It’s not 2002 anymore.

Years ago, sites were able to provide keywords in their metadata. These tags signaled to search engines what topics were covered on the site. However, many webmasters and marketers abused this by adding too many keywords, or adding completely unrelated tags, to attract more traffic. For this reason, meta keyword tags are no longer recognized by the major search engines, but many legal marketing companies continue to sell them as part of their “optimization techniques.” While there are several useful meta tags worth using, meta keywords are now a waste of your time and money.

What are meta tags?

Meta tags are used to provide search engines with information about your site. They are placed in the header and are not visible to site visitors. Not all meta tags are a waste of time. Your site should be taking advantage of the title and meta description tags. Title tags are generally used as the search result title (the blue link). Meta descriptions are often used to populate search snippets (the short description). However, Google may create its own if the search engine feels other text from the page would be more appropriate for a search query.

Google also supports using meta tags to control robot behavior and tell Google whether to allow translation on a page. A list of supported meta tags is available here.

Meta keywords are not on the list

That’s because Google does not recognize the meta keyword tag. It’s been that way for a while. In 2009, Google’s Matt Cutts posted a video explaining why the search giant ignores the keywords tag. He explained the tag had been abused too much, because it allowed webmasters to add whatever text they wanted without it ever appearing on the site. People were adding keywords for unrelated searches or using every possible term or phrase related to their site. It was misleading for search users and created a bad online experience for people who were actually searching for information or a service.

The Google News exception

Google did announce in 2012 that Google News publishers can use the “news_keywords” tag. But getting your content published on Google News is a higher standard, so they are basically trusting their publishers not to abuse it and risk losing accreditation.

Chances are your firm’s blog is not a Google News publisher. But even if it is, the “news_keywords” tag is different than the “keywords” tag. Web searches continue to ignore both.