Are website keywords useful?

There’s been a lot of debate about whether a website needs to have keywords in the head code.

Here is what Google say…

Q: Does Google ever use the “keywords” meta tag in its web search ranking?
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?
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?
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 screen shot shows:

Q: Does this mean that Google will always ignore the keywords meta tag?
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.

So why is the influence of the meta tag keywords high?
Especially because by using them wrong it will affect your ranking in a negative matter. Misuse will lead to negative leverage. That means that by using the meta tags keyword it will only effect your website in a very small or hardly any way but by using it wrong it could have a negative effect.

and independent analysts typically say…

One of the most asked questions I receive from clients and webmasters is does Google still utilize meta keyword tags in SEO ranking factors. Many SEO professionals debate over this controversial issue. The debates are based on an article published by Matt Cutts of Google released in September of 2009. The article, which was also accompanied by a video, informed us that Google no longer uses meta keyword tags as a SEO ranking factor. It was after this statement was made that many asked what all the other search engines were doing in regards to the use of meta keyword tags, and after much research, this is what I found out.

Google’s Standpoint: Not Used

As the article above stated, Google has mentioned they no longer utilize meta keyword tags in their algorithm for search rankings. Google did say that they will not guarantee any perminence in this decision in that there is no promise that it will never be used again, however, they did say it was highly unlikely they will use meta tags as a deciding factor in the future. There are still individuals who believe meta keyword tags can have negative ranking effects by using them on Google, however, I have been unable to substantiate this in my findings or find anything official that backs up this theory.

Yahoo’s Standpoint: Rarely Used

It was around the same time in 2009 that Google announced they were no longer using meta keyword tags that Yahoo announced, at their SMX East Conference, that Yahoo’s search engine would also no longer use keyword meta tags in their ranking algorithm. It was this announcement that was followed up with an article from Search Engine Land specifying they conducted an experiment and found the Yahoo statement to be false.

In summary, Yahoo accredits virtually no weight to meta keyword tags. If there are no other ranking factors on your website other than meta keyword tags then Yahoo will use the tags as a last resort for your pages ranking.