Can META Keyword Tags Confuse Google?

Mar 26, 2009 • 5:22 am | comments (14) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

We all know that Google ignores the META keywords tag on pages, or at least that is what we believe and what we are told. This does not mean Google ignores other meta tags, such as the meta description, but they do ignore the keywords meta tag.

A recent Google Webmaster Help thread has some confusing information from JohnMu, a Googler.

John said:

One problem I see when looking at your site's meta tags at the moment is that they're all included in your "keywords" meta tag - they're not separate meta tags.

That said, I think you can safely remove all of these meta tags. Google doesn't need them and they can be confusing the way you have them now.

If you look at the thread, we can see that the keywords used in the meta keywords is a bit overboard, to say the least. However, if Google completely ignores the tag, why would it "be confusing." Is it confusing for GoogleBot? Is it confusing for other search engines that might use it? Is it confusing the the searcher who doesn't view the source code of the page?

You see why I am struggling with this post? I know we can't always sit there and analyze the words of Googlers. But sometimes we do and we scratch our heads.

I will ping JohnMu and ask him to comment and clarify. I am sure I am just looking into this a bit too much.

Forum discussion at Google Webmaster Help.

Update: So I John commented and I decided to take a closer look at the site he commented about. What I found was the meta tags coded as HTML entities, which really is incredibly weird and likely does not work for Google or any bot. Here is a picture of the code, where I highlighted the core issue, as I understand it:


So John's comment does make more sense now.

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03/26/2009 09:44 am

Actually that first sentence doesn't make sense as far as I can tell. All the meta tags in in the keywords meta tags and not separate tags? Um... okay so all the tags have been placed inside the keywords meta tag. That is a problem because then everything is marked as a keyword? I've read the post and had a look at the meta tags in question and still don't understand that statement. But, hey, maybe it's just me? :)

Barry Schwartz

03/26/2009 09:46 am

I thought it was my jet lag that caused the confusion. Hoping someone can clarify...


03/26/2009 09:52 am

Hi Barry You'll see what I mean when you look at the source of the page in question: The meta tags are all wrapped in a single "real" meta tag, meaning no search engine will really be able to extract any content from them. They look "normal enough" in the forum posting, but on the page it's different. You might want to make a screenshot of the code to show it, as the webmaster might change it later on. In this case, I'm guessing that the webmaster might be copying meta tags from some other site (I think we all did that at least once :-)) and pasting them into a field within the Microsoft CMS (but I don't really know that system, so it's impossible for me to say for sure). Here's a snippet from the code: <meta name="Keywords" content="&lt;meta name=&quot;Name&quot; content=&quot;Bernie B.&quot;&gt; &lt;meta name=&quot;Author&quot; content=&quot;Bernie B.&quot;&gt; (...)

Brett Pringle

03/26/2009 10:01 am

I don't think anyone could understand the comment left by John, it makes no sense. He refers to the meta tags appearing within the "keywords" tag, which is actually not the case. He may very well have been jet lagged himself when responding :)


03/26/2009 10:30 am

If google does not use meta tags, why on webmaster tools, do they have feed back on what the potential isues are the sites meta tags. Of course Google uses meta tags as part of their grading for websites. for more info on meta tags


03/26/2009 02:54 pm

Changing meta tags has done nothing for our SEO, especially compared to other changes that can be made on the page.

Barry Schwartz

03/26/2009 02:57 pm

Flexoid, they use meta tags, just not meta keywords tag.

Andrew Shotland

03/26/2009 03:56 pm

That site definitely does not give good &lt;head&gt; Barry

Ritika Chugh

03/26/2009 05:37 pm

Its clearly the source. it is showing up wierd ascii characters that the bot cannot read &lt;meta name=&quot;Author&quot; content=&quot;Bernie Bolivar&quot;&gt;

Capt Vlad Nikolskiy

03/26/2009 05:41 pm

Hi, Barry, I have tittle page of my site on two languages: English and Russian. So, meta tags are mixed in both languages as well. Do you think it confused Google? Thanks in advance for kind reply.


03/27/2009 06:16 am

I am not using meta tag for my website or any WP tool for my WP Blog. Also i am not using meta description tag, google automatically decides keywords for ranking from content and also description from content. so no need to define meta description and keywords.


03/27/2009 09:28 am

Capt Vlad Nikolskiy, I would recommend keeping pages in a single language, which would help to make it easier by just using that language in the title and description meta tag. Pages in multiple languages are hard for us to recognize properly: is this an English page that we can show to English-speaking users or is it a Russian page? With a single language on the page we don't have those questions and we can recommend it without doubt to any user speaking that language who is looking for that information.


03/27/2009 01:50 pm

Contrary to popular belief; 1) Google does not tell you the truth in their guidelines 2) an empty meta keyword tag will slow the time it takes to get a new website ranked, essentially increasing the sandbox delay. It should also be noted that the optimization process for a website is not the same as the optimization process for a blog. Google clearly does not treat the 2 points of presence the same.


03/31/2009 01:29 am

Ok thanks for info but what the H do I do to get the xml tags to be closed properly or am I supposed to not put the meta for key words and description?....not code savy here but used the template of an example, well didn't use the template but just typed one with same characters. Maybe I just need to now what characters are in the tags....can anyone help?

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