My understanding is that the meta keywords tag was long since removed as it was far too open for abuse and gaming.

Search engines are a lot more intelligent now, why is the same criticism of the meta keywords not applicable to the meta description?

Is this going to be phased out in the future possibly? Or does it hold actual long term value?


2 Answers 2


Meta keywords have never been removed and probably never will be (they are still included in the HTML5 specification) because they're too useful. Just because they're no longer used by search engines for ranking websites (because contextual keywords are more reliable for that purpose) doesn't mean they don't exist or have been removed.

Meta data is used by more than just search engines. Meta descriptions, besides being used in search results, are also used by any application that needs to automatically generate a description or summary of a webpage. This includes screen readers, social media sites like Facebook/Twitter/Del.icio.us which allow you to share links (the meta description is used as the link description) and web browsers (where they're used as the bookmark description).

Likewise, meta keywords are still useful for applications that need to pull a set of keywords associated with a page when it's not convenient or practical to extract them from the page, or when manually entered keywords are more accurate than ones pulled from the document.

Not everything has to be related to SEO. Meta data has been central to datawarehousing, machine-learning, knowledge management, and other related fields for decades. As a general tool, it's also used ubiquitously by programmers in everything from file systems to version control systems to multimedia formats. And its use on the web will only continue grow in relevance and popularity with the growing adoption of semantic web technologies.

So this attitude that many SEO-obsessed people seem to have that 'meta data is dead because Google won't rank my site better for it' is really quite shortsighted. For people who think like that, maybe meta data isn't useful (at least not in the short-term), but for many many people out there, there are still plenty of applications for meta keyword, meta descriptions, link rel attributes, microformats, and other forms of meta data.

  • 1
    One of the major areas SEO types really miss out on in e-commerce land is the need to have your own search engine and the need to optimize its search returns for your customers. The meta_keywords tag can serve as a source of supplemental aliases, synonyms, misspellings, etc that cause your customers grief. Colossal SEO fail, they know you, they get to your site, but they can't find anything once there. So, quit thinking of it being irrelevant because it can't be used to Game Google. Broaden your horizons as to what Search is really about. Feb 3, 2012 at 5:31
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    A well-designed site search will factor in metadata, but that does not necessarily mean that the metadata will be embedded in the documents it serves. Unless there is a clear requirement for embedding application metadata in your documents, why devote bandwidth to it? (See Doctorow's metacrap argument for why metadata has lost favor with search engines and applications which cannot implicitly trust document authors)
    – danlefree
    Feb 3, 2012 at 8:51
  • @FiascoLabs: in order to do search on your e-commerce site you won't need meta keywords in your page, but rather just in your Database. Dec 4, 2012 at 14:05
  • Well, then, put them there? Dec 4, 2012 at 15:18

In my humble opinion keywords are still useful even though they are not being used for ranking. They are useful for the content writer and potentially for the reader. If you know what people are searching for and what search terms they are likely to use you are then able to write your content based on those search terms and provide worthwhile articles. I still put them in my title, in the keywords meta tag and in the description for the purpose of making the content cohesive, not because it will help me get better rankings, but because it is good form for writing good content.

Regarding why the description is still looked at by search engines wheras keywords are not: it is my understanding that a description is more useful in getting a gist of what the page is about, and ultimately what the website is about, and therefore may be useful for posting 'as is.' The description also should include one or two keywords used in a sensible coherent way so the search engines see this as more genuine.


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