If your SEO Pros Tout the Virtues of the Meta Keywords Tag, Fire Them.
Do it now!
Fair warning, folks. I'm about to pick a fight.
Some time ago I found myself in a heated discussion with a public relations practitioner that does some really excellent work for one of our marketing accounts.
The conversation had turned to the optimization of a new web site design that we're doing, on a site where they have historically provided the content. But, I couldn't understand what this practitioner was after when she kept asking for "the keywords." I explained that the definition of the keywords doesn't usually start with us, it begins with the site owner.
After a couple of volleys, it became clear that what she was referring to was the Meta Keywords tag. I politely explained that Google does not use the Meta Keywords tag, and hasn't for over a decade. In fact, no major search engine has.
However, that wasn't enough to convince her. In fact, she flat out insisted that the SEO pro she had been working with (not us, incidentally) had spent a lot of time with her developing keywords on a different site. What's more, he had used some kind of supposed magic programmatic know-how to get her site well-positioned in search engines.
We were in a WebEx meeting, so I went straight to my Google toolbar and typed "google does not use the meta keywords tag," as she continued to press her point. I clicked on the top result, which was the Official Google Webmaster Blog and waited for her to finish.
"I'm sorry to hear that you spent so much time," I said. "The plain truth is, if you spent time and money on doing this, it was simply wasted effort and wasted money. The proof is right here."
As you can imagine, that didn't sit well, and the fact that this statement came straight from Google themselves was irrelevant. The proof to her was obvious in the fact that her site was doing so much better. While I didn't say this at the time, this is the same as inferring proof that the sun revolves around the Earth, purely from observing what goes on in the sky. It's an understandable view, but just as wrong.
"Well, if it wasn't my keywords tag," she demanded, "what was it?"
I politely recited the 7 fundamentals of effective search engine optimization, four of which have to do with content: the Title Tag, the Page content, the competitive space you're in, the frequency of updates, the number of back links, and the quality of the back links. The success of their site in the SEO rankings had to do with their content and these factors.