But is it useful?
Here are some tips for writing a perfect title:
- Don’t write it as clickbait;
- Cater to the target audience;
- Match the potential query purposes your TA will make;
- Avoid vague words;
- Use the target keyword where it fits naturally;
- Consider adding the name of your brand.
What’s a meta description? This is a short snippet of the article, non-clickable like the title, which is shown in search results after the heading. It’s not always the chosen summary by Google, though.
Meta descriptions show people that the page is just what they are (or aren’t) looking for. The recommended length is under 160 characters.
How to put meta description into a code:
Go to the <head> section of the code and write
<meta name=”description” content=”Describe the content clearly.”>
Again, if you use WordPress, it’s easy to locate the right place with Yoast or similar plugins.
So, are meta descriptions essential for SEO or ranking?
But are they useful?
Google representatives say that this tag isn’t one of their ranking factors. However, it’s useful for Internet users. Having a clear, concise description will bring more organic traffic to your page.
Here are some tips for the best meta tag of this type:
- Make sure the description is unique;
- Don’t use vague words that will confuse readers;
- Encourage to click but don’t use clickbait techniques;
- Use meta tag checker to make sure you don’t exceed the character limit;
- Insert the focus keyword in a natural way.
This tag helps search engine spiders crawl the page properly. You can include several combinations of attributes there. It’s a very important part of the code since writing the wrong attribute may make it impossible to crawl your page. This means it won’t appear in search results at all.
You can optimize it in any way, but it just won’t show because you’ve told not to index this part of your website.
You can write the tag in one of 4 ways:
<meta name=”robots” content=”noindex, nofollow”> – “don’t index the page; don’t crawl its links”
<meta name=”robots” content=”index, follow”> – “index the page, crawl its content and links”
<meta name=”robots” content=”noindex, follow”> – “don’t index the page; crawl its content”
<meta name=”robots” content=”index, nofollow”> – “index the page, don’t crawl the content”
There are other attributes like noimagefollow, etc. But it’s not the material for this article.
So, is it an essential tag?
No. You can skip writing it, which will hint to the spiders that they should both index your page and look through the content and links.
But is it useful?
Yes. You can prepare the page or hide a broken one with a noindex tag or block suspicious links with the nofollow one.
This concludes our list of meta tags. There are more, such as meta viewport and charset, but they aren’t essential for the topic. Now, let’s conclude and see if you really need these tags for ranking purposes.
Summary: Should You Use Meta Keywords?
To sum it up: do you essentially need meta tags?
No, you don’t. Google states that they don’t take them as a ranking factor in their practices. However, they are very useful since you can talk to search engine spiders using them. Plus, you get the advantage of navigation through your pages.
Are they useful for other purposes?
Some of them are, like the meta title and description. If you have time and ‘just in case’, use meta keywords. If not, don’t. In case you monitor algorithm changes and SEO trends, which you should, there will be a hint when tags come back as a ranking aspect again.
You shouldn’t forget about the tags at all, of course. Meta robots, for example, can help you optimize your pages before indexing them to enter the search results higher from the start. You can hide broken pages, tell the spiders to crawl links on your website or not.
Meta tags are basically the language of the search engine. They are very useful. However, they don’t bring benefits rating-wise.