If there’s one thing which is truly frustrating about website development, it’s the sheer amount of misinformation kicking around.

Let’s look at an example I stumbled across yesterday in Web Designer magazine, within an article entitled ‘design for Google’. The article contained a ‘10-point plan for SEO success’.

Point 2 in the 10-point plan was ‘meta tags’ (except they’d spelt this incorrectly as ‘metatags’ but then again they’d missed the hyphen out of 10-point plan, too).

I quote: “the popular meta tags found in the head of the page are description and keywords…“ “…keywords are key search terms that users will use to search for a specific site. Include a few key terms, do not add too many as they will be ignored.”

Well, I have news for you, Web Designer. They will all be ignored.Except it’s not news. It’s been Google’s official position since September 2009.

Now, to be fair, most of the rest of the article is OK, if superficial. (For example, what does “do not add too many” mean in the extract above? 10? 50? 100?)

The problem is, we’re talking about an authoritative publication available in most high streets. This is picked up by website owners (ie, potential clients), wannabe developers and people who already design websites for a living.

It doesn’t really help anyone when this kind of out-of-date information is published. I know this first hand, because twice in the last month I’ve had a conversation about keywords – and on both occasions the client has been convinced that it would be worthwhile adding keywords to every page because “a website designer told me so”.

It isn’t, and Google couldn’t be clearer on the subject. Quite rightly, when Google tries to understand how relevant a Web page is, it’s interested primarily in what’s on the page and not what can be hidden in meta tags. And it’s not without reason that Google ignores these – they are simply too open to abuse. If you go back half a decade or more, it was frighteningly common practice to (for example) include your competitor’s name and products in the meta keywords in the hope you’d not lose out.

So, Google’s interested in the page. Not the meta tags. I quote from 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.”

It’s such an issue that we actually build into our websites automatic meta tagging based on a pre-agreed dictionary, with the ability to override the dictionary at a page level – in case the client insists on it, or they’re told by an out-of-date SEO company that they really need it. But they really don’t.

The article in Web Designer is, pure and simple, ill-informed or under-researched. And for those of us who are trying to help clients understand what Google really wants (which, for the most part, Google is very open about) it’s plain unhelpful.


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