Some Ado About, Well, Almost Nothing: Meta Keyword Tags

100909_googlegingerbreadmanOK, so, big deal. Google came out and said “no, we don’t take meta keywords into consideration for ranking (so stop trying to sue us over them).” Then Yahoo!, at SMX on October 6th, said “hey, neither do we.” Big surprise, that. (Does Yahoo! even really care about search anymore is a bigger question. Hey Y!ou – make up your friggin’ mind!)

Then, in the same brief Search Engine Land article announcing Yahoo’s meta keyword news, Barry Schwartz said “Bing doesn’t support the tag.” Really? That’s not what Bing says. A July blog post from the Bing Webmaster Center Team says that while the ” tag’s keyword attribute is not the page rank panacea it once was…” webmasters should still take the opportunity to “score keyword credit.”

It’s almost the opposite of a shock to hear that meta keywords carry negligible weight in the major engines. Long gone are the days when you pop open the code of, say, a free credit report site and see: meta name=”keywords” content=”free credit report free credit report free credit report free credit report britney spears britney spears britney spears free credit report free” etc. infinity.

Ah, web nostalgia – I almost choked up a little bit.

Regardless, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that sort of meta spam is an unsustainable practice. Google didn’t get where it is today by being stupid. Just evil.

Just kidding.

Here’s the thing – meta keywords tags don’t take much time. Nor do they take much thought. Some in the industry feel that if that they do nothing, or next to nothing, you shouldn’t use them because they give your competitors insight into your important keywords. But I think if your competitors are relying on your meta keywords tags to figure out your strategy, they’re hardly competitors. Further, if you’re worried about giving away competitive information, and your competitors are that bush league, and meta keywords do nothing, why not just fill that tag with a zesty word salad (meta name=”keywords” content=”monkey senility, chimp rampage, chihuahua apocalypse, drew barrymore roller derby)? That’ll show ’em.

Organic optimization is both an act of major revision and a matter of degrees, of deluges and drops in the bucket. Why use meta keywords if they probably don’t matter? If there’s still an “if” attached to “meta keywords matter,” if there’s still a “probably,” and if they do no harm and, importantly, if there’s the potential they’ll pull some weight in the service of your or your client’s site, well, why not?