Today I was updating a page for one of the law firms that I work with. I was shocked to see a large string of keywords stuffed into the meta keywords tag. I was less surprised to discover that their previous SEO had done this for them. Ugh. This attorney, as many are, is very curious, so I threw together something like this below for him. I decided to turn the email into content as I often do for many clients.
At best, meta keywords are useless
Google announced back in 2009 that they quit using them “many years ago”. Without digging up archives (yes, I have them going back to ’91), I am pretty sure that I personally quit taking meta keywords seriously in 2003, and quit using them all together in 2005. I do not have details but I am sure this was after much testing.
Why meta keywords could be used as a negative signal
Back around 2002 people could rank sites by stuffing their code with keywords and key phrases. I had discovered sites that ranked very well back them and inspected their code. What I found were comments in code filled with keywords. To this day some spammers use this tactic on churn and burn sites (sites they only want to rank very briefly). Could a line of useless code stuffed with keywords be used as a negative signal? Hmm, probably not, but I personally wouldn’t risk it.
Some people say that Bing and other search engines still use meta keywords. I can’t believe that it would be a positive signal of any sort in 2015. Many outdated legal and real estate websites still serve up a field when pages are created which may be populated with meta keywords. To the average user, this may look like a good place to put keywords. It makes sense, right? Wrong. Search engines became much smarter, many, many years ago.
If you do not want to listen to reason and think Google is lying to you feel free to use meta keywords. It will be in your best interest to just use one or two that accurately describe the page. If you are that worried about ranking, meta keywords are probably the very least of your problems. Unique, quality content is by far the most important thing you can put onto your website.
tl;dr Meta keywords are more likely to do more harm than good.