Oh, that this weren’t true. Last week, Yahoo made news by disclosing that it had quietly dropped support for the meta keywords tag. As a long time hater of that tag and the insane questions it has produced, I was thrilled! But today, I see conclusively that Yahoo still supports the tag.
The test was simple. I placed a unique word in the meta keywords tag on the home page of Search Engine Land. This word — xcvteuflsowkldlslkslklsk — generated no results on Yahoo when I looked earlier this week. Today, when I searched, it brought back the Search Engine Land home page. Thus, Yahoo indeed indexes the content of that tag. (And to be clear, I looked before writing this article. In short order, this article itself, along with others, will appear because they’ll make use of that word).
During the session last week at SMX East, when Yahoo said it no longer supported this tag, several in the audience said they didn’t believe it. I was kind of struck. You’ve got a search representative flat-out saying they don’t do something, but no one wants to believe them? How things have changed. Sure, I can see distrust on some controversial issues (such as whether Google really does not count nofollowed links out of Wikipedia). But why would Yahoo lie about something like meta keywords support?
To be clear, I don’t think Yahoo was deliberately lying. The representative was probably confused in some way. Similarly over at Bing, despite them NOT supporting the tag (it’s not mentioned here) and never having done so since they launched their own search technology, they recently blogged much advice about using the tag.
As I commented about this:
That reads like someone got a copy of really old SEO advice and decided to put it out there regardless of what Bing actually does. I mean, my head hurts, but not everyone cared about commas or not. And no one had this 874 character limit. I mean, if you went over, it was no big deal. And the don’t repeat more than 4 times? According to what. Microsoft never, ever had its own guidelines like this.”
It’s a good reminder to the search reps. In many ways, you occupy god-like status on issues relating to SEO. Everything you write, everything you say will be fully believed by some. And if you’re not correct, you’ll confuse people and cause others to lose faith in you. If you don’t know, don’t say — or qualify: “I’m not sure” or “I’ll check on that.”
Postscript: Yahoo’s sent me this:
What changed with Yahoo’s ranking algorithms is that while we still index the meta keyword tag, the ranking importance given to meta keyword tags receives the lowest ranking signal in our system.
Words that appear in any other part of documents, including the body, title, description, anchor text etc., will take priority in ranking the document – the re-occurrence of these words in the meta keyword tag will not help in boosting the signal for these words. Therefore, keyword stuffing in the keyword tag will not help a page’s recall or ranking, it will actually have less effect than introducing those same words in the body of the document, or any other section.
However, when no other ranking signal is present, unique words that only appear in the meta keyword tag section of documents can still be used to recall these documents.