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Google Brings the Keywords Meta Tag Back to Life

20 September 2012 BY

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Yesterday Google announced it was going to start supporting a new meta tag intended specifically for news websites: the news_keywords meta tag.

Yes, you read that right – Google is reintroducing support for the long-deceased keywords meta tag. But this time only for news sites.

From the official blog post:

“The goal is simple: empower news writers to express their stories freely while helping Google News to properly understand and classify that content so that it’s discoverable by our wide audience of users.”

Google is saying that through this meta tag, online journalists don’t have to worry about writing SEO-friendly headlines any more but can freely make puns and jokes to create catchy eye-grabbing headlines.

As long as these journalists put the right keywords in the news_keywords meta tag, Google says it’ll still be able to understand the topic of the article and won’t mind if the headline doesn’t describe the article’s contents in search engine friendly terms:

“Similar in spirit to the plain keywords metatag, the news_keywords metatag lets publishers specify a collection of terms that apply to a news article. These words don’t need to appear anywhere within the headline or body text.”

I don’t know about you, but to me this is more or less an admission of defeat. The message Google wants to convey is that this is liberating for online news sites – and I agree it is, to an extent – but what Google is admitting between the lines is that it sucks at determining the actual topic of an article.

Basically, Google can’t do semantics on its own. It needs us to help explain what we mean. Everything from microdata to sitemaps to this news_keywords tag is intended to make life easier for Google.

All of these extra practices adds extra complexity to building and managing websites. It’s not enough to just build a good website and ‘write great content’.

If you want to rank in Google’s SERPs (and since it has a +90% market share, you can’t afford not to) you also need to put all these extra things in place to make sure Google can make sense of your content. And that makes websites ever more complicated (and expensive), which is especially troublesome for small businesses who don’t have a lot of money to spend on their internet activities.

It appears that, by its own implicit admission, Google thoroughly sucks at understanding human language. So it places the onus on us to make its index better and more relevant.

I don’t know about you, but I’m getting a bit tired of that. I just want to focus on creating great websites that add lasting value for its users. Google should focus on creating a great search engine, and not get us to do the hard work for them.

[Image Credit]

AUTHORED BY:
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Barry Adams is one of the editors of State of Digital and is an award-winning SEO consultant based in Belfast, delivering specialised SEO services to clients across Europe.
  • http://twitter.com/BrionyGunson Briony Gunson

    But…. er…. um *stumped* This seems a short term, lazy solution which is open to abuse? I doubt the future of semantic search lies in Google’s past?

    • http://www.barryadams.co.uk/ Barry Adams

      To be honest Briony a part of me suspects this is either a very early April Fools gag, or a nefarious plot to weed out Google News spammers.

      • http://twitter.com/BrionyGunson Briony Gunson

        Yeah, or just an information gathering exercise so that keywords can be identified with their use in natural language.

        • http://www.barryadams.co.uk/ Barry Adams

          Yeah, but if Google still need to crack that nut 15 years down the road, they’ve got serious issues. :P

  • Jonathan Hawkins

    Here is a WordPress plugin that I developed that will insert Google’s “News_Keywords” meta into all your posts and pages. The WP news meta plugin is here
    http://www.topoftheburg.com/google-news-keywords-wordpress-plugin .

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  • http://www.seoebooklab.com/ Ram Babu SEO

    I think this can be a re-start of using keywords meta tags and, what Google tries to say here such only can help news websites, i don’t think so there must be some plan it to change with other areas as well.

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