I had some time over the holidays to think about the past year; the projects I’ve worked on, the people I’ve worked with and many of the conversations I’ve had. It’s been a great year and I thank you for that.

As I looked back over past conversations and one-on-one consultations, I’m struck with the overwhelming amount of misinformation about search engines. And unless you’re following current trends closely, you’d have no idea if what you’re being told is accurate or not.

Probably the biggest piece of misinformation “out there” right now is about keywords – how they’re used and what they can do for your website.

You’ve probably been told that all you need to do is get a big list of keywords (some times called search terms, or search phrases). This big list of keywords then goes in your copy. It also goes in what is called a META tag in your web code. And when you’ve got this done, you just sit back and watch the search engines build your business for you.

Well, it used to sort of be that way. But it’s nothing like that today.

You see, when popularity in the internet was growing early on, search engines did track big lists of keywords and use them in search results.

Ten years ago one of the most effective ways to get high rankings in the search engines was to add that big list of keywords to the META tag.

Remember, the internet did not begin with commerce, blogging or personal interest in mind. It began with scientist wanting to quickly share data from experiments. The first search engines were designed merely to make it easy for researchers to find data for papers and projects.

So, the people who wrote the parameters for internet coding (HTML, HTTP, etc) created META tags. These META tags housed metadata that was used to catalog and quickly search for research data.

META tags have attributes. One of those attributes is called “keywords.” The keywords attribute was established so that researchers could better cross-reference similar data. That way when a research chemist searched the then internet for “peptide reactions,” they would not only get specific experiments about peptide reactions, but also data that related in some way to it.

So back then the internet was nor more than a valuable research tool. Therefore, the accuracy of data and the ease of searching and sharing that data was of the only importance. And the keyword attribute was one of the most important ways to catalog that data.

Then came commerce.

The idea that people could make money with websites changed everything. Business were looking for an advantage – any and every advantage. It didn’t take long to discover how to bend the META keyword attribute for financial gain. After all, if I’m selling soap and your selling soap, it’s likely I’ll sell more soap if my website comes before yours in the search engines.

In a few short years, the keyword attribute became so inundated with false listings that search engines had to place less emphasis on it. Companies continued, however, to find other ways to abuse keyword lists. And soon the keyword attribute was barely looked at by search engines.

That’s where we are today. And not only are we at the point where the keyword attribute is all but dead, we’re also in a place that any attempts to fool the search engines can lead to a permanent banning of a website.

So search engines, unable to trust people’s list of keywords have had to get much more complex. They’ve had to create these complex mathematical algorithms to weed out pertinent information from junk. Remember, search engines are in the business of giving their users the most accurate results to their search. You can’t find what you’re searching for, it’s unlikely you’re going to use that search engine too often.

Of course keywords (or search terms) are still necessary today. But the META tag and large lists of keywords don’t get your anywhere – accept maybe banned from the search engine if they feel you’re trying to cheat.

The way to gain search engine rankings today is actually still quite simple. It just takes more time, patience and a bit more work. As I mentioned, search engines still want to have the best results for their users. So just be relevant to your specific topic and, in time, you’ll find yourself climbing in search engine rankings.

There are many things you can do to become more relevant in specific searches. The two most important are your content and relevant links.

You must have great content that includes search terms people would be using to find a service like yours. The more you can get those search terms in your content, the better. But make it real content and not just some list of words. Because when you’ve actually got someone to visit your site from the search engines, you want to do your best to convert them into a customer.

The second way is to get as many websites as you can to link back to your website. And the higher ranked and more relevant the site, the better the link is for you. I cover some strategies for this in my article Is Your Site Relevant. You can view it here

Reader Interactions


  1. Barb says

    I spend most of my time writing articles and submitting them to article directories to gain backlinks and traffic and realised that content is king.

  2. Making Sales Making Money says

    The most searched or read articles I have ever written were written without regard to keywords, that being said Im not totally convinced that keywords don’t play an significant role in SERP’s results,

  3. travel to bhutan says

    Google, till now haven’t been giving much importance to META data, but now, they seemed to have changed something because META data, especially the description part, improves search engine rankings. Atleast that’s what I have seen.

  4. Sebastian @ Daily Tech Notes says

    Stuffing keywords in META tags no longer works. But keywords still retain a lot of power in determining SERPs. With Google I have noticed that SERP is also dependent on how rich your content is! I have a site which deals with long articles and it is getting a lot search engine love from google!

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