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SEO2 min read Healthcare SEO basics: Why you don't need meta keywords

Using the meta keywords tag won't help your site—and it might hurt.

June 3, 2020Molly Phillips, Digital Content Specialist

Reviewed August 12, 2020

Search engine optimization (SEO) best practices are always changing. What boosts your organic rank today may not work once the next algorithm update rolls around. One such example of a now obsolete SEO tactic is the meta keywords tag.

Even though Google and other search engines put meta keywords to bed years ago (RIP), it's still common for us to be asked about our best practices for meta keywords.

The rise and fall of meta keywords

It's true that the meta keywords tag used to be an integral part of SEO. In the mid-90s, search engines allowed site builders to input the keywords they wanted associated with their webpage directly into the page's code. The element for specifying this was called the meta keywords tag.

Search engine spiders then crawled the page, noted the keywords specified in the meta keywords tag and matched the page with corresponding search queries.

It comes as no surprise that this led to some spammy behavior like keyword stuffing, meaning that people were selecting keywords regardless of the content's relevance.

3 reasons not to use meta keywords for healthcare SEO

1. Google doesn't use meta keywords as a ranking signal. In 2009, Google announced that they were dropping the meta keywords tag entirely as a ranking factor. If you're like most healthcare websites, the bulk of your organic search traffic comes from Google. Why spend precious time and resources on something that won't help you?

2. Meta keywords could hurt your search performance on Bing. It's true that Bing indexes meta keywords. But they've noted that getting meta keywords right won't be a big help, and getting them wrong can actually hurt your site. Essentially, if you include meta keywords that aren't also represented in the content of your page, Bing will see that as a spam signal.

3. Meta keywords could reveal your SEO strategy to your competitors. Using the meta keywords tag on your site makes it easy for others to see the specific keywords you're trying to target, without even the help of a competitive research tool.

Stick to tried-and-true SEO strategies

There's a lot that goes in to creating website content that ranks. Partnering with a website vendor that understands both the technical and content aspects of SEO can help you ensure that your organization performs as well as possible in search.

If you're concerned that your site isn't ranking as well as it could, contact us and ask about an SEO audit.