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Meta tags, SEO

Adding meta tags

Recurring question in the forum: How do I add meta tags (meaning: the keywords meta tag) in my blog?

Short answer: You don’t. You cannot, and you needn’t.

If you think you should, then you’ve simply read or heard “SEO” advice that is both irrelevant and mistaken.

a) The keywords meta tag would have to be added in the underlying files of your blog. In blogs you don’t have access to those files.

b) The keywords meta tag could be, and was, abused. So most search engines pay no attention to it (some never did, and some used to but don’t anymore).

c) The best way to provide search engines with information about your blog is a sitemap, and Google recommends the XML protocol. automatically generates an XML sitemap for your website.

All blogs have XML sitemaps built-in. They just work. You don’t need to verify with Webmaster Tools for Google to use your sitemap.

[Staff reply, forum] blogs are as SEO-friendly as it gets:

WP automatically solves a ton of SEO issues.
WP takes care of 80-90% of the mechanics of SEO.

[Matt Cutts, Google]

All you have to do is follow the advice given by our expert forum volunteers thesacredpath and raincoaster:

Each time you publish a post, wordpress pings all the major search engines and services, so really all you need to do is keep posting. […] One of the great things about wordpress.COM is that they take care of all search engine stuff for us and that allows us to spend our time blogging instead of dealing with all the technical issues.

[thesacredpath, forum]

WordPress.COM is designed under the hood to give you the best search engine optimization there is really and you don’t have to do anything more than write good posts, post regularly and properly categorize and/or tag your posts.

[thesacredpath, forum]

The single best way to add keywords to your blog (other than tags and categories as previously mentioned) is in the content. Use them in your titles. Use them in your filenames for uploaded images. Use them in your Alt text.

[raincoaster, forum]


The Director of Research at Google, Monika Henziger, was quoted (in 2002) as saying, “Currently we don’t trust metadata because we are afraid of being manipulated.”

[From Meta element: Academic studies]

We [Google] don’t use the keywords meta tag in our search ranking. […] Too many people have spammed that too much, we really just don’t use this information at all.

[From Google does not use the keywords meta tag in web ranking – video]

Google does not use the keywords meta tag in our web search.

To this day, you still see courts mistakenly believe that meta tags occupy a pivotal role in search rankings. We wanted to debunk that misconception, at least as it regards to Google. Google uses over two hundred signals in our web search rankings, but the keywords meta tag is not currently one of them, and I don’t believe it will be.
I hope this clarifies that the keywords meta tag is not something that you need to worry about, or at least not in Google.

[From Google doesn’t use the keywords meta tag in web search]

Q: Does Google ever use the “keywords” meta tag in its web search ranking?
A: In a word, no. […] Our web search (the well-known search at that hundreds of millions of people use each day) disregards keyword metatags completely. They simply don’t have any effect in our search ranking at present.

Q: Why doesn’t Google use the keywords meta tag?
A: About a decade ago, search engines judged pages only on the content of web pages, not any so-called “off-page” factors such as the links pointing to a web page. In those days, keyword meta tags quickly became an area where someone could stuff often-irrelevant keywords without typical visitors ever seeing those keywords. Because the keywords meta tag was so often abused, many years ago Google began disregarding the keywords meta tag.

[From Google does not use the keywords meta tag in web ranking]

More history

At one point in time the keywords tag had an impact on a web site’s position within the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPS). Now the keywords tag has little impact on where a site will appear in the search results. When search engine first started determining the relevancy of a site they placed a larger emphasis on these tags. [But s]oon every webmaster used them and oftentimes overused these tags and therefore the search engine placed less importance on them.

[From The Importance of Keywords Meta Tag in SEO]

The keywords attribute was popularized by search engines such as Infoseek and AltaVista in 1995, and its popularity quickly grew until it became one of the most commonly used meta elements. By late 1997, however, search engine providers realized that information stored in meta elements, especially the keywords attribute, was often unreliable and misleading, and at worst, used to draw users into spam sites. (Unscrupulous webmasters could easily place false keywords into their meta elements in order to draw people to their site.)

Search engines began dropping support for metadata provided by the meta element in 1998, and by the early 2000s, most search engines had veered completely away from reliance on meta elements.
Major search engine robots are more likely to quantify such extant factors as the volume of incoming links from related websites, quantity and quality of content, technical precision of source code, spelling, functional v. broken hyperlinks, volume and consistency of searches and/or viewer traffic, time within website, page views, revisits, click-throughs, technical user-features, uniqueness, redundancy, relevance, advertising revenue yield, freshness, geography, language and other intrinsic characteristics.

[From Meta element: used in search engine optimization]

The first major crawler-based search engines to use the meta keywords tag were Infoseek and AltaVista. It’s unclear which one provided support first, but both were offering it in early 1996. When Inktomi launched in mid-1996 through the HotBot search engine, it also provided support for the tag. Lycos did the same in mid-1997, taking support up to four out of the seven major crawlers at the time (Excite, WebCrawler and Northern Light did not provide support).

The ascendancy of the tag did not last after 1997. Experience with the tag has showed it to be a spam magnet. Some web site owners would insert misleading words about their pages or use excessive repetition of words in hopes of tricking the crawlers about relevancy. For this reason, Excite (which also owned WebCrawler) resisted added support. Lycos quietly dropped its support of the tag in 1998, and newer search engines such as Google and FAST never added support at all.

After Infoseek ( closed in 2000, the meta keywords tag was left with only two major supporters: AltaVista and Inktomi. Now Inktomi remains the only one, with AltaVista having dropped its support in July, the company says.

“In the past we have indexed the meta keywords tag but have found that the high incidence of keyword repetition and spam made it an unreliable indication of site content and quality. We do continue to look at this issue, and may re-include them if the perceived quality improves over time,” said Jon Glick, AltaVista’s director of internet search.

As for Inktomi, the search engine has no immediate plans to follow AltaVista’s lead:

“The meta keywords value is just one of many factors in our ranking equation, and we’ve never given too much weight to it. That said, we will continue to use it as long as our relevance modeling shows that it adds value,” said Ken Norton, director of product marketing for Inktomi’s web search division.

[From Death Of A Meta Tag]

If there’s anything I particularly hate when it comes to SEO, it’s the meta keywords tag. I so wish it had never been invented. It’s practically useless, yet people still obsess over it.
Infoseek (later, these days no longer crawling the web) and AltaVista (now owned and powered by Yahoo) offered support for the meta keywords tag in 1996. If you looked at their help files at the time, they encouraged site owners to use the tag. Inktomi (now owned by Yahoo) also provided support when it began operations later in 1996, and Lycos (no longer crawling the web) added support in 1997.

That year — 1997 — was the last year that the meta keywords tag enjoyed support among the majority of major crawlers out there (4 out of 7 – Excite, WebCrawler and Northern Light, also crawling the web that year, did not support it).

When new search engines emerged in 1998, such as Google and FAST, they didn’t support the tag. The reason was simple. By that time, search engines had learned that some webmasters would “stuff” the same word over and over into the meta keywords tag, as a way of trying to rank better. At the time, search engines didn’t rely so heavily on link analysis, so page stuffing like this was more effective. Alternatively, some site owners would insert words that they weren’t relevant for.

In July 2002, AltaVista dropped its support of the tag. That left Inktomi as the only major crawler still supporting it, causing me to somewhat famously in the SEO world to declare the tag dead, since it was no longer a major ranking factor for even Inktomi.

[From Meta Keywords Tag 101]


38 thoughts on “Adding meta tags

  1. Another wonderful myth-busting post. Well done, Panos!

    Posted by Jennifer | April 4, 2011, 06:20
  2. Hi Panos,
    Very interesting article !
    This article puts a lid on all the false beliefs about meta tags.

    Posted by portaleazzurro | April 4, 2011, 13:00
  3. Panos,

    Sometimes I’m in over my head, so let me know if I’m bringing up something that is not relevant to this post. If I’m completely off the deep-end, don’t show this comment.

    News has recently come to us food bloggers that Google has changed how they find us.
    It seems that to better my chances of Google finding me, I need to know how to insert particular CSS code, which is beyond my skill level at this point.

    Even if I could figure out how to do this, it seems like a heck of a lot of time and effort to go back and change 14 months worth of recipes, when really all I want to do is cook and blog. I wrote WP support about this and in their reply, it didn’t sound like anything was happening on their end to help us foodies. Any thoughts about this?

    Thank you,


    Posted by Anonymous | April 4, 2011, 21:30
  4. Whoops, didn’t mean to be anonymous. You can add this info if you want.


    Posted by Cooking in Mexico | April 4, 2011, 21:31
  5. @Jen & Franco: Thanks guys! You understand that this post, like many others of mine, is designed to serve as a reply in the forum.

    Posted by Panos | April 4, 2011, 22:54
  6. @Kathleen: I’m afraid the posts you linked to are a bit confused and confusing.

    As mentioned in my post, the best thing for Google to “find you” is a sitemap, and wordpress takes care of that for you. Google has found you long ago: what you really mean is whether your articles will surface when someone searches for related content.

    The usual way of searching is typing something in the search bar, hitting return, and browsing through the results, right? Your chances of being found this way haven’t changed.

    They depend on the overall standing of your site, which depends on many factors (how frequently you post, how many visitors you have, how many sites link to yours and how good those sites are, etc. etc.).

    But they also depend a lot on how characteristic a search term is and how many others have written about it. For example, if you search for “tuna”, your latest post will be lost amongst a myriad of posts ranging from fishing to pop lyrics; if you search for “tuna empanadas”, your post will fare a lot better, of course, but still it’ll be outranked by more ‘professional’ sites; search for the more unusual “empanadas de atun” and you’ll see your post on the first page of the results.

    The new feature you’re worried about has to do with the Google sidebar only (where it says Images, Videos, News etc.). Recipes is a new category in the sidebar, and all that coding stuff is necessary if you wish to be included there, not in the ‘normal’ google search results.

    It’s interesting, but it’s still under development (according to Google, currently available only in the US and Japan). So, in my opinion you shouldn’t bother yet. I find it inconceivable that a blogger like you should do more coding than cooking, and I’m sure that when this feature becomes more established there’ll be several webpages where you input your recipes and get the right HTML for them (there’s already one for Blogspot blogs).

    Posted by Panos | April 5, 2011, 10:32
  7. Sorry to derail the discussion with a side issue: When you say “currently available”, do you mean it will show results only from the US and Japan or that only US and Japanese visitors will see Recipes in the sidebar? FWIW-I’m not in either of those places and can see/search it. Interesting enough, though, I can only see it when I’m in Google SSL Search.

    Posted by Jennifer | April 5, 2011, 14:06
  8. @Jennifer: It means that only those viewers can see the option in the Google sidebar. As for SSL, same with me.

    Posted by Panos | April 5, 2011, 17:31
  9. Thanks for your reassuring words, Panos. You’re right — I should cook more than worry about code. Hopefully WP will catch up and give us the HTML help that Blogspot already provides.

    And thanks for clearing up the meta tag confusion. I had read before that is was no longer used, but there are still sites that talk about its importance.

    I think that a lot of material is not updated on the web. Also, once something is posted, it seems to exist forever, even when the info is outdated or superseded. When I use a search engine to learn about something, it can sometimes be impossible to find a date of the posting to learn if it is recent or not. So existing sites extolling meta tags continue this confusion.


    Posted by Cooking in Mexico | April 5, 2011, 18:07
  10. SIGH .. I have also repeatedly stated this on the forums for years. In fact I just searched and the oldest entry I can find dates back to Dec 16, 2007, 12:17 PM. Quite aside from that I have blogged this and even included Matt Cutts in a video on the subject. It’s astonishing how much meta tag misinformation continues to circulate and it’s annoying too. :(

    Posted by timethief | April 5, 2011, 21:19
  11. @Panos,
    This is an off-topic comment which is a request for a new post from you. Please feel free to delete it after you read my request. Some themes allow for custom image backgrounds but there is no size noted in the Themes Showcase for these custom image backgrounds. Your mission, should you choose to accept it ;) would be publishing a post that lists what the background images sizes are for the various themes that do allow for custom background images. Thanks, in advance, for considering my request.

    Posted by timethief | April 6, 2011, 02:12
  12. @Kathleen: Another problem for us is that much “wordpress” info refers to, not

    @TT: Thanks!
    By now bg images are supported in the majority of themes – documented here:
    But in most cases there’s no definite size. I could only list sizes for cases such as Modularity Lite, in which a bg image is part of the default appearance of the theme. There are also cases in which a bg image destroys the theme instead of enhancing it. And some themes include a group of images that can only be changed if you have the CSS upgrade…
    In short, proposed mission very interesting but very complicated! I’ll see what I can do.

    Posted by Panos | April 6, 2011, 15:22
  13. Aha … now I comprehend the complexities. Thanks for agreeing to see what you can do. :)

    Posted by timethief | April 6, 2011, 19:15
  14. Nice post, thanks for sharing that info. Google even has a video on youtube that says they don’t use keywords anymore.

    [Username link removed – P.]
    [Video mentioned by commenter already linked to in my post – P.]

    Posted by Joe | April 6, 2011, 22:31
  15. hai…bro salam kenal ya , I want to aks about HTML code, I hope you can give me any solution …
    I often to trying Form HTML code but failed ( not contact form ) ex: Input Checkbox or Dropdown in my posting so like in sidebar ( widget) . I wrong to put any HTML code or not suported about it…?? ( example code :
    < INPUT TYPE =CHECKBOX NAME = Check box > Check box < BR > )

    Posted by brigade81 | April 8, 2011, 12:51
  16. Form code isn’t allowed in blogs:

    Posted by Panos | April 9, 2011, 13:04
  17. Sorry, maybe this question is not appropriate to topic above, but as you say “ blogs are as SEO-friendly as it gets” then why provides tools for us to get verifiying our blog with Google Webmaster Tools, Yahoo Site Explorer, and Bing Webmaster Center .
    If we do not verify whether our blog is not indexed by search engine?
    If without doing that was to be indexed, meaning tools are useless?
    So, how in fact the primary function of the “tools” that way the settings are located in our dashboard?
    Thank you.

    Posted by Om Kicau | April 14, 2011, 15:29
  18. No, the question is quite appropriate!

    And no, you don’t need to verify your blog to get it indexed.

    Verifying allows you to access “tools that give you detailed information and statistics about how [search engines] see and crawl your website”.

    Posted by Panos | April 14, 2011, 20:20
  19. Oh, Panos, thank you for your explanation…

    Posted by Om Kicau | April 15, 2011, 12:16
  20. Interesting point, i’ve never think about it like that.. Gotta try removing them on my sites.

    [Username link to commercial site removed – P.]

    Posted by Iso Belgesi | April 17, 2011, 02:41
  21. how to make meta tags for language ? please help me ,thanks

    [Username link removed – P.]

    Posted by RicRat | April 18, 2011, 09:22
  22. Sorry, your blog is a blogspot blog while mine is about blogs.

    Posted by Panos | April 18, 2011, 15:01
  23. those comments are almost as interesting as the whole post. great article and discussion. Many “experts” consider meta tags as useless but u give us arguments to think of.

    [Username link removed – P.]

    Posted by Manifo | May 4, 2011, 11:39
  24. @Panos,

    So I understand that keywords now seem irrelevant to google, but what about the meta description tag? That affects your blog’s appearance when it shows up in google by giving a brief description of your site. Do we also have no access to this tag?


    Posted by adamhopkinsdevelopment | May 17, 2011, 05:21
  25. No you can’t use this tag either, because you cannot access the files where it would have to be added. In blogs that role is played by the tagline or a text widget up top in the sidebar. Google for “wordpress tips”, for example, and see what shows up for my blog.

    Posted by Panos | May 17, 2011, 10:56
  26. thank you very much for the [gigya] :) ★★★★★

    [Username link to non blog removed – P.]

    Posted by talibatab | May 28, 2011, 04:54

    Posted by talibatab | May 29, 2011, 05:31
  28. Thanks. Sorry for the above: it’s what I do when I’m not sure if a comment is genuine or spam.

    Posted by Panos | May 29, 2011, 11:46
  29. Thanks you very much .. i ‘ve confused about that ..

    Posted by resep masakan | July 26, 2011, 11:02
  30. You’re welcome: unfortunately it’s a very widespread misconception…

    Posted by Panos | July 27, 2011, 14:34
  31. Thank you for compiling this.

    Posted by Adam B Bloom | September 21, 2011, 23:13
  32. You’re welcome Adam.

    Posted by Panos | September 22, 2011, 12:33
  33. Thanks a lot, it helped me a lot!

    Posted by Yigit | November 1, 2011, 04:04
  34. You’re welcome, Yigit. Glad if it helped, as there are widespread misconceptions circulating re this matter.

    Posted by Panos | November 2, 2011, 12:07


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