Meta keywords are meta tags you may employ to teach search engines more about the content of a page. They are hidden from view by visitors and may be discovered in the HTML source code of a website.
Here’s an example of a meta keywords tag:
<meta name="keywords" content="seo, search engine optimization"/>
Most website builders and CMS make it easy to add meta keywords, but is it worth the effort?
Do you still need to use meta keywords?
The meta keywords tag hasn't been used by Google to rank web pages in at least ten years. We are aware of this since Matt Cutts, a former member of Google's Webspam Team, released the following video in 2009:
[…] we don’t use the keywords meta tag in our search ranking
In 2020, most SEO professionals, according to a recent Twitter poll by Bill Slawski, will no longer use the meta keywords tag.
There are a few reasons why you would still want to use the keywords meta tag, but it's important to keep in mind that SEO involves more than Google.
1. It may still be used by Yandex
With a market share in Russia that is almost identical to Google's, Yandex is the biggest Russian search engine on the Internet. Meta keywords “can be used for calculating the page's relevancy to search queries,” according to their official description.
Does this imply that Yandex search has a history of using meta keywords as a ranking factor? No. However, the information is probably still correct since that page has only been accessible since late 2018.
Even so, it's definitely a low-weight factor, as someone on Twitter pointed out.
It looks like none of the major search engines employ meta keywords; if you're curious about other search engines:
In a blog article from 2014, Bing stated that the meta keywords tag was “dead in terms of SEO value.” When Bing's Head of Evangelism tweeted the same thing in 2020, it served as an effective confirmation of this.
The meta keyword tag is dead in terms of SEO value for @BingWMC. We exclude it and ignore it. @CoperniX @facan— Christi Olson (@ChristiJOlson) May 29, 2020
But Bing hinted in 2011 that it may be used as a spam signal to help identify low-quality pages. Whether this is still the case is unknown, but it is clearly not a ranking factor.
The statement “Meta keywords have long been in the trash heap of history, and we will ignore them immediately” was made in 2012 by a Baidu developer in their webmaster community.
On a page updated in April 2020, they do, however, state:
Title, description and keywords are important for Baidu to evaluate page’s value.
It seems that the keywords meta tag might be a ranking signal in Baidu since it makes sense to trust the most recent information.
Naver manages 74.7% of all web searches in South Korea, according to Wikipedia. Although we were unable to locate a clear statement about their usage of the meta keywords tag, there is absolutely no mention of meta keywords in their in-depth guide to website optimization.
That leads us to the fact that it is either not used or has very little weight.
2. It’s used for some internal site searches
The majority of widely used content management systems (CMS) don't use the meta keywords tag for internal site searches; however, certain internal search systems, such as SOLR, Algolia, and those based on Elasticsearch, may.
You may need to use the keywords meta tag if any of these serve as the basis for your internal search.
Other use cases for meta keywords
The majority of people don't need to use the keywords meta tag, as you've already realized, but there are a few uses for it.
1. Create an internal tagging system
The addition of meta keywords to pages is made simple by many CMSs, website builders, and free WordPress SEO plugins. This makes “repurposing” the tag for an internal keyword labeling scheme easy. Simply specify the tag as your page's target keyword.
For instance, if “SEO advice” were our page's target keyword, it would appear as follows:
<meta name="keywords" content="seo tips"/>
If you follow these steps on every page, it will be easy to determine in the future if you have previously targeted a keyword. Simply use an auditing tool, such as Ahrefs' Site Audit, to crawl your site, then use Page Explorer to look for pages that have your keyword in the meta tag.
There are three reasons it can be useful to do this:
- Help prevent keyword cannibalization. When a website targets the same keyword over multiple pages, this is known as “keyword cannibalization.” It may lead to a variety of situations, such as undesirable pages outranking good pages.
- Avoid overlapping work. If you work in corporate SEO, several teams and individuals are undoubtedly working on related tasks. Multiple teams targeting the same keyword may be avoided with the use of an internal keyword tagging system.
- Find collaboration opportunities. You could wish to work with another team to update and enhance your content if you see that you're not doing well for one of your keywords.
Just keep in mind that there is one possible drawback to using the meta keywords tag for this reason, which we'll discuss in the next section.
2. Find ‘seed’ keywords from competitors
According to a recent Twitter poll by Bill Slawski, around 33% of people still use the meta tag. This may be quite helpful for identifying “seed keywords” during keyword research since some of those people will undoubtedly be your rivals. Simply look at the competitor's homepage for the keywords meta tag.
Here is an example of the keywords meta tag for the main homepage of a well-known toy retailer:
It includes several keywords relating to toys, including games, inflatables, sandboxes, slides, climbing equipment, and climbing frames.
You may pick a list of keyword ideas by pasting any pertinent ones into a keyword research tool like Ahrefs' Keyword Explorer. There are tens of thousands, if not millions, of keyword suggestions available, along with anticipated monthly search volumes and SEO metrics.
You may focus your search by using the built-in filters.
Here, for instance, are all the hand puppet-related keywords with low keyword difficulty ratings.
Just be aware that you may need to search a few websites before you find any useful seed keywords since many sites either leave their keyword meta tags empty or fill them with useless content.
How to remove meta keywords
Because your rivals may use the meta keywords to “spy” on your keywords, you might assume that they can do the same for you. For that reason, you may wish to get rid of any leftover meta keywords from your website unless you have a good reason to keep them there.
However, you must first find them.
Ahrefs Webmaster Tools let you do this for free. Simply register, use Ahrefs' Site Audit to scan your website, and then apply these Page Explorer filters:
The pages on your website that include meta keyword tags are shown for you to view.
No pages with the tag exist if there are no results.
The next step is to go through and remove the tags from any problematic pages.
Just be aware that if you have a large website with keyword meta tags on every page, it generally isn't worthwhile to do this. The likelihood is that the same meta keywords are being collected from a single place in your CMS, template, or theme if you see them on all pages. If so, you can probably remove it by modifying a single line of code, and it will disappear from all pages.
Having said that, it's important to remember that adding meta keyword tags to your website won't likely have a detrimental effect on its SEO. Your time would likely be better spent somewhere else unless you're very worried about rivals “taking” your keywords.
The meta keywords tag is worthless for 99.9% of people, and writing it out is a waste of time. When using it for an internal keyword tagging system or internal site search, you should only do so if you have a specific reason in mind.
Your title and meta description should get more attention than other meta tags.