That is an excellent question. One which is asked (and debated) as often by experienced SEOs and Web designers as it is by people new to the industry.
The keywords meta-tag was created when the web was young to help site designers let engines know what a Web site was all about, and it worked well. Too well. Early SEOs started abusing the system by stuffing them with popular search terms that were not at all related to the current page to drive up rankings and page views. The search engineers figured this out pretty quickly and either decreased the importance of the tag, or ignored it completely.
So why the debate then? Because two of the major engines, Google and Yahoo seem to have different opinions of the tag. Yahoo tells us to use it to improve the ranking of our sites. Though they give no indication of it’s importance. On the other hand, Google says nothing about the keyword meta tag. They don’t say to use it, but neither do they say they ignore it, as they do with other tags.
I recently conducted a survey of SEOs, Web Designers and E-Marketers to see who uses the keywords meta-tag. 45% of respondents said they do not use the keywords meta-tag.
In September, 2007 Danny Sullivan from searchengineland.com proclaimed his hatred of the keyword meta-tag and attempted to kill it once and for all. His article was well researched, articulate and convincing…to some. Scrolling to the bottom you’ll see the same debate again with some agreeing with Danny, others disagreeing.
So what’s the average Joe to do when the experts can’t even agree? That’s a decision you’ll have to make on your own. However, I will tell you that I use them.
Why do I use them? First because it’s easy to do. Second, if I don’t stuff them and the engine(s) use them, I get a boost (however minor it may be) in the Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs). If the engine(s) don’t use them; well, I’m only out a minute of my time.
Yahoo tells us they use it, so that’s a no-brainer as far as I’m concerned – why waste a little help?
Google, well that’s a bit more tricky. Their silence on its use makes me suspect that it is used by the algorithm in some minor way. Perhaps as a part of an overall keyword checklist; I think they read all the places a keyword might appear (page title, URL, description, keywords, content, alt tags, headings, etc.) and compute a score. Of course no one but the engineers know for sure. So again, if they do use it, great. If not, well I’m not out anything but a minute of my time.
If you decide to use them, use only about 15-20 words that relate to the content of the site – DO NOT STUFF THEM WITH SPAM.
So what will YOU do? I’d like to hear your thoughts.