In 1995, when meta tags were originally developed, they were a good way to tell search engines what your page was about. This was before search engines were capable of crawling through your content and contextually analyzing your site, so keywords were of a lot of use to search engine optimization experts of the day.
But 1995 was 16 years ago. Meta tags saw widespread abuse from the same issues that plague search engine algorithms looking for high-quality pages today, namely, keyword stuffing and irrelevant keywords used to drive traffic to the page. Over the last 16 years, search engines have continually devalued the search engine optimization value of meta tags.
This is particularly relevant for the keywords tag, which has little to no value on search engine rankings. The meta description tag, on the other hand, has value outside of search engine optimization. Since the description tag is often shown on the search engine results page, you can use it as a call-to-action for individuals to click your page. In this manner, it functions more like sales copy than it does search engine optimization, but the result is the same: driving more traffic to your page.
Last, but definitely not least, the title tag is worth mentioning. Although it’s technically not a meta tag, it’s still part of the HTML head tag of your website, and it’s very important for SEO. Make sure your webpage’s main keywords are included in this tag. Make sure it’s very readable though and not just a string of keywords. And we like to keep the title tag to 60 characters or less.
Search engine optimization is a cumulative, holistic effort. Failure to optimize meta tags may not be the end of the world, but if you’re trying to maximize your SEO, then you can’t afford not to make such simple on-page optimizations.
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