What Are Meta Keywords? No, They Don’t Matter


Well hello there! This is Robert (Bert) Berousek and Connor Bonam – SEO Strategists at Dealer Inspire – and we’re here to provide the answers to the SEO questions that our clients most frequently ask us.

Recently, we’ve been fielding some questions and concerns about meta keywords, and we felt this was the perfect opportunity to set the record straight on all things meta.

What Are Meta Keywords Anyway?

For those who may not know, meta keywords are a tag in the code of a webpage that, once upon a time, told search engines explicitly what the page was about. It looked something like this:

meta name=”keywords” content=”toyota camry, camry deals, largest toyota camry dealer, cheapest toyota camry, honda civic, nissan sentra, hyundai elantra, best compact sedan”

Stuffing a webpage with related and competitive meta keywords was a common SEO practice back in the innocent Internet days of 1995 when gas was $1.15 a gallon and Coolio’s Gangsta’s Paradise was the number 1 song on the charts

Because the meta keyword tags were invisible to users and only provided value to search engines, it was just too tempting for novice, and black hat SEO’s alike to take advantage of this feature. If this sounds like you could directly tell Google (or Alta Vista for our old school readers) what keywords you wanted to rank for, that’s exactly what it was. If you also think “that’s too easy” – you’re right again, it turned out to be.

Of course, as the web became more commercial, and spamming this keyword element became more and more prevalent, search engines really had no choice other than to start ignoring it.

Why Meta Keywords Don’t Matter

We could tell you why meta keywords don’t matter, but we figured it would be better for you to hear it directly from the major search engines themselves.

Way back in 2009, Google officially (and explicitly) stated that they don’t take meta keywords into consideration when determining how to rank a webpage. Not only was Google ignoring meta keywords in ’09, but they had been doing so for many years prior that point.

Why? Because people were using the meta keywords tag in an abusive and spammy way. Simple as that.

Also in 2009, at SMX East, Yahoo! announced they no longer took the meta keyword into account.  A fun(?) side note to that, Yahoo! does still index your meta keywords but in no way does that help your ranking.

Lastly, Bing chimed in on the subject in 2014 stating, “Today, it’s pretty clear the meta keyword tag is dead in terms of SEO value. Sure, it might have value for contextual ad systems or serve as a signal to bots plying the web looking for topics to target, but as far as search goes, that tag flat lined years ago as a booster.”

Will I Be Penalized If I Have Meta Keyword Tags?

If the meta keywords tag is being used on your dealership’s website, don’t worry. There’s no need for you to scramble to remove them because you are not penalized by search engines for using meta keywords – they are simply ignored.

Gary Illyes of Google said that meta keywords are not used to detect spam signals, like we said above, they completely ignore them. So, to reiterate, meta keywords will not be seen as a spam signal because search engines 100% ignore them, point, blank, period.

Ok Then, Why Are We Talking About Meta Keywords?

So we know what you’re thinking…if meta keywords have long been ignored by search engines and have no value, why on earth are you writing about it here on your blog?

That’s a great question and we’re glad you asked!

The main reason is actually an SEO Pro Tip that you can implement on your dealership’s blog starting today. If two or more people ask you the same question, write a blog that answers it. Clearly if multiple people have the same question, they’re likely to search for the answer, so why not give your business and website a chance to shine by creating captivating content that directly answers those questions? It’s a no-brainer and an easy way to make your website more relevant to more people.

Because a handful of clients reached out to gain a better understanding of meta keywords, we wrote this post to help answer it for anyone else, client or otherwise, who might also have the same question.

Let’s Recap The Meta Basics

Editing the Title & Meta Description with the Yoast SEO WordPress Plugin. Notice there’s no “keywords” section!

We would be remiss if we left you with the impression that any web element associated with meta was bad or outdated. Quite the opposite! Let’s briefly recap some other meta elements that are still used today and are of the utmost importance to your search engine visibility and driving traffic to your website.

While none of your web pages need meta keywords, every page does need a title and meta description.

Just a reminder, your title should be your search engine headline, it should contain your keyword, your secondary keyword, and if there is room, your brand name.

Via Moz: “While the title tag doesn’t start with “meta,” it is in the header and contains information that’s very important to SEO. You should always have a unique title tag on every page that describes the page.”.

Here’s an example:

2019 Toyota Camry Technology, Features & Specs | Toyota of Anytown USA

Lastly, there’s the meta description. While it’s not a ranking factor for search engines, it is important for users. Your meta description is essentially your ad copy used to describe a webpage to users as they scroll through the search results. The goal here is to write a description that entices the reader to tap or click your link in the SERP over the other available results.

While you still want to incorporate your main keyword into the meta description, you also want to use the available 160-170 characters to sell the value of the page. Writing succinct, enticing, meta descriptions is an art, as there is a fine line between being too keywordy and too fluffy. You have to find the balance.

Here’s an example to give you some inspiration:

The 2019 Toyota Camry comes with technology including Toyota Safety Sense, Apple CarPlay, Built-in WiFi, and more. See it for yourself today at Toyota of Anytown USA!

We should also note that even if you’ve crafted the perfect meta description for your page, there’s a chance Google will opt to use its own description derived from the content on the page instead.

This is fairly common, and it’s nothing to be alarmed about. Nor should you beat yourself up for writing a “bad” description. Google is simply applying machine learning to create a meta description for your page that it thinks will work best to encourage clicks to your website.

Hopefully you now have a better understanding of meta keywords and why you don’t need them in addition to the importance of the title and meta description for your webpages.

Connor Bonam
Connor is a SEO Strategist and 2017 Innovation Award Winner. At Dealer Inspire Connor has created SEO strategy through keyword research, competitor research, technical audits and creating link building strategies with a variety of automotive and non-automotive clients.
Bert Berousek
Bert is an SEO Strategist at Dealer Inspire who enjoys crafting expert-level, holistic SEO strategies for Dealer Inspire’s automotive clients. He also flexes his SEO muscles for non-auto clients specializing in technical SEO and overall web architecture. While he’d never say this to out loud, Bert is kind of a big deal.

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