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[Bug 6853] New: restore meta keywords, search engines use them

From: <bugzilla@wiggum.w3.org>
Date: Wed, 29 Apr 2009 06:21:28 +0000
To: public-html@w3.org
Message-ID: <bug-6853-2495@http.www.w3.org/Bugs/Public/>

           Summary: restore meta keywords, search engines use them
           Product: HTML WG
           Version: unspecified
          Platform: All
               URL: http://www.w3.org/TR/html5/
        OS/Version: All
            Status: NEW
          Severity: normal
          Priority: P2
         Component: HTML 5: The Markup Language
        AssignedTo: mike@w3.org
        ReportedBy: Nick_Levinson@yahoo.com
         QAContact: public-html-bugzilla@w3.org
                CC: public-html@w3.org

The meta element for name="keywords" has recently been demoted to being a
failed proposal, presumably thus not to be allowed under HTML5. I disagree and
suggest the status be restored to that of a proposal. Search engines use it and
for good reason.

1. Advice is often to integrate keywords into the visible text, especially near
the beginning, and into headlines, especially in h1 and h2 elements. This is
sound but has a limitation. I'm writing a page against using drugs to stay
awake. I'm  telling readers that I don't know of any I'd want to recommend.
Therefore, I don't want to list any. But I know some people will search by a
drug name because they want to know if it'll help them stay awake. Therefore,
I'm listing some drugs in a meta keywords tag. Whether a search engine applies
the tag is up to the search engine's management, but I'd like the option.

2. The argument that keywords should all be in visible text and headlines is
sound for attracting readers through search engines, but it can be
counterproductive for retaining readers, especially through longer or
multi-page content. Keyword-heavy writing style can lead to bad writing in the
minds of some audiences. Better writing should be permissible without
contradicting search requirements.

3. It is the only technology for its purpose. Unlike description, keywords are
not meant to be visible to a searcher but are meant to influence results behind
the scenes.

4. Google or some forum posters at Google say Google doesn't use them. The
reasons I don't believe this are given below. More likely, Google uses them
only a little and maybe only part-time, but that's good enough. They serve a
purpose nothing else serves as well.

5. It works. I designed a website. When I searched in Yahoo and Google using
periodless abbreviations appearing only in my meta keywords to clarify an
otherwise confusing search request (the site was for someone who has the same
name as someone else with kindred interests), the website came up, or came up
higher, via both search engines.

6. It's been much abused. But that's not reason to prevent or discourage its
proper use. If Google or Yahoo choose to give them no weight, that's their
choice. But they also have the choice of analyzing them and using them
selectively, for example, not using them if they're repetitive, apparently
irrelevant, misformatted, or used in sites with certain themes associated with
unreliable use of keywords.

7. Google inserts them into some of their own pages. Here's one:

<meta name="keywords" content="browser, browsing, web browser, internet
browser, free browser, web applications, web apps, bookmark, web applications,
search box, navigate the web">

It appeared in the source code for
as accessed 4-27-09. (Perhaps the keyword "web applications" appearing twice is
not keyword-stuffing.)

Here's another:

<meta name="keywords" content="Google Friend Connect, Friend Connect,
FriendConnect, add social features, add social gadgets">

It appeared in the source code for
as accessed 4-27-09.

Those were not search results pages.

8. Yahoo inserts them into some of their own pages. Here's one:

<meta name="keywords" content="New York Police Department,Sen. Charles
Schumer,Andrews Air Force Base,White House military office,White House,U.S.

It appeared in the source code for
as accessed 4-27-09.

Here's another:

<meta name="keywords" content="401k,Business,Financial
Information,Investing,Investor,Market News,Stock Research,Stock
Valuation,business news,economy,finance,investment tools,mortgage,mutual
funds,personal finance,quote,real
estate,retirement,stock,stocks,suzeorman,tax,track portfolio">

It appeared in the source code for the home page at
<http://finance.yahoo.com/>, as accessed 4-27-09.

Those were not search results pages.

9. Here's one from an MSN page, not search results, and I understand MSN is the
third leading search engine:

<meta name="keywords" content="IE, IE8, Internet Explorer, Internet Explorer 8,
browser, web browser,  Microsoft browser, MSN, MSN Internet Explorer." />

It appeared in the source code for
as accessed 4-27-09.

10. Here's one from a page at the Ask search engine site:

<meta name="keywords" content="nascar, race schedule, nascar drivers, race

It appeared in the source code for <http://www.ask.com/nascar>, as accessed
4-27-09. That's not a search results page.

11. If Google thinks meta keywords are a bad idea, it shouldn't mind
competitors using them.

12. If Google only sometimes thinks meta keywords are a bad idea, Google would
want them available for when they think they're a good idea, which means
they'll want websites populating the tags in anticipation of Google's reliance
on them.

13. Yahoo recommends using meta keywords: "Use a 'keyword' meta-tag to list key
words for the document. Use a distinct list of keywords that relate to the
specific page on your site instead of using one broad set of keywords for every
as accessed 4-28-09.

14. Microsoft recommends using meta keywords: "Use a descriptive title tag,
meta keywords, meta description, and H1 tag on all pages to identify its
intended content, even if the content on the page itself isn't immediately
as accessed 4-27-09.

15. SEO promoters say to add meta keywords. SearchEngineWatch in 2007 said so
even though their use was limited: <http://searchenginewatch.com/2167931>, as
accessed 4-28-09.

16. SearchEngineLand said in 2007 that Yahoo and Ask used them, and described a
test showing it.
as accessed 4-28-09.

17. For a test with an ambivalent result by Webmaster World, see
<http://www.webmasterworld.com/google/3138562.htm>, as accessed 4-28-09.

18. Yahoo and Google apparently distribute their indexes to many nations and
try to serve searchers in many nations, suggesting a likelihood that ranking
criteria may vary by nation where the index is locally supported and according
to the desires of local searchers. Thus, meta keyword reliance may vary by

19. Other search engines around the world, such as Baidu, include some that are
popular within their own nations, may compile their own collections, and may
weigh factors differently. The tag should be available for them to analyze.

Conclusion: Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, and Ask all use them, if in very limited
ways, and therefore implicitly support meta keywords. Some SEO firms support
them and I don't know of any who oppose them when they think engines use them.
Other engines may also use them. Meta keywords are the only technology that
fits the need. The abuse is soluble. And the need exists.

Thank you.


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Received on Wednesday, 29 April 2009 06:21:40 UTC

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