Meta Keywords: How To Choose Meta Keywords For SEO



Selecting the most suitable meta keywords for your content more or less involves the same techniques used for general SEO. These include in-depth keyword research and search intent assessment.


Key Takeaways:

  • Meta keywords contributed to a site or page’s ranking prospects until 2009 when Google confirmed it wasn’t using them anymore.
  • Despite losing their ranking factor status, meta keywords can still be invaluable in other areas, like mitigating the risk of keyword cannibalisation.
  • If you know how to conduct standard keyword research, you most likely know how to look for meta keywords.

For all their accuracy and versatility, search engines are still machines. Despite the recent technological advancements, they’re still unable to comprehend context at the same level as humans. At least for now, they can only work with the data inputted to them.

Until the algorithm gains such an ability (which is a slightly scary image), it falls on us to help it understand the idea or context behind each piece of content. One way is by using meta keywords, which is what we’ll be discussing here today.

What are Meta Keywords in SEO?

Meta keywords (also called meta tags) are snippets inserted into a webpage’s source code to help search engine crawlers understand what the page’s content is about. Below is an example of meta keywords used in the NO-BS Marketplace’s homepage.

<meta property=”og:locale” content=”en_US” />

<meta property=”og:type” content=”website” />

<meta property=”og:title” content=”Wholesale SEO | NO BS Marketplace” />

<meta property=”og:description” content=”Our top link building and SEO platform delivers genuine results in major search engines. Learn more about NO BS Marketplace today!” />

<meta property=”og:url” content=”” />

<meta property=”og:site_name” content=”NO BS Marketplace” />

<meta property=”og:updated_time” content=”2024-03-20T12:14:37+11:00″ />

<meta property=”og:image” content=”” />

<meta property=”og:image:secure_url” content=”” />

<meta property=”og:image:width” content=”759″ />

<meta property=”og:image:height” content=”506″ />

<meta property=”og:image:alt” content=”Wholesale SEO” />

<meta property=”og:image:type” content=”image/png” />

<meta name=”twitter:card” content=”summary_large_image” />

<meta name=”twitter:title” content=”Wholesale SEO | NO BS Marketplace” />

<meta name=”twitter:description” content=”Our top link building and SEO platform delivers genuine results in major search engines. Learn more about NO BS Marketplace today!” />

<meta name=”twitter:image” content=”” />

These strings of code don’t appear on the page, nor do they change the page’s appearance somehow. The algorithm will take a good look at this and determine that the content talks about our SEO services, allowing it to rank the page on the top search results page for relevant keywords. That said, meta keywords aren’t a ranking factor. Website optimization and on-page SEO elements are more important than focusing on keyword placement or meta keyword strategy alone.

No, that isn’t a typo. As far as search engine optimization in Google is concerned, meta keywords tags are useless.

Google has disregarded meta keywords in its ranking system since 2009, arguing they’re prone to misuse and abuse mainly through keyword stuffing. I can say that’s still the case today, as expressed by arguably the most uneventful Reddit thread in history.

Source: Search Engine Journal (screenshot from August 2023)

If that’s the case, why are we still talking about it? One reason is that Google’s competitors still use meta description tags for ranking websites, in particular Yandex (widely popular in Russia and several former Eastern Bloc countries) and China (the primary search engine in China). Others, like Bing, use meta keywords for other purposes, such as flagging low-quality web pages.

While different meta tags aren’t a ranking factor anymore, they can still be included in your digital marketing and SEO strategy for informing keyword optimization. By researching relevant keywords and including them in your page title, meta title tag, and meta description tags, you can help search engines understand your content and potentially improve your ranking on lesser-known search engines. This can also improve the user experience (UX) by providing search engines with more context about the content, potentially leading users to find what they’re looking for more easily.

Similarly, social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter have their own specific meta tags, a general set of tags known as Open Graph protocol that most platforms recognize. By properly implementing these social media meta tags (open graph tags), you can ensure your content is displayed attractively and accurately in the search engine listing, increasing the chances of people clicking through to your website.

Another post-SEO function meta keywords serve, according to Ahrefs, is that it helps with internal tagging. Its Page Explorer tool lets users steer clear of keywords already used on their websites. This reduces the risk of keyword cannibalisation or content within a single domain stealing link equity from one another due to using similar keywords.

Selecting the Right Keywords

The process for picking the best meta keywords tag for your content is more or less similar to choosing keywords to integrate into the content itself. In this case, the first step involves in-depth keyword research.

Just as a meta tag generator can be used to come up with different meta tags, one of the best practices is to use SEO tools to identify relevant keywords for your content. While it’s possible to do this with basic keyword tools, you’d want to invest in paid ones because of their far more numerous features. It doesn’t have to be the ones we mainly use, like Ahrefs and SEMrush, but go for it if you have the money. You can also use Google Analytics to understand your audience’s search behaviour and identify relevant keywords for these important meta tags or HTML tags.

Contrary to the keywords recommended for SEO, meta keywords are primarily short-tail ones instead of long-tail keywords. Because these go into the source code (or HTML code), making them unnecessarily long might risk hindering the page’s performance and complicate troubleshooting. While no limit exists, most experts agree that a page shouldn’t have more than ten.

Naturally, the keywords need to be relevant to the page’s content. As I mentioned earlier, a lot of sites in the past stuffed these snippets with every keyword they could put in, messing up the search results. If you’re optimising a product page selling wedding rings, your meta keywords should only be “wedding rings” and other close variations (e.g., “rings”).

Even when using keyword research tools, it pays to pay close attention to the search engine results they generate. I’ve had one instance where I looked for “SEO” but included a few keywords for a Korean individual with the surname of “Seo.” It’s uncanny, but such an oversight can cost your digital presence if the algorithm tracks you down.

Finally, there’s the matter of search intent, which I’ve discussed extensively in this blog. The meta keyword should match the specific type of content hosted on the web page. For example, this post needs a keyword with informational intent, such as “how to choose meta keywords for SEO” or something to that effect.

Meta keyword tags themselves are not ranking factors, but choosing keywords based on search intent can indirectly influence rankings. Understanding your target audience’s search intent is crucial when choosing different description meta tags. Crafting effective title tags and meta descriptions and using proper header tags remain essential for optimizing your web pages to attract organic traffic by improving the relevancy of your pages in the SERP.

Misspelled Keywords

Here’s an interesting idea. Some experts suggest including misspelled variants of certain keywords in the meta snippet. This may seem pointless, seeing that search engines have gotten better at correcting misspellings and leading users to the keywords they meant to search for, but hear me out.

By including a misspelled term, you can tell the algorithm that your content is relevant to it. There’s no risk of any penalty, because, as I’ve explained a while ago, meta keywords don’t appear on the page itself, nor does it exert much weight on Google search rankings.

But there’s a downside to this: users these days rarely misspell a keyword due to quality-of-life features like autocorrect and autosuggest. For this approach to work, the keyword must often be misspelled enough to be its own. A handful of examples exist, but they don’t happen that frequently.

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