Spending time perfecting your website's key words? Don't.

Monday, March 16, 2015

I regularly encounter clients and even other web designers who are working hard to perfect the meta keywords for their website in search of the ultimate SEO.

It's usually quite a shock when I tell them:

Search engines no longer use keyword meta tag data to rank or search websites.

In fact, more often than not, keyword metadata could even harm your search ranking since sites like Bing use keyword data as a spam signal.

According to Google way back in September 2009:
"Our web search disregards keyword metatags completely. They simply don't have any effect in our search ranking at present.  About a decade ago, 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."

So does this mean metatags are dead?

No, not at all. Ranking in Google these days is more to do with relevance, reputation and popularity  than meta tag optimisation, but meta tags, when used properly can still be useful in a number of areas not with just ranking pages.

The metatag formula is to match the Page Title to the Meta Description and the Page Content. Make sure that the title and description reflect the actual content of the page. Remember, you're trying speak to human visitors, not search index bots.

In addition, there are other metadata that Google and other search engines pay attention to such as mobile information and rich snippets (microdata).

Content is King

As I've always said and will keep saying, "Content is King".  If your page is rich with relevant data, the search engines will use it. Quality and uniqueness of content is what wins.

But what if I have a store that sells, for example, shoes, how do I compete with all of the other stores that sell shoes if my unique keywords don't matter?
This is a question we get often. This is where your thinking must change and where you need to focus your marketing on something unique to your store.

For example, the old way was to load your meta information with items such as "shoes, shoe store, great shoes, new shoes, air jordans, adidas, online shoes", etc.

With the new formula, concentrate on what is on the page. So if you offer free shipping or sell a unique brand of shoes, put that in the description metatag:

"Free shipping on online shoes, clothing, and more! 365-day return policy, over 1000 brands, 24/7 friendly customer service.

Then be sure those words appear on the page's content.

Bottom line: Popularity is what the search engines like

Yes, it's true. The search engine game is now a popularity contest - not a technical one. In addition to relevant, rich content and good structured data, your marketing focus should be on your reach. Get the word out, get on the (oh no!) social networks. The more "popular" sites your on, the more popular and relevant the search engines think you are. It's hard work and takes time... but it's free!