We’re in the middle of a series on 2 problems that prevent websites from producing significant online sales.  We’ve been discussing the best ways to increase traffic and once we wrap that up, we’ll be moving on to talk about how to increase your site’s conversion rates.  For the past few weeks we’ve been talking about the importance of the title and description.  This week, we’re going to talk about the meta keywords.

There are a lot of myths about the meta tags.  Ask 10 people who think they know a thing or two about SEO and most people will tell you that the meta keywords are really important.  It’s simply not true.  They used to be very important.  From the beginning, Google used the meta keywords as a means to quickly understand what your site is about.  Create a long list of everything you’d ever want to be found for and they’d rank you.  It was pretty easy to cheat though.  The meta keywords were abused and eventually Google decided to not use the meta keywords as a ranking factor.

These days, Google still looks at your meta keywords, however, they use them only to punish you if you abuse them.  It’s called meta keyword spamming.  We see it all the time.  People fill their meta keywords with a long list of words.    This old-school means of ranking simple doesn’t work any longer.

When Google started punishing sites for wrongly using the meta keywords, they made an example with the BMW website.  The bright folks at BMW thought that they could really ramp up their traffic by sneaking “Carmen Electra” into their meta keywords.  What harm could that do?  They figured that a ton of people were looking for photos of Carmen Electra every month so why not try and trick Google into thinking that their site was about Carmen Electra.  Boy did that backfire.  Google looked at the meta keywords, saw the reference to Carmen Electra and then verified it to see if that phrase appeared anywhere within the page.  When they failed to find that phrase in the site, Google slapped BMW on the wrist by kicking them totally off of Google for 30 days.  The same happened with Ricoh copiers.

So you might be thinking, we’re never pull a stunt like that.  Think again.  You’re probably in jeopardy of being slapped on the wrist yourself.  Here’s what I mean.  If you have a long list of keywords in your meta tags, it’s likely that at least one of those phrases doesn’t appear within the page.  We see it almost every day.  It may be innocent, but if you list words in your meta tags that don’t match exactly the same words that appear in your page, you’re essentially doing the same thing as BMW.  You have to be careful to not abuse the meta keywords.

So what can you do to avoid this problem?  It’s simple.  Just delete all of the words from the meta keywords list.  Since Google isn’t using them to increase your ranking, they’re only hurting you.

Next time, we’ll talk about your headlines and how to properly optimized them for Google.  Until then…

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