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I have some irrelevant keywords high up in my Google Webmasters Tools Keywords list. Unfortunately it's stuff that needs to be on the site. E.g. I'm getting words like log (from log-in), copyright, privacy.

I heard in the past that you could apply class="robots-nocontent", but I don't think google uses this (and poss yahoo doesn't either with the bing change).

What, if anything can be done to downplay these keywords?

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That's a great question. I have several sites which have such keywords that get traffic but do not attract paying customers yet I still need the bandwidth to handle them. I guess this is part of the art of gently steering people away as Chris Guillebeau often suggests in his books. –  Itai Jul 18 '11 at 13:28
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2 Answers

Why would you downplay those keywords? Don't you want that traffic? You do know that you can rank well for an unlimited number of keywords and that ranking well for one keyword doesn't mean you can't rank well for another, right?

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Presumably, you'd want to downplay keywords that aren't offering much value for potential visitors - also, if Google thinks they are important, it's more likely to use content around those words in the auto-generated summaries, which won't give a searcher much detail about your page. –  Zhaph - Ben Duguid Jul 19 '11 at 15:40
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I'm not really interested in traffic from people who have searched for e.g. 'log' as it's just a waste of time and bandwidth, but then again I'm not really that bothered if I get it. I would just be happier if Google's profile of the site was more closely aligned with it's subject matter. –  UpTheCreek Jul 20 '11 at 9:29
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Just because you rank well for "log" doesn't mean it is hurting your ranking for other terms. If you don't rank well for those other terms it's because the content isn't strong enough as it is. Removing the other content isn't going to help that. Do a better job of linking your pages together and get better incoming links to your site. –  John Conde Jul 20 '11 at 11:47
    
@JohnConde there is a business cost associated with false positives. Our customer services just had to deal with someone trying to hire a bike, we don't hire bikes. Google thinks we do. –  NimChimpsky May 16 '12 at 11:40
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Annoyingly, Google's help for Keywords isn't all that helpful:

The significance of each keyword reflects how often it's found on your site's pages. [...] If expected keywords are missing from this page, this could be for a couple of reasons:

  • The Keywords list will sometimes exclude words that Google has determined to be boilerplate text or common words. The actual excluded words vary from site to site.

So it's clearly not picking up on your words (Log, Copyright, Privacy) as boilerplate/common - do they appear in a similar place in the mark-up on every page, or are they scattered around a bit?

It's possible that once HTML5 has more traction, the semantic elements of <header>, <nav>, <section>, <article> and <footer> would come into play, and therefore content within <section> elements would automatically be considered more significant than the content in <header> or <footer>.

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Thanks. The boilerplate is always in the same place on every page (and in the same part of the code), so I have no idea why google is not seeing it as such. I'm also already using the html5 semantic elements, so it seems google doesn't pay any attention to those at the moment. –  UpTheCreek Jul 20 '11 at 9:25
    
Yeah, I'd seen a couple of posts from last year suggesting they weren't really using it too much yet, as most sites aren't using it (or are not using it correctly). –  Zhaph - Ben Duguid Jul 20 '11 at 10:10
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