At Fathom, we’ve always optimized the meta keyword tag. While most search engines – including Google and Bing – have ignored the tag for years, the meta keyword tag has always carried some value because Yahoo! never abandoned it.
Earlier this month, Yahoo! announced that it too had stopped using the meta keyword tag for search results. Web programmers figured that, since the last major search engine had stopped indexing it, the meta keyword tag was finally dead.
Not so fast. Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Land recently tested the policy by including a line of gibberish in his site’s meta keyword tag. Sure enough, Search Engine Land now shows up as the top result for “xcvteuflsowkldlslkslklsk” in Yahoo.
Yahoo issued the following statement after they found out about the test:
What changed with Yahoo’s ranking algorithms is that while we still index the meta keyword tag, the ranking importance given to meta keyword tags receives the lowest ranking signal in our system.
Words that appear in any other part of documents, including the body, title, description, anchor text etc., will take priority in ranking the document – the re-occurrence of these words in the meta keyword tag will not help in boosting the signal for these words. Therefore, keyword stuffing in the keyword tag will not help a page’s recall or ranking, it will actually have less effect than introducing those same words in the body of the document, or any other section.
However, when no other ranking signal is present, unique words that only appear in the meta keyword tag section of documents can still be used to recall these documents.
So meta keywords still do matter to Yahoo!. In fact, Yahoo!’s recently updated Help page encourages programmers to optimize the meta keyword tag. Even though the tag now receives the “lowest ranking signal” in Yahoo!’s algorithm, it’s still worth taking a few seconds to fill in 3-5 keywords and possibly giving your page a small boost in Yahoo!.