Monday, September 21, 2009
Recently we received some questions about how Google uses (or more accurately, doesn't use) the
meta tag in ranking web search results. Suppose you have two website owners,
Alice and Bob. Alice runs a company called AliceCo and Bob runs BobCo. One day while looking at
Bob's site, Alice notices that Bob has copied some of the words that she uses in her
meta tag. Even more interesting, Bob has added the words "AliceCo" to his
meta tag. Should Alice be concerned?
At least for Google's web search results currently (September 2009), the answer is no. Google
doesn't use the keywords
meta tag in our web search ranking. This video explains
more, or see the questions below.
Does Google ever use the keywords
meta tag in its web search ranking?
In a word, no. Google does sell a Google Search Appliance, and that product has
the ability to match
which could include the keywords
meta tag. But that's an
enterprise search appliance that is completely separate from our main web search. Our web search
(the well-known search at Google.com that hundreds of millions of people use each day) disregards
meta tag completely. They simply don't have any effect in our search ranking at present.
Why doesn't Google use the keywords
About a decade ago, search engines judged pages only on the content of web pages, not any
so-called "off-page" factors such as the links pointing to a web page. In those days, keyword meta
tags quickly became an area where someone could stuff often-irrelevant keywords without typical
visitors ever seeing those keywords. Because the keywords
meta tag was so often
abused, many years ago Google began disregarding the keywords
Does this mean that Google ignores all
No, Google does support several other
meta tags. This
meta tags page documents more info on
meta tags that we do use. For example, we do sometimes use the description
meta tag as the text for our search results snippets, as this screenshot shows:
Even though we sometimes use the description
meta tag for the snippets we show, we
still don't use the description
meta tag in our ranking.
Does this mean that Google will always ignore the keywords
It's possible that Google could use this information in the future, but it's unlikely. Google has
ignored the keywords
meta tag for years
and currently we see no need to change that policy.