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Google Uses The Meta Keyword Tag


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#1 Jill

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Posted 07 January 2011 - 08:56 AM

I have an interesting story I wanted to share with you about Google and the Meta keyword tag...

Some months back I realized that the internal search engine that works in conjunction with my content management system (on the main pages of HighRankings.com not the forum) used the Meta keyword tag to show the most relevant pages. Oops, I thought, I guess I probably should have been using the keyword tag on my posts as it would likely improve my site visitors' chances of finding what they were looking for.

So for many of the more recent posts I've made in the newsletter section, if there were words that weren't really being used within the content itself, but were relevant to the article, I'd stick them in the Meta keyword tag (when I remembered).

Here's where the story gets interesting.

The other day I got a Google Alert for High Rankings which looked odd. It was a search result page from my site.

My first thought was...wth? I thought I blocked all search results from appearing in Google.

I don't know if you've noticed, but for the past few years Google puts some pretty weird stuff into search boxes of websites and indexes the resulting pages. And by weird, I mean they'll put single words such as "the" or "bed" or whatever. It can lead to some really silly pages being indexed, which I'm not typically a fan of.

The other problem with search results pages being indexed is that for most sites, their search result template has the same Title tag of something like "Search Results" which when constantly indexed with different words leads to there being thousands of pages of nearly duplicate content. I typically recommend to my clients that they block all search results pages from being indexed, for this very reason.

Turns out that for the High Rankings site, I had in fact blocked the main search results pages, but I had missed the fact that we had a separate search function for forum pages (still within the main pages of the site, not the search function for the forum pages themselves). So that mystery was solved, and it wasn't a case of Google ignoring my robots.txt file.

But when I looked at the weird search result page they had indexed, I saw that the search result was for this search query:
"conversions, rewriting content, 301-redirects, website development, content management"

Huh?

I thought about it a bit as those words somehow seemed familiar to me.

AHA! I remembered that those were the very keywords I had put into the Meta keyword tag of my last posted newsletter article: 3 SEO Traps to Avoid During Your Redesign.

So what does this mean?

For one thing, it helps solve the mystery of where Google gets some of the weird stuff they stick in website's search boxes. It's certainly not the only thing they use, but they obviously use it as one way of making searches. I'm kind of surprised they put the whole string of keywords into the search box though. Why not use the comma separation and put the individual phrases in instead? Seems like that would be more useful. It's possible that they do that as well, of course.

The other interesting thing is that this means that the Meta keyword tag is not completely ignored by Google as most of us have believed. While it's still most definitely ignored in terms of it having any effect on whether your site will show up in a Google search, they do appear to extract the information for other reasons such as this.

Now I have to decide if I should block those forum search pages from being indexed or maybe let it ride so I can see what other interesting queries Google uses and try to figure out where they're getting them from.


#2 Sarah

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Posted 07 January 2011 - 09:20 AM

Hi Jill,

first of all, HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Secondly, thanks for highlighting this - it looks like something very interesting to review for internal linking and optimisation strategies.

It's also something which would potentially be something that a "naughty person" could use in a way that a "good person" wouldn't...! The good side in me has asked how I can justify having non-relevant to content keywords in the meta keywords field, whilst the naughty side is intrigued!

Sarah

Edited by Sarah, 07 January 2011 - 11:40 AM.


#3 piskie

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Posted 07 January 2011 - 11:12 AM

QUOTE
good side in me has asked how I can justify having non-relevant to content keywords in the meta keywords field

Exactly my thoughts too.
From years ago, I remember de-toxing a site with stuffed KW Tag and got an immediate improvement in SERPs. Ever since then, I have treated the KW Tag as only for words appearing within that page. No similes etc and certainly no giant list to be used site wide. These days I seldom use the KW Tag at all.

#4 Sarah

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Posted 07 January 2011 - 11:44 AM

QUOTE(piskie @ Jan 7 2011, 04:12 PM) View Post
These days I seldom use the KW Tag at all.


I'm also in that boat too, it's something that I use for relevant keywords or not at all.

I want to be good, and I will be good, but that is a very tempting carrot they have dangled for other people!

#5 Jill

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Posted 07 January 2011 - 02:54 PM

There's actually no use for the keyword tag for words that are already appearing on the page. The idea is to use it for keywords that don't already appear on the page, but which might be relevant anyway. After all, if they're already on the page, what good is it to use them again?

#6 nuttakorn

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Posted 10 January 2011 - 08:53 PM

This experiment could be interesting to use for long tail keyword strategy. Putting more synonym and relevant keywords in.

#7 Jill

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Posted 11 January 2011 - 10:46 AM

How so, Nuttakorn?

#8 piskie

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Posted 11 January 2011 - 12:22 PM

I think I know what you mean Nuttakorn.
Am I right in thinking that you mean if (very big if) perchance Google is now taking into account the contents of KW Tag, then very uncompetitive long tail terms could feature in the SERPs by simply inserting into that long ago disregarded tag. In a relevant and on topic page of course.

If so, then it is an interesting question and will probably get a bit of a speculative verifiable trial. If the results were positive, we will have gone full circle resulting in this Tag being once again abused and over-stuffed consequently again becoming as useless as we now assume it is anyway.

#9 Jill

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Posted 11 January 2011 - 12:26 PM

They (Google) still ignore it completely, however, for ranking. So what you're saying doesn't make any sense, unless I'm misunderstanding your meaning.

#10 piskie

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Posted 11 January 2011 - 12:42 PM

Lets take a slightly extreme hypothetical example, that a certain phrase only appears on the Entire internet in the KW Tag of say one page within each of 6 sites. Now if those 6 instances are the only appearance within any Google Data Centre, then what happens to that Quoted Search:
"long tailed five word description"

I doubt that question would have been raised before, but now Jill has established that Google does not completely discard and disregard the KW Tag contents, then the question begs an answer.


#11 Jill

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Posted 11 January 2011 - 01:31 PM

I've tested the scenario you mention, many times throughout the years and Google has never, ever showed the page in question for the search query in the meta keyword tag, regardless of the fact that there are no other relevant pages.

Believe me, they ignore the meta keyword tag completely when it comes to which pages to show in the search results. That is not in question within this thread.

#12 Alan Perkins

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Posted 12 January 2011 - 08:16 AM

QUOTE(Jill @ Jan 11 2011, 06:31 PM) View Post
Believe me, they ignore the meta keyword tag completely when it comes to which pages to show in the search results. That is not in question within this thread.


I'm lost. Earlier on you said:

QUOTE
The other day I got a Google Alert for High Rankings which looked odd. It was a search result page from my site.


You then went on to say that the search result was generated from the meta keyword tag in an article. So, it's fair to say that the on-site search result, which was generated by Googlebot from that meta keywords tag alone, created a new page - and that new page may have been the only page on your site, or indeed the whole web, which contained a particular set of words that would satisfy a long tail search. Therefore that new page would stand a good chance of being listed for said long tail search. Therefore the meta keyword tag in your original article has indirectly resulted in a page from your site being promoted in the Google search results. So this sentence ...

QUOTE
Believe me, they ignore the meta keyword tag completely when it comes to which pages to show in the search results


... would be better stated as something like ...

QUOTE
Believe me, they ignore the meta keyword tag completely when it comes to rankings - but it may influence the inclusion of some pages


... as getting indexed is the first step to getting ranked.

BTW, how do you know Google is doing this rather than, say, the forum software, or some oddball human or robotic third party creating strange links which Google then follows?

#13 Jill

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Posted 12 January 2011 - 09:02 AM

QUOTE
Believe me, they ignore the meta keyword tag completely when it comes to rankings - but it may influence the inclusion of some pages


I want it to be clear that the meta keywords contained on a given page does not influence the search results for *that* page.

While yes, it may cause Google to do fill out your internal site search page for those phrases, which in turn they index and the resulting page can then be found in the search engines, that seems to be the extent of it.

QUOTE
BTW, how do you know Google is doing this rather than, say, the forum software, or some oddball human or robotic third party creating strange links which Google then follows?


I suppose I am not 100% sure of it, but all signs so far point to it being Google. Will let you know if I spot anything that would be contrary to that.

#14 Mhoram

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Posted 12 January 2011 - 01:20 PM

Since most site-search programs will put your search terms on the page -- if only to say "Your search for 'blah blah blah' returned 0 results" -- then in theory you could get search result pages indexed for terms you never used except in a page's meta keywords tag.

It's hard to imagine they'd ever get ranked well enough to be useful, though. After all, you'd be talking about a search that didn't return any content (if it did match anything, the spiders should find it in the Real Content anyway, so there wouldn't be any advantage here) and there won't be any relevant backlinks to it.

#15 chrishirst

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Posted 12 January 2011 - 05:35 PM

QUOTE
that a certain phrase only appears on the Entire internet in the KW Tag of say one page
Been there, done that.

Been over two years ago now, still waiting for it to appear in Google.




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