graphicpush

Thoughts on branding, design, writing and life by Kevin Potts. Established 2003.

Ignore Keywords; GOOG Fail

Ruminations on the death of the keyword metatag, wherein our hero again questions GOOG and the other horsemen of the search apocalypse.

Back in September, Matt Cutts wrote a post on how Google does not factor in the keywords metatag in its web search results. For most, this came as a fat “no shit” moment. We’ve all smelled something funny for years — it just took animal control to pull the carcass out and prove there was something actually dead.

Google’s reasons are legit, I suppose. Before they wrote the PR algorithm that saved the world, knuckle-dragging search engines were heavily emphasizing metatag values in their ranking, which of course led to ridiculous spamming and keyword bombing. We all know the mid-90s were dark times. Google simply chose to wash their hands of the nonsense.

The GOOG continues to recognize just about all other pieces of page content. But it does not recognize the one tag that represents a 1:1 ratio to its core functionality. After we author a page of great content, we have to rig together a wobbly net of page titles, meta descriptions, header tags, strong and emphasis tags, alternative text attributes and a bunch of other bullshit hoping we strike just the right balance to match the right key phrase searches without the Master Control Program thinking we’re up to something fishy.

GOOG fail.

I’m not denying the historic abuse of the keywords meta tag. I am more incredulous at the fact that website owners have no means to directly suggest actual search phrases with which they want to be found. Google keeps pushing the amorphous “just write good content” propaganda, and the pale, bloodshot SEO industry spends its life circling a drain of speculative reverse engineering, insider trading and technical alchemy. Everyone in between is screwed.

DOES ANYONE ELSE SEE THE IRONY?

  • Why can dedicated site owners not create a list of suggested keywords in Google Webmaster Tools?
  • Why is Google not smart enough to map these suggestions against the actual site content to gauge their validity?
  • Why does it show me the phrases for which I rank but offer no way for me to help improve my own relevancy?
  • Where is the logic in heavily weighing some invisible content like meta description, but completely disregarding an even more direct clue?
  • For all the noise given to structured data, why can’t properly tagged content (ahem) become a more controllable and civil keyword environment?
  • Will my PageRank drop even further now that I’m badmouthing the Master Control Program and Herr Cutts?

I am getting tired of the tyranny.

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commentary + criticism

Ross Johnson

wrote the following on Saturday December 19, 2009

You have a very valid point. There are plenty of “search engines” that use tagging as a primary method of comprehending content and do so effectively.

Technorati, Flickr, etc…

Of course they could still heavily weigh other factors as well, but it does make sense for page authors to be able to say what their content is about with out having to write a page title that is more search friendly than person friendly.

Joseph Sims

wrote the following on Monday January 11, 2010

I don’t think you have a full understanding of how things work in their algorithms (well, none does, really, but anyway.).

“Why is Google not smart enough to map these suggestions against the actual site content to gauge their validity?”

If they are mapping the keywords tags to your site content for validity, why not just skip the tag and map your site content… if they corellate anyway, why have the two?

“Where is the logic in heavily weighing some invisible content like meta description, but completely disregarding an even more direct clue?”

Meta description is not heavily weighed, in fact, in Google, it is not used for anything other than HELPING it to decide what your snippet text(the little description under your page title in the SERPS) is. It isn’t used for ranking at all.

“Why does it show me the phrases for which I rank but offer no way for me to help improve my own relevancy?”

Google is not in the “help you improve your relevancy” business… they are in the “separate the wheat from the chaff in the index” business. If you want to improve your relevancy, be more relevant, more specifically, get people to link to you from other relevant websites, and make sure their anchor text sends the right message.

Point: Google can’t let people define their own keywords. If they are going to cross check those keywords with site content, why not just use the site content.

Personally, I like not having to deal with the keyword garbage, and having misinformed clients give me lists of every term they want to market to for me to parse through.

Kevin

wrote the following on Wednesday January 13, 2010

@Joseph —

If they are mapping the keywords tags to your site content for validity, why not just skip the tag and map your site content… if they corellate anyway, why have the two?

Because people search by keywords. And I want to tell search engines what keywords I want to be found for. People do not search by typing in paragraphs of content. I want to establish a one-to-one ratio with my content and how people find it, NOT play a guessing game.

Meta description is not heavily weighed, in fact, in Google, it is not used for anything other than HELPING it to decide what your snippet text(the little description under your page title in the SERPS) is. It isn’t used for ranking at all.

Of course it is. The title tag is a massive factor, and the description does matter beyond the little description in the SERP.

Ben

wrote the following on Thursday March 4, 2010

Old post I know, but:
Google definitely doesn’t pay any attention to the description meta tag in deciding ranking. Here’s a video blog of a Google engineer saying just that:
http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2009/09/google-does-not-use-keywords-meta-tag.html

Kevin

wrote the following on Friday March 5, 2010

In that post, he’s discussing the keywords meta tag, not the description meta tag. In fact, he goes on to explicitly state that they DO value the description.