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If I have 2 keyword meta tags on my page how are they read? Both together? Only the 1st? Only the 2nd? Neither?

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4 Answers 4

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Yes.

If only one meta element with the keywords name would be allowed, the spec would restrict it, like it does with the description name:

There must not be more than one meta element with its name attribute set to the value description per document.

It doesn’t restrict it for the keywords name.

The algorithm even considers that there might be several meta-keywords per document (bold by me):

For each meta element with a name attribute and a content attribute and whose name attribute's value is keywords, run the following substeps […]

All keywords from all meta-keywords elements will be added to a single list by user agents.


Example:

<!-- … -->
<meta name="keywords" content="foo, bar" />
<meta name="keywords" content="acme" />
<meta name="keywords" content="foo, bar, doe" />
<!-- … -->

User agents that follow the HTML5 spec should extract the following keywords list for that document (note that duplicates will be removed):

  • foo
  • bar
  • acme
  • doe

So it’s equivalent to a document with only one element:

<!-- … -->
<meta name="keywords" content="foo, bar, acme, foo, bar, doe" />
<!-- … -->
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fantastic answer. thank you. –  Jon Nov 10 '13 at 14:43
2  
From Google's point of view, you can add as many of them as you want -- they're all ignored for web-search. –  John Mueller Nov 12 '13 at 23:35

While it is possible other search engines still use the keywords tag, Google does not. I'm fairly certain Bing doesn't either. (Edit: As Stephen says below, Bing actually does still use the meta keywords, though the article {and a few more recent ones} imply that it's not a major factor and spammy action is still bad).

http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2009/09/google-does-not-use-keywords-meta-tag.html

Even if any old engines still did use it, using two would most DEFINITELY be considered keyword stuffing.

Edit

All right, to give you a little more detail... I can't see why you would care about the meta keywords tag if you didn't want it to effect your rankings, BUT! here's the thing. It's not used by any major search engine anymore. It's almost completely ignored. This means that it won't do you much good or harm unless your site is already being heavily punished for other spammy actions.

To answer your question, though: Hypothetically speaking, if there was a right way, this question does an okay job of answering it. Please do NOT pay any attention to the answer below it that wasn't accepted, I'm not sure where they got their information, but it's flat out wrong. The accepted answer is decent.

In your case, two keywords with five apiece would definitely not be considered as bad as a keywords with 50, but it could have been consiered spammy if you consider the fact that you're legitimately trying to use two separate tags with the same thing.

HOWEVER, and this is very important, if it's not used in ranking anymore and the mighty wizards at Google themselves have said it has no effect on ranking, that means it's being ignored. IF it is being ignored, that means that neither one tag with 50 nor two with five apiece will make any difference. If it's just for documentation on your part or ranking on an older or non-English search engine that still uses keywords for some inane reason, I say go for it.

Further Reading

Keywords for Heading Tags (Not meta, this is more what matters now)

Moz's SEO 101 Manual (Describing that the Meta Keywords is effectively worthless now - this resource is considered to be one of the standard texts as they keep it very up-to-date and generally know what they're talking about)

How Meta Keywords Used to Work

Google's Algo Change History and How Long Keywords Have Been Irrelevant

In terms of other keywords, I'd bet money you'll start hearing more about entity search soon as it overtakes the traditional use of keywords. Might be good to start reading up on it now. http://searchengineland.com/eating-my-keywords-173936

If this still didn't answer the question to your satisfaction, let me know, I can certainly find more. :D

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1  
the title says it not used for web ranking. Im not looking for web ranking. Why would it most definitely be considered stuffing? Missed the proof or reference that would back this claim up. Why would 2 tags with 5 words in total be more stuffing than one tag with 50 words? –  Jon Nov 7 '13 at 15:50
1  
Sorry, your question is very vague and this is pretty common knowledge in SEO these days. After two years, I forget the blogs I find information on some times. I assumed you could find it pretty quickly if you did some additional research. Why do you care how they're read if you don't care how they effect ranking? If they don't effect ranking, that means that they're probably both read, but both are ignored. It would be like a compiler taking C++ comments and not doing anything with them. They're treated as junk data. –  Drew Copenhaver Nov 7 '13 at 17:44
    
Add some detail to your question and I'll give a more thorough, documented answer. ^_^ –  Drew Copenhaver Nov 7 '13 at 17:45
2  
Bing does use meta keywords as a signal (although probably not much) –  Stephen Ostermiller Nov 7 '13 at 18:43
    
Huh, I remember seeing that article a while ago, but I could've sworn they didn't use it anymore. I'll edit my response to not be so hasty about Bing. –  Drew Copenhaver Nov 7 '13 at 19:42

The better practice is to create only one keyword tag and use the most related and unique keywords. Two tags may put an impression as you are doing stuffing.

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Question not on best practice. Why would 2 tags with 5 words in total be more stuffing than one tag with 50 words? –  Jon Nov 7 '13 at 15:49
1  
I found the Meta Keywords Tombstone in the Internet Cemetary. It moans on cold windy nights and is channeled frequently by SEO mediums trying to convince you it's still alive, especially by desperate cold callers trying to justify wasting your time. –  Fiasco Labs Nov 8 '13 at 2:53
    
There is no need to use two tags for 5 keywords. I agree with you at question not on best practice. But mostly seos use two keyword tag when they want to put a lot of keywords –  Mir Hammad Nov 8 '13 at 10:01
    
@mir why is there no need to use 2 tags for 5 keywords? The way the page is set will necessitate or not. Can you not conceive that maybe there is a reason for 2 tags for 5 keywords? –  Jon Nov 10 '13 at 14:44
    
@Jon Because its not a good practice and Search Engine will weight the first one more than other. In most of the cases it will only consider first one. –  Mir Hammad Nov 11 '13 at 9:00

Matt Morgan did some testing of pages having multiple title tags and multiple meta description tags. He found that for both the page title and meta description, the first one was the one that was used most of the time.

However, he could get his alternate title and meta description to display in the SERPs by changing his query to be words from the alternate.

I would expect search engines to handle meta keyword tags in a similar way if they supported them (which Google does not.)

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