Sorry, Yahoo, You DO Index The Meta Keywords Tag

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.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Features: General | Microsoft: Bing SEO | SEO: Tagging | SEO: Titles & Descriptions | SEO: Writing & Body Copy | Top News | Yahoo: SEO

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About The Author: is a Founding Editor of Search Engine Land. He’s a widely cited authority on search engines and search marketing issues who has covered the space since 1996. Danny also serves as Chief Content Officer for Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo conference series. He has a personal blog called Daggle (and keeps his disclosures page there). He can be found on Facebook, Google + and microblogs on Twitter as @dannysullivan.

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  • http://www.seroundtable.com/ Barry Schwartz

    I feel like I was lied to. Remember Danny, I asked Cris “are you sure?” I had this feeling like he was wrong…

  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/brianrbrown identity

    I’ve had a similar “test” like this in place for months, which is also why I knew this wasn’t entirely accurate when I heard it. Yahoo and Ask both return a page on a site that only has a token word in the meta keywords.

    I totally agree with the feelings here, though I think the focus of the issue coming out of this is still the same… does it carry any value? Personally, I don’t think so because this testing generally only works on token words that don’t exist anywhere else.

    I’ve read some claims that it has made a impact in testing, but I’m skeptical that it makes enough impact to warrant much concern. And it would be such a small signal that it would be hard to truly test with confidence that some other signal wasn’t causing impact.

    And the thought of misspellings? Perhaps, but it’s the web… the engines are awfully good at understanding what was meant, and/or the odds are pretty good that there are enough web pages that actually have the word spelled wrong in the title tag, links to the page, or at least the body copy to challenge a single meta keywords placement.

  • http://www.benjarriola.com BenjArriola

    I was sitting in the audience when they said that, with doubts also I was testing it out on an old site we have always tested meta tags on which we always knew meta keywords was only for Yahoo. Wifi was not cooperating that time and I was checking everything on my cellphone and our test site that used to appear for yahoo was not appearing and told myself wow it’s true. Looks like I need to test further again. Maybe Yahoo has some delay in reading a page and analyzing before the full algorithm kicks in.

  • http://www.iprospect.no Maarten Berge

    I have also run a keyword test on http://www.iprospect.no/soekemotoroptimalisering-seo since the 27th of July. Look for the last keyword in the meta keywords tag and do a search for it on Yahoo! The page will show up in the result so yes Yahoo! still indexes the keywords tag. I agree that it doesn’t carry much value. I did stuff in som real keywords on this page too but did not see any change in ranking in the Yahoo! index when searching those keywords. I have been monitoring this page every other day before and after.

  • http://searchengineland.com Andy Atkins-Krüger

    Just to add to the thread – we ran the same test on WebCertain.com – no results for Google – Yahoo pops up clear as you like.

  • http://www.everfluxx.com/ everfluxx

    OK. So, if the simple occurrence of a search term in the meta keywords tag content is the weakest of ranking signals for Yahoo, how come my blog home page ranks #1 for the unique string a6l0j8f6jg9l30s12ew6nun9kr21qxe0, when there are at least two other indexed pages with the same string appearing in the document body? :)

  • http://www.audettemedia.com Adam Audette

    My take is that Yahoo’s algorithm is broken, and/or no one even understands it anymore. Which is probably okay, since Bing will soon be taking it over anyway.

    The meta keyword is dead! Long live the meta keyword!

  • bwhalley

    Maybe they meant that they still index it for content, but do not consider it for ranking order purposes?

  • http://www.liveambitions.com liveambitions

    Why do we care if Yahoo indexes the contents of the meta tag…? It still doesn’t play a role in the SERPs. SERPs are what we care about.

    In fact, Google does the same thing. Google may use your meta tag description in the SERPs, but it does not weigh into the rankings.

  • http://www.rosmarin-search-marketing.com MyronRosmarin

    Danny, you said it best “this hurts my head.” We attend conferences like SMX to get the most up-to-date and accurate information on all things SEO. We use that information to inform our clients what they should and shouldn’t be investing their valuable resources on. Mis-information by major search engines makes us ALL look bad … the SEOs, the speakers, the conference, and in fact the whole industry. In a week when our integrity was questioned in so ugly a manner as Derek Powazek did, we didn’t need this too. While the Meta Keywords field may have once been the most easily abused SEO trick in the book, it’s purpose for being has always made sense. We “tag” content all over the web, why not do that on our own web pages as well?? Search engines should be smart enough by now to know when that tag is being mis-used. Once again, the many are punished by the few. grrrr.

  • http://www.linkedin.com/pub/0/472/2ab JasonR

    Great!!! I just told a major client that they should forget about using the meta kwd tag cos none of the major SE’s use it any more. Not that they would they’re major SEO blog readers. Anyway, not going back to tell them that yahoo really dont know whether they use it or not, but not very professional of them!!

  • http://www.everfluxx.com/ everfluxx

    LOL, it seems that Yahoo has finally removed my blog from this SERP.

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