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.