One of the most misunderstood of the META tags is the “keywords” META tag. We’ve described over the last couple days how important the “title” META tag and “description” META tags are to your search engine placement, as well as to entice people to click through to your Web site. However, most people just don’t know what to do with the “keywords” META tag, and what to put there.

Where Does the “Keywords” META Tag Go?

Like the other two META tags we’ve talked about, it goes between the <head> and </head> entries at the top of your Web site. It should be coded like this:

<meta name="keywords" content="keyword1 keyword2 keyword3" />

Each Web page on your site should have a unique “keywords” META tag – they should all be different, so be sure not to copy them from page to page.

What Is The “Keywords” META Tag?

Originally, the “keywords” META tag was intended to help Web sites to show up on the lists like the early versions of Yahoo! and later, Google. Since “search engine optimization” or “SEO” didn’t exist back then, that was the best you could do. Unfortunately, it became a place for people to stuff all kinds of things to try to get higher positions in the search engines, as competition became fiercer. It evolved to such a point that the major search engines have finally stopped paying any attention to the “keywords” META tag at all.

It’s not uncommon to see something horrible like this:

<meta name="keywords" content="Alameda County Real Estate, Contra Costa County Real Estate, Pleasanton Real Estate, neighborhood advisor, home, agent, realtor, house, residential, broker, single family, condominium, townhouse, realty, Livermore, Fremont, Newark, Union City, Dublin, Pleasanton,San Ramon, Danville, Tracy, Brentwood, Walnut Creek, Concord,Mortgage Lender, Rates, For Sale by Owner" />

Guess what? This does absolutely NO GOOD whatsoever. Because this is so common and prevalent, the search engines stopped paying attention to this META tag a long time ago.

So What Do I Do?

If you want to omit the “keywords” META tag, go ahead. It won’t hurt you at all. It won’t affect your search engine position up or down, in any way whatsoever. I personally usually just include it but I put three or four words only. The words should be very specific to exactly what content is on that page. If you don’t mention a specific word at all in your body text, don’t include it!

  • Don’t put in plurals or other forms of words (conjugated verbs, etc.)
  • Don’t put in commas between the words
  • Don’t put combinations of words or phrases

So for the real estate office above, if they were my client and the page was about selling homes in Livermore, I’d just make the “keywords” META tag look something like this:

<meta name="keywords" content="livermore real estate homes for sale" />

Very simple, and very clean. If the search engines are going to pay attention to it at all, they will rearrange the words to suit them. I’ve spent no more than 15 seconds on it, and I’m done. However, as I mentioned, if you omit the “keywords” META tag completely, it doesn’t matter at all.

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