Yes Virginia, Bing DOES use the Meta Keywords Tag

Not sure how this escaped my attention until now, but late last year, Bing apparently publicly acknowledged that they still support the META Keywords tag.Bing and meta keywords tag

Here we all were thinking that the tag had quietly died in it’s sleep after a prolonged illness. After all, the last remaining engines it was hooked up to had gradually switched off support, Danny Sullivan had publicly declared the tag dead and spammy meta tag content had become the subject of myth and legend, mentioned only in humorous anecdotes shared over drinks at search industry conferences.

But despite what we all thought, Bing has indeed been indexing the content of the META Keywords tag, but as a signal for detecting low quality sites, rather than influencing page rank. What has caused all the renewed interest and kerfuffle? Duane Forrester, Senior Product Manager for Bing, kicked off the confusion when he said this about the tag on Webmaster World last year:

Meta keywords is a signal. One of roughly a thousand we analyze… Abusing meta keywords can hurt you.

Then followed a cloud of webmaster confusion and forum banter about whether SEO’s should resurrect the tag on their client sites or not.

As far as I know, Bing is the only remaining major search engine putting their hand up to claim they index the META Keywords tag. According to Forrester’s recent discussions with Danny Sullivan, they use it as one of their page quality signals, so it doesn’t contribute to page ranking as such.

So here’s the deal: the content of the tag may help Bing understand the context of your page, but it won’t impact where your page ranks on Bing. In fact, if it is stuffed with too many keywords or repetitions, the tag may send a *low quality* signal to Bing about your site, so it is best created very carefully or not used at all.

For educational purposes, we are still asking Search Engine College students to create a META Keywords tag as part of their assessment items. However, this is to ensure that students know how to craft the tag correctly, in case they decide to use it or are required to craft one in the future for employers or client sites.

If you are still using the META Keywords tag and it looks like an endless keyword repository, I’d suggest changing the content to focus on keyword variations that are still related to your page content, but that you’re unlikely to use in the visible content on the page. Things like synonyms, plurals, jargon, regional variations, related terms and word stemming.

If you don’t currently use a Meta Keywords tag, don’t automatically assume you need to create one just for Bing. If you get it wrong, it will likely do your site more harm than good.

 

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Q and A: Should my meta description tags just duplicate my title tags?

QuestionHi Everyone

From early days learning SEO, I went ahead and did all my meta descriptions with a bit of blurb about the page but my *Guru* has told me this is incorrect and I should include only the title of the page in the meta description, eg “Antique Dining Chairs” whereas I had put in “Antique Dining Chairs – over 500 chairs on display at the Glebe Antique Centre. Dining chairs to match your table, occasional chairs for that special place in your home”.

Any thoughts before I go and change everything yet again?

Christine

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Hi Christine

From where I’m sitting, your *guru* is wrong. Remember, your meta description tag is often used as the snippet on the search results pages to describe your site.

So apart from including keywords, it has to do the job of convincing people to click on it. A nonsensical list of keywords is not going to convince people to click so you have to balance it out with an appealing sentence, preferably including a call-to-action or reason to click.

Yes, it’s important to put your keywords at the start of the tag if you can, but you have up to 160 characters in that tag indexed by search engines, so you should use the space to your advantage. Having a short, unimaginative meta description or simply copying your title tag is not going to make any difference to your overall rankings and is more likely to turn your potential visitors off.

Google admitted that it no longer considers the meta description tag in their ranking algorithm anyway, so, other search engines aside, the main job of the tag in Google SERPs is to convince people to click on the link and visit your site.

Put it this way: if you were in the market for an antique chair and you saw the following two listings in Google, which one would you click on?

  • Site1.com – “Antique Dining Chairs.”
  • Site2.com – “Antique Dining Chairs – over 500 chairs on display at the Glebe Antique Centre. Dining chairs to match your table, occasional chairs for that special place in your home.

I’m thinking Site2.com – am I right? And – oh look! The longer tag managed to include *dining chairs* twice and a whole bunch of other keyword phrases as well: *dining chairs Glebe*, *chairs Glebe*, *occasional chairs*, *Antique(s) Glebe*.

Case closed.

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Q and A: Do you need to use consistent title tag format on each web page?

Hi KalenaQuestion

I’m just reading over Rand Fishkin’s article Title Tag SEO Best Practices referenced in SEO 101 and I have a quick question regarding the bit below:

“Many SEO firms recommend using the brand name at the end of a title tag instead, and there are times when this can be a better approach. The differentiating factor is the strength and awareness of the brand in the target market. If it is a well known brand, and it can make a difference in click-through rates in search results, the brand name should be first. If this is not the case, the keyword should be first.”

Do you need to be consistent with the format you use on each page of the site? That is to say if one page would benefit from having the Brand Name first while other pages would have more strength using the Primary and Secondary Keywords first is that okay from a design/authoring point of view?

Thanks,

Tiffeny

Hi Tiffeny

Great question! Every SEO will probably have a different answer to this, but I’m a strong believer in optimizing on a page-by-page basis.

Using the reverse pyramid analogy, every page on your site is a potential doorway, with your home page at the very bottom of the pyramid.

You might assume visitors all come via the home page, but if your site is well optimized, they rarely do. They will arrive via the page that best matched their search query. So you need to optimize each page as though it alone can be found in the search engines.

So you should optimize your title and other tags accordingly, to match the content on each individual page and the keywords you are targeting. If that means putting the keywords at the start of the tag, so be it.

Hope this helps!
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Q and A: Which search engines still support the META keywords tag?

Hi KalenaQuestion

In one of your previous posts, you said to include the META keywords tag to provide those search engines that DO support it with as much information as possible about site content so they can index it correctly.

My question is: Which search engines still support the META keywords tag? I know there is the experiment conducted by Danny Sullivan to refer to, but that was posted in 2007. Just want to know what is the latest on this.

Thanks

Stephanie

Hi Stephanie

Here’s a link to the What is SEO? Beginners Guide published by SEOmoz.

According to Chapter Nine of that document, Yahoo! is the only major search engine that still supports the Meta Keywords tag and they claim not to use the content for ranking, but merely for content discovery.

Hope this clarifies things!

Kalena

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Q and A: Will I lose existing rankings if I take over the SEO?

QuestionHello Kalena

As I work my way through your SEO101 class, I am using my husband’s business website as my guinea pig. However, he and I have been wondering what happens to ranking once the Title Element, Description tags, and Keywords are altered?

For example, my husband’s website ranks #5 on one search engine. But he’s been (over) paying some company to do his SEO. So if I make changes, with his permission, am I going to mess up what few results he has gotten from this other company’s efforts?

By looking at it, I’d say that my work is already better. I’m just worried about the other stuff “behind the scenes” that this other company has been doing that may be accounting for rank.

To provide a complete picture, I should say he has had no social marketing done on his behalf, no blogging, no updates to his website or keywords, no YouTube videos. I can’t tell WHAT they’ve been doing for the last year.

Any input would be greatly appreciated!

Paula

Hi Paula

First thing you should do is to take a record of the site’s existing title and meta tags, as well as making note of current rankings for target keywords. If you plan on making changes to the visible text on the site pages (recommended) for SEO purposes, you should also make a record of the existing pages prior to your SEO.

That way, if for some reason your SEO experiments don’t result in better rankings, you can revert back to the current versions. But if you are applying what the lessons are teaching you, I am guessing your SEO activity will pay off. No way to know for sure without jumping in and giving it a shot!

Regarding this other company your husband has hired – they should be providing you with a full report of the exact SEO activities they have been undertaking. If they can’t explain or choose not to fully reveal the methods they have been using, there is likely something dodgy going on. Unless their process is completely transparent, I would be very suspicious of any SEO company claiming *behind the scenes* activity.

Hope this helps!

Kalena

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