Google ranking and meta tags

Google confirmed that it does not use the keywords meta tag in web ranking. While this might be new to some people, Google actually ignored this tag since its foundation, back in 1998. The reason is obvious and explained below. Google also does not use the description meta tag for its search ranking.

The four most popular questions regarding how Google handles meta tags are answered by Matt Cutts, part of Google’s Search Quality Team.

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Q: Does Google ever use the “keywords” meta tag in its web search ranking?
A: In a word, no. Google does sell a Google Search Appliance, and that product has the ability to match meta tags, which could include the keywords meta tag. But that’s an enterprise search appliance that is completely separate from our main web search. Our web search (the well-known search at that hundreds of millions of people use each day) disregards keyword metatags completely. They simply don’t have any effect in our search ranking at present.

Q: Why doesn’t Google use the keywords meta tag?
A: About a decade ago, search engines judged pages only on the content of web pages, not any so-called “off-page” factors such as the links pointing to a web page. In those days, keyword meta tags quickly became an area where someone could stuff often-irrelevant keywords without typical visitors ever seeing those keywords. Because the keywords meta tag was so often abused, many years ago Google began disregarding the keywords meta tag.

Q: Does this mean that Google ignores all meta tags?
A: No, Google does support several other meta tags. This meta tags page documents more info on several meta tags that we do use. For example, we do sometimes use the “description” meta tag as the text for our search results snippets, as this screenshot shows:

meta description

Even though we sometimes use the description meta tag for the snippets we show, we still don’t use the description meta tag in our ranking.

Q: Does this mean that Google will always ignore the keywords meta tag?
A: It’s possible that Google could use this information in the future, but it’s unlikely. Google has ignored the keywords meta tag for years and currently we see no need to change that policy.

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In a nutshell, the phrase “content is king” still applies and it’s very likely this will be the case for many years to come. If you have quality content, search engines will eventually appreciate it; just make sure it is well written and has proper titles… oh, and keeping it simple and clean usually helps.

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