It has always been the general consensus that the keywords meta tag was no longer recognized by any of the major search engines (Google, Yahoo! and Bing). We now know that to be partially true as Google announced last month that it completely ignores this meta tag and Yahoo! now claims that they haven’t been recognizing keywords for a good while either. Bing, it is claimed, has never recognized the keywords meta tag. What are the SEO ramifications of this?
It is the general belief that the keywords meta tag was devalued by the search engines some time ago as many webmasters used it to “stuff” them with as many keywords as possible in an attempt to rank for as many terms (relevant or not) as possible. The search engines quickly got wise to this and started to eliminate factoring it into their algorithms. From a user experience point of view, keywords are a non-factor, as 99% of Internet users have no idea of what a meta tag, let alone a keyword, is since you can only view them as part of the source code. From an SEO point of view, it is probably one less thing that you have to optimize for; titles and descriptions are now more important than ever.
However, an interesting article in Search Engine Land appeared on October 14th stating that although a Yahoo representative at SMX East stated that Yahoo also ignores the tag, an experiment was performed (placing the random letters “xcvteuflsowkldlslkslklsk” in the keywords tag) which completely contradicted this. The random letters were placed in the keywords tag of Search Engine Land’s website homepage to see if “xcvteuflsowkldlslkslklsk” would be returned as a search result and it was.
In any event, even though the keywords tag is almost entirely dead, it would still benefit webmasters to utilize it, even for the primary keyphrase for the page, as some search engines still use it and Google and Bing may change their minds and use it as part of their algorithms in the future, even if they don’t announce it.