The discussion started with a question by Patrick Murphy of SiliconCloud:
Meta Keywords – Yes or No?
What are your views on meta keywords? I know Google have come and said that they do not use them but from my experience and clients experience they still have an influence. Can I ask what your experience or view is?
So far, there are 113 answers. The consensus seems to be that it does not help much for Search Engine Optimization (SEO), but it does not hurt much either. Here are some of the contributions that I found very helpful:
Kevin Micalizzi, Community Manager at Dimdim, points out what the policies of Google, Yahoo and Bing are with regards to Meta Keywords:
Google doesn””t use them:
Yahoo still recommends them:
Bing says you still get some credit for them:
Matt Sullivan, from HubSpot gives some perspective on the relative (lack of) importance of meta keywords:
Ultimately there are 5 main areas for On-Page SEO: 1. Title Tag, 2. H1 Tags, 3. Content, 4. URL, and 5. Image information (file name, alt-text, and surrounding text).
Keep in mind, On-Page Optimization only accounts for roughly 25% of your total optimization. The other 75% comes from the number and quality of your inbound links.
Fadi Semaan adds to this:
I need to add that content is a king so do not forget to use your keywords in the H2 Tags (Google gives it better rating than H1) and the text itself (content of the page)
Some posters expressed the concern that creating Meta Keywords makes it easy for your competitors to find out what your best keywords are. Christopher Regan of HyperDisk tells you not to worry about that anymore by pointing out that your SEO strategy and budget is out in the open anyway:
As to your competitors knowing what you are targeting they can use SpyFu.com and easily check on your PPC buys, then also use other tools for keyword/phrase density scans.
(If you have not checked out Spyfu yet, do it now: it is a real gem!)
Tom Lynch from Astek Consulting also points out good resources and best practices (lightly edited):
If you have limited budget and time, focus on unique HTML titles for every page that are descriptive of the content on the page. Lead with the targeted keywords and tag with the corporate ID (only if needed.)
Keep it under 65 characters including space and punctuation because Google clips it after that in the SERPs. Use tools like wordtracker.com and keyworddiscovery.com to determine the “right” keywords. Words people actually search for. Shoot for the highest search traffic counts with the least amount of competition pages. Wordtracker has added some nice features like all in url and all in anchor making it easier to hone which one to focus on.
Take a look what you have indexed on Google first by doing a search “site: http://www.put-your-url-here.com” and see what is indexed on Google. If you have thousands of pages on your site and only a few show up you have problem. It may be your CMS is not search engine friendly – got to fix that first…
But meta keywords are moot, moot moot! Meta description on the other hand – important. Not for scoring the page but often used as the snippet text in SERP””s. Must be unique for each page, keep it under 150 characters including spaces and punctuation and in addition to the page synopsis try to include a call to action.
David Hallmark at CrystalVision points to need to pick keywords that are (near the) top in their niche:
This whole conversation began as a simple question on Meta Keyword tag and has evolved into more. Trying to optimize for a generic term is well over so mostly we are left with the low hanging fruit or niche terms. Gather enough niche terms and you can begin to rank well for the generic terms as they relate. In the meantime you will have cornered your market.
On-page techniques won’t matter if you are going after terms that are too competitive. In our view anyway generic terms are tire kicker terms and actually don’t do any better response wise as a targeted term. “Real Estate” vs “Hawaiian Real Estate” makes a world of difference. (2.1 billion vs 146k results) Then again, “Hawaiian beach real estate” has ZERO competition!!!!!
There are 10’s of millions of wide open keyword terms to rank high for. Your keyword list is where your energy should be concentrated on. The problem with most lists is what’s good and do-able and which are tire kicker terms? A problem I’ve fought for years with internally and with clients. Without sounding “salesy” we developed a tool to do the really heavy lifting of your keyword research: http://www.keywordnichetools.com/
Simply put, knowing where the openings are you can toe wedge into even the tightest of markets. In the example you can rank high very quickly for 43 terms or spend months or years trying to rank well for 4. Your call but you knock those 43 out of the park. The other 4 will fall into place on their own! Or by that time you won’t care!!!
I am sure that Patrick Murphy feels he got his answers and then some!
I have created a Diigo list with all links (click here), including the cached pages of the LinkedIn forum for those of you who are not members yet (does anybody like that still exist?). Happy reading!