Hey Newsies! Meta Keywords are back! (sorta)

One of the tricks that SEOs play on the uninformed or the outdated is to ask them how they treat the classic Keywords Meta Tag. I cringe whenever an agency tells me “We’ll just cram all that into the meta tags!” They think themselves clever, having somehow stayed “one step ahead of Google”. All they did was waste their clients time.

Will McAvoy on HBO's The Newsroom

It’s true, Google hasn’t relied on the Meta Keywords tag for a very long time, and spending any amount of time cramming keywords in there is a waste of time… or is it?

Google has announced a brand new Meta Keywords tag called “News_Keywords” and it’s only for online news stories. This does not mean you can use the old meta keywords tag, but instead that the IT folks need to add a field to your site to allow for this new “News Keywords” meta tag so it is included in all future news stories.

Example:  <meta name=”news_keywords” content=”World Cup, Brazil 2014, Spain vs Netherlands”>.  This is a 100% NEW meta tag, just for news stories.

Why have they done this?

Actually, it’s one of the coolest thing Google has done for news organizations since Google News. As Image Freedom consulted for both print and television news organizations (many of us are trained journalists ourselves), our recommendations as SEOs are always that keywords be considered in headlines, in body copy, etc. These things still matter, but, well, I’ll let Google explain it for themselves:

“The Web has transformed both how news organizations report information and the way users find it. Imagine if “WALL ST. LAYS AN EGG” were used as a headline today by an online news site. Since the headline is a sequence of text that’s only readily understandable by a human, most machine algorithms would probably attach some sort of biological association to it. In turn, this would make it difficult for millions of curious users who are using Google.com or Google News to find the best article about the stock market crash they just heard about.”

In a nutshell, you can be creative with your headlines again without worrying about that hurting your SEO and costing you valuable traffic.

How cool is that?! Google doesn’t want your headlines to be a parable of the old joke “An SEO walked into a Bar, Bars, Pub, Public House, Irish Pub, Drinks, Beer, Wine, Liquor…” (You get the idea). This is really great news for newsies everywhere and the first step to taking advantage of this is, unfortunately, a bit of a pain to implement.

The CMS that your News Organization is using is not setup to handle the new News_Keywords meta tag. It’s not. They IT guys might tell you “yea, we have a meta keyword tag, we’ve had one for years.” This is not that same meta tag, this one is 100% brand new, never before used. Your programmers are going to have to add this field to your backend CMS, they’re going to whine about it, make them do it anyway.

Why should I care?

Google stopped using the Meta Keywords tag because it is abused. People cram their Meta Keyword tag full of every possible variation, miss-spelling and plural version of their favorite keywords, often times they paste the same meta keywords on every page on their site. So Google gets no value out of this, and sadly to say it’s SEOs that are to blame for the death of the old meta keywords tag.

The Title Tag and the Body Copy have been the most important places to put keywords, but like Google says, they want you to be able to express your creativity in your headline writing. You can’t do that if you have to repeat the same keyword two or three times in a headline to get picked up in Google News results. So Google is giving you, the journalist, the chance to include up to 10 news specific keywords, and that is a HUGE advantage.

If you put off implementing this on your site, and other competing news organizations get it up on their site, they are going to start taking your internet traffic. I don’t normally suggest being an early adopter, but this is the rare exception, get this up on your site!