Episode 50 / June 22, 2018

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Welcome to The Redirect Podcast, where the BlackTruck team shares recent insights and takeaways from the world of search marketing.

In this week’s episode:

  • Time and time again, we see websites making use of meta keywords. Once used years ago as a means of improving relevancy and rank, these on-page SEO elements should have been tossed out of your playbook by now. Does Google view them as spam, and should you remove them? (begins at 6:05)
  • Plus, big changes rolling out finally to the Google AdWords interface. The new UI is forced in a rollout in July—what do you need to know to be prepared? (begins at 18:00)

Before we jump in, a couple reminders: July is going to be a busy month in search marketing. Keep in mind that the Google’s Speed Update is still slated to rollout. Also, those sites who have not migrated to HTTPS will be called out as “not secure” in Google Chrome (specifically Chrome 68).

Google AdWords

Everyone managing AdWords campaigns should be aware that the old user interface in AdWords is going away. Back in March, Google announced it would retire the legacy AdWords interface by the end of 2018. According to Search Engine Land, a few advertisers have been receiving notice that they’ll be switched over to the new platform in July.

My opinion on the matter is, “Good.” This needed to happen. This was a case where Google took their time in transitioning, but it was also painful when some actions could only be made in the old interface. Maybe pulling the Band-Aid off and forcing everyone into the new platform would have been better. If you need to know more, check out this handy reference map from Google: AdWords Interface Reference Map

Oh, by the way—Google AdWords will soon be called Google Ads. Keep up, everybody.

Are Meta Keywords Spammy?

Meta keywords are one of many page elements that do not appear as visible to website visitors, but that can be used by search engines. Operative phrase: can be. In this case, it’s more like have been, past tense. Hopefully, you put your meta keywords to bed a long, long time ago, because except for in very rare instances mentioned in the podcast (starting at 13:15), they’re not doing anything for you.

(Need a reminder of what meta keywords are/were? Here’s a quick read from Yoast.)

What Are Meta Keywords?

Meta keywords were once used to help signal directly to search engines—without the engines having to “read” the rest of the page—what information could be found on a page. How long do you think it took for THIS tactic to be abused? That’s right; sites were soon stuffed with meta keywords that were merely popular search terms, often not at all relevant to what was actually on the site. Tsk tsk. Just one more reason we can’t have nice things. This tactic soon became penalized by search engines.

“Not Used for Anything.”

Recently, Search Engine Roundtable quoted a tweet from Google’s Gary Illyse, saying that using the meta keywords tag today won’t cause a search penalty, but they’re “but also not used for anything.” So that’s…good, but the fact people are still asking these questions about meta keywords in 2018 means that many SEOs out there are still using outdated tactics.

The presence of these tags is no longer considered a spam signal. More importantly, however, they just aren’t regarded by search engines anymore. Years ago, Yahoo announced that they were no longer using the meta keywords tag for ranking. At one point, Bing considered meta keywords to be a spam signal, but it appears they also disregard the tag now as far as having any SEO value. 

To Remove or Not to Remove?

All signs point to meta keywords not actually harming your site, but as seen in some industry discussion, including these tags can tip off any savvy competitors to exactly what keywords you are targeting, by taking one quick look at your page’s source code.

Should you be in a rush to remove meta keywords? Not necessarily, since they’re not considered spam. But as you make updates, whether on a single page or throughout the site, it’s a good idea to remove them as you come across them.

Where Do I Find Meta Keywords?

Not sure if you have meta keywords on your site? Use a crawl tool to see if they turn up for any pages.

Finally, when editing a page or creating a new page in your CMS, if there is a field to input “keywords,” or “meta keywords,” just don’t do it. Note that this is different than the “focus keyword” field in the Yoast SEO plugin, as the purpose there is to assess how well the page is optimized for that one keyword. Your input in that field has nothing to do search engines in any functional sense.

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