The Meta Keyword Is Dead

If you ran a search on Google, clicked on the top search result, then failed to find the words you searched for on the page Google sent you to, would you consider that to be a good or bad experience? I’m guessing that 99% of you would say, “bad.”

Now, imagine that you work for Google, where your company’s revenue is based almost entirely on people continually coming back to your site to search for stuff. Consider how important it must be for Google to create good search experiences over bad ones like the one described above.

This is why search engines, including Google, have decided to drop Meta Keywords as a ranking factor for their search results.

Some of you may be thinking, “Wait, when did this happen?” Others may be thinking, “Dude, this is OLD news.” The correct milestone for this was October 1, 2002. That’s when Danny Sullivan, the most respected name in search engine marketing for almost as long as search engines have existed and continuing through today, declared the keyword meta tag dead on his site (at that time), Search Engine Watch.

Five years is a long time (especially in Internet time) for news to spread, but I can tell you that search engine ranking factors are still a mystery to most people.

In fact, I had lunch with a friend who tests and refurbishes industrial testing equipment for municipalities across the country. It’s not exactly glamorous work, but it’s a steadily growing business with a reliable customer base.

Like most small businesses, the web has become a major source of leads for his business. He dabbles a bit with pay per click advertising, but doesn’t really understand how PPC works, and especially not search engine optimization. In fact, he only learned the term SEO today. Luckily for him, he’s in an industry with little online competition so by simply having a web presence, many prospective customers are able to find him. He wouldn’t be so lucky is a more competitive industry.

He asked me about meta keywords after hearing about them from his website designer. She seems to know a lot about graphic design but little about search engines. This is troubling considering that the success of my friend’s business depends on her building a site that’s professional looking, easily navigable, and search engine friendly. Without all three factors covered he could end up with a great looking site that nobody sees.

The scary thing here is that he seemed to think – with his tip about Meta Keywords from his designer – that he had uncovered a hidden secret to high search engine rankings. By the look in his eye, it was clear to me that he was convinced that he could turn on a cash flow spigot with around 5 minutes worth of work once he implemented his designer’s tips.

Sadly, I had to let him down and explain that things of value come from hard work rather than loopholes that were closed more than half a decade ago.

What he failed to understand before lunch was that search engines already understand what he does. They just don’t think his site is the most authoritative site on the entire Internet for some terms he considers important.

To correct this problem he needs to increase authority rather than keywords. And authority, in the online world, is largely measured by how many times other websites have linked to your web site. Just like in the offline world, third party endorsements build more authority than anything you say about yourself.

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