Answer: We get this question all the time. A lot of people seem to think that the keyword meta tag is all it takes to get listed in the search engines and if you are not listed you must optimize the the meta tags.
Here is a good example to start off with in an effort to try and dispel the myth that the keyword tag is so important. Mathematically if you figure for example there are 29,200,000 results for the search “affordable web development” it is near impossible to have 29,200,000 results sorted and ranked solely based on the 300 – 450 characters that might occur in the keyword meta tag. And that is for ONLY one keyword phrase combination. Most keyword tags contain many different keyword phrases. Next if you look at our site we rank #1 out 29,200,000 results for the extremely competitive keyword phrase “affordable web development” and here is the clincher …… we don’t have a keyword tag anywhere on our homepage.
Search results in yahoo
How do you suppose we rank so well and we don’t even have a keyword meta tag??? Because the search engines have stopped putting any importance on most meta tags years ago. I can find you hundreds of examples of top ranking sites that don’t even use ANY meta tags. We also rank #5 for “Affordable SEO” …. again we did that without using a keyword meta tag.
Back in 2002 Google began completely ignoring the keyword meta tag because it had become so misused. If you consider the amount of spamdexing (stuffing of Keywords shamelessly into Keyword Tags) it’s not hard to figure out why the search engines starting discounting this tag. In September of 2002 AltaVista also abandoned the keyword meta tag. At that time Inktomi was the only major search engine supporting the keyword meta tag. Since then the search engines have kept their algorithms and ranking criteria’s very close to the vest so no one knows for sure if any of the search engines even look at the keyword meta tag anymore. Most SEO experts agree that it is of very little importance. I challenge you to find me a SEO expert who would argue any of these points with me. In fact I would love to have anyone contact me and discuss why they believe they are important and the basis for why they believe that.
The ranking of a page for a specific keyword is a very complex process and the search engine algorithms have very complex multivariate equations taking into account dozens of criteria to sort and rank the sites for a specific keyword. This is precisely why “natural” SEO will be such an important discipline in the coming years. If you think about a specific keyword phrase that is important to your business …. there are essentially 10 spots for that keyword on the first page of Google. Those 10 spots are fixed and will probably not increase much. However, the number of companies competing for those top 10 spots increases every day and every month and every year. It is the law of supply and demand. The supply will not be much different 5 or 10 years from now. I can guarantee to you that the demand will however be VERY different 5 or 10 years from now.
Finally it is human nature to still do what you believe in your heart will help so for those of you who insist on playing with and changing the keyword meta tag here are a couple simple tips on using the keyword meta tags. Keep the number of repeated keywords or phrases to a maximum of three. Use Keywords, which are relevant to your page and target market and make sure any words used in the keyword tag for that specific page also show up somewhere on the visible part of the page. Keep the number of characters in the keyword tag to around 450 characters or less. If you ignore these rules you could incur a SE penalty which would do far more damage than the almost in-perceivable good that you think having the keyword meta tag will do you. Actually messing with the meta tags has the potential to do far more damage and than the very trivial good it could do. The “description” meta tag is treated differently and it is probably the ONLY meta tag that carries any weight with the search engines. But again there is very specific criteria on how to use this tag which I will save for another day.
I hope this was educational and takes one step in dispelling some of the very persistent SEO myths that are still circulating across the internet.