Meta Keywords: The Definition and Its Impact on SEO

Tati Khumairoh

Tati Khumairoh

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meta keyword illustration by sequence stats team

Table Of Contents

    SEO is a complex practice where practitioners should look at many metrics to ensure its performance. Those metrics include optimizing meta keywords. This element is functioned to tell the search engine about the content of a page.

    However, this is not a ranking factor that Google uses to rank search results. So, is it still relevant to use it? In this article, you will learn about meta keywords ranging from the definition, usage, and how to implement it.

    What Is A Meta Keywords?

    Meta keywords are a type of meta tag embedded within the HTML code of a webpage. These tags provide a brief, structured list of keywords or phrases that are relevant to the content of the page. The purpose of meta keywords is to inform search engines about the primary topics and themes covered on the webpage.

    For example, if a webpage offers information about "vintage guitars," the meta keywords might include terms like "vintage guitars," "collectible instruments," "guitar history," and related phrases. These meta-keywords were initially designed to assist search engines in categorizing and indexing web content accurately.

    How Meta Keywords Were Used in the Past

    In the early days of the internet, meta keywords held significant sway in the world of SEO. Search engines, including Google, relied heavily on these meta tags to determine the relevance of a webpage to specific search queries.

    Website owners would meticulously craft lists of keywords related to their content and embed them within their website's HTML code. These meta keywords were like breadcrumbs for search engines, guiding them to the most relevant content.

    Even if it is no longer considered a ranking factor today, meta keyword is still informative for search engines to understand a page.

    Why You Should Not Use Meta Keywords

    In the ever-evolving landscape of SEO, one question that frequently arises is whether or not you should use meta keywords. The short answer? No, you shouldn't. Here's why:

    1. Outdated and Irrelevant

    Meta keywords are a relic of the past, an outdated meta tag that holds little to no sway in the realm of modern search engine optimization. Major search engines like Google and Bing have long since disregarded meta keywords as a direct ranking factor. 

    Their algorithms have evolved to focus on more sophisticated and meaningful ranking signals.

    2. Potential for Harm

    In fact, using meta keywords in your HTML can have adverse effects on your SEO efforts. Some search engines may even interpret the presence of meta keywords as a spam signal, which could result in your website being penalized or experiencing a drop in rankings. 

    Furthermore, by including meta keywords, you might inadvertently reveal your keyword strategy to your competitors, giving them insights into your SEO tactics.

    Better Alternatives Exist

    Rather than allocating time and effort to meta keywords, your SEO strategy is better served by concentrating on other, more influential meta tags. Two such meta tags that deserve your attention are the title tag and meta description.

    • Title Tag: The title tag is arguably one of the most critical on-page SEO elements. It not only affects how your webpage appears in search engine results but also plays a significant role in enticing users to click through to your site. Craft unique, descriptive, and relevant titles that align with the intent of the search query.

    • Meta Description: Equally important is the meta description. This concise snippet of text beneath the title tag can greatly influence a user's decision to click on your link. It's your opportunity to provide a compelling summary of your page's content. Ensure that your meta descriptions are both informative and engaging.

    While you can technically still include them in your HTML, doing so is unlikely to benefit your SEO efforts and may even harm them. Instead, shift your focus to optimizing other critical aspects of your website, such as the title tag and meta description, to enhance your search engine visibility and improve user click-through rates.

    Use of Meta Keywords

    Meta keywords, despite their diminished importance in SEO, can still serve some valuable use cases beyond traditional search engine ranking. Here are a couple of scenarios where meta keywords may find relevance:

    1. Internal Tagging System

    Meta keywords can be repurposed as an internal tagging system for your website or content management system (CMS). In this context, you use meta keywords not for SEO, but as a way to categorize and organize your content internally. This approach can offer several benefits:

    • Content Organization: By assigning relevant meta keywords to your pages or articles, you create a structured system that helps you and your team easily locate and manage content. This can be particularly useful if you have a large website with a substantial amount of content.

    • Facilitate Navigation: Meta keywords can assist in creating tag-based navigation systems for your website visitors. Users can click on a meta keyword to find related content, improving their overall experience and increasing engagement.

    • Content Recommendations: Meta keywords can also be used to generate content recommendations. If a user is reading an article with specific meta keywords, your system can suggest other articles with similar tags, enhancing user engagement and keeping visitors on your site longer.

    2. Finding Competitors' Keywords

    Meta keywords can sometimes provide insights into your competitors' keyword strategies, although this is less common in modern SEO. Here's how you can use them for this purpose:

    • Competitor Analysis: When exploring a competitor's website, inspect their HTML source code to find their meta keywords. While many websites no longer use meta keywords, some may still include them. These keywords can offer clues about the topics and themes they are targeting.

    • Keyword Research: Use competitors' meta keywords as a starting point for your keyword research. While not as valuable as other keyword research tools and methods, they can provide a basic idea of the terms related to your industry or niche.

    It's important to note that the availability of meta keywords on competitors' websites is becoming rare, as they have fallen out of favor in SEO practices. Therefore, while these use cases can still be relevant, they should be supplemented with more modern and comprehensive keyword research and content organization strategies.

    Conclusion

    It is clear that the days of using meta keywords to directly boost your search engine rankings are long gone. In fact, their use for this purpose is not only ineffective but can potentially harm your SEO efforts, as some search engines may interpret them as spam signals.

    As an alternative, you can optimize title tags and meta descriptions to help search engines find your content. Then, monitor your page performance using Sequence Stats to know their daily ranking and make a progressive optimization. 

    Picture 1 - Sequence Stats dashboard.

    Picture 1 - Sequence Stats dashboard.

    This way, you will be focused more on the content that serves value to the users and boost the ranking accordingly.