Back in the early days of website design, ranking on various directories and search engines was as simple as putting some info on a page and then crafting your meta tags. Search engines relied on what it said almost disproportionately to what was actually going on with the page itself. Its influence was so weighted that it quickly became misused and frustrating for developers who were playing by the rules as they got outranked by people gaming the system by keyword stuffing.
As it became glaringly obvious that the “honor system” wasn’t going to prevail, search engines quickly began to disregard it and it became the bastard child of meta tags. There were some meta tags that were still useful such as the title and description which gave developers an opportunity to convey what the site was about and there was no threat of misuse as search engines simply wouldn’t rank the site if the content didn’t match.
Other meta tags like content type, robots tags, content language, etc. were also no threat of being misused because if they weren’t correct, a wide host of problems could occur including your website not being displayed correctly. Those tags gave the search engines some of the meat and potatoes of how your site was structured.
But the red-headed step child of meta tags was still supposedly disregarded. Dating back to as early as 2009, Google Guru Matt Cutts indicated that Google does not utilize meta tag keywords. But then this year, it was revealed by ex-Google employee Andre Weyher that they do indeed look at the meta tag keywords to help contribute to understanding what the site was about.
It’s insinuated across the board that the meta tags will have no impact on your rankings, but that it does still provide an indicator to the search engines (Google, at least) that it is being used to add to their understanding of what’s on the page.
Additionally, you should make different meta tags for each page you have indexed. Duplicating your meta tags keywords on every page wouldn’t hurt your rankings, but you’d only be doing a disservice to yourself by not taking advantage of an opportunity to give a clearer picture to Google about your site regardless of how insignificant it may or may not be.
Most importantly, Google can smell keyword stuffing a mile away. There will be many who will continue to misuse the keyword meta tag and they’re only shooting themselves in the foot. Andre Weyher stated, “You shouldn’t overdo it. I see a lot of sites with a huge amount of them in the META data. Webmasters need to remember that the more of them you have, the less each one of them is worth!”
To stuff your meta tag keyword area or fill it with useless words like various city names (Atlanta car dealer, Lawrenceville car dealer, Marietta car dealer, etc.), colors (blue car, red car, green car) is a crying shame to waste your efforts on that ignorant decision. Let’s not forget that somewhere in that algorithm lies the schematic of what was once Google’s Wonder Wheel. That essentially means that littering your code with a dozen unnecessary variations is worthless since Google is well aware of the keyword hierarchy. Variances are fine, but within reason.
All of that being said, it’s time to start using those tag areas again, but to keep it in check. Keep your keywords to a minimum and a good rule of thumb may be no more than 6. Think of the top 5 keywords a customer or potential client would use in the search engines to find that particular page and use them. If the variations are too close, replace them with other possibilities. It’s not rocket science. Don’t overdo it and know that you will never be able to game the system for any length of time. We still can’t believe it’s back again.