A valued client recently asked about the keywords that are used on her site. She was a bit confused by the keyword meta tag and the actual keywords of the pages.
I understand how this gets confusing. So, here’s a birds eye view of the matter.
Here’s where it gets tough for those new to Search Engine Optimization and the associated web technologies: there is a meta-keyword tag (the meta-tag) that is built into many websites. The meta-keyword tag allows you to put a collection of keywords into the page that search engines USED to look at. This was part of what the search engines looked at to determine what topics that particular page was about. This was very quickly abused by web masters, and is now no longer used by Google or any other major search engine that I am aware of.
Now – keywords DO show up in web pages. However, they are not separated out in a specific place for the search engines to go looking for them – as in the meta-keyword tag – but are a normal part of the text content of the page. For example, if I have a web page about real espresso, I may have a title tag that includes the phrase “real espresso”, a header tag that also includes that phrase, and then will sprinkle that phrase – and variations of it – into the descriptive text of the page – the normal text content.
Below is an image that helps illustrate the above. This is a screenshot of a page on the FLEXISS website that actually ranks very highly for “real espresso” in Google (currently page 2). One place that “real espresso” shows up that is not noted in the image is at the bottom of the page, in the last paragraph. You can view the page here: http://www.flexiss.net/about/espresso/.
So – the concept of “keywords” is muddied by an early history of the way search engine spiders used to index pages – using the meta-keyword tag. Currently, both humans and bots are looking for the keywords in the same places. The bots are looking for an understanding of the content of the page, human searchers are looking for content that is relevant to what they want to see. The search engines are evaluating the actual content to get an understanding of the content so they can provide exactly what the searcher is looking for.
So, a quick note on the metaphysics of keywords. Cheers!