This blog post has been prompted by a client who has just sent an email saying that they would like several meta tags added to their Accountants site for SEO purposes as they felt that they were not featuring in several geographical areas that were nearby the city they were based in.
I had to write back to them explaining that not only did people search for professional services in their local area (so someone searching for an accountant in Peterborough would not be very likely to use an accountant in Cambridge, even if they found the Cambridge firm in a search for Peterborough Accountants) but that meta keywords have not been used by Google for some time.
In fact, I remember the fuss caused in the SEO industry when it was realised back in about 2005 that Google had stopped using them (as this Google blog post and video dated 2009 explains). This webmaster support post even goes so far as to list the meta tags that Google currently understands and you will notice that the keywords one is conspicuous by its absence.
If you compare this list with many of the meta tags that some SEO companies will tell you that you must have on your pages you will see that Google really only understands a small subset – there is no mention of the Revisit-After, Expires, Author and many others that I have seen recommended on SEO reports passed to me by clients. Even some of the listed tags are not normally needed, for example the meta Robots is often set to tell the search engines to index the page and follow the links on the page but as Google says, the default values are to index and follow so there is no need for these settings. As the webmaster support page above says “We understand the following values (when specifying multiple values, separate them with a comma):
- noindex: prevents the page from being indexed
- nofollow: prevents the Googlebot from following links from this page
- nosnippet: prevents a snippet from being shown in the search results
- noodp: prevents the alternative description from the ODP/DMOZ from being used
- noarchive: prevents Google from showing the Cached link for a page.
- unavailable_after:[date]: lets you specify the exact time and date you want to stop crawling and indexing of this page
- noimageindex: lets you specify that you do not want your page to appear as the referring page for an image that appears in Google search results.”
So to sum up, if you have a friend down the pub, or someone who phones you up offering SEO for Accountants, and they then tell you that you must have a meta keyword tag or your accountants website will not appear in the results, ask them if they have ever read the pages linked to above or even tested the theory that you can’t rank in Google without meta keywords. I am fairly sure the answer will be no.
Of course, if your friend or prospective SEO supplier can prove that you must have a meta keywords tag I’d be delighted to see the proof, you (or they) can leave a comment on this blog and let me know.