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Even though META keywords are less important now than they were 5 or 10 years ago, you still need them in your site. After all, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of search engines and they all rank sites differently. The META keyword tag can accept up to 35 keywords. Don't use all 35. When search engines see a page with 35 keywords in the META tag, it views that site as not tightly focused enough. Instead, use 8 or fewer highly relevant keywords per page to achieve better rankings.
At one time, having the right keywords in your META tags was the key to SEO success. Not anymore. As search engines and their ranking techniques have gotten more complex, META tags have taken on less importance in good search engine optimization. You still need to use them wisely and effectively, and keywords placed elsewhere in your site are still very important, but bear in mind that Google employees have published documents stating that Google pays almost no attention to META tags anymore.
SEO is a complex task because the criteria used to rank sites is a secret. The ranking formula used by each search engine is that company's most valuable intellectual property, and so they don't reveal it. There are around 200 criteria used to rank sites and the exact weight given to each item is never revealed. To make matters even more complicated, the weight given to these items changes regularly to deal with advances in search and optimization techniques. As a result, adhering to best practices is always going to get you better long-term results than flavor-of-the-month SEO.
Some SEO companies will guarantee you placement. Anyone who does this either a) isn't showing you the fine print or B) doesn't quite know what they're talking about. Placement in “natural language” or free search – the listings on the left-hand side of most search results – can't be guaranteed because the formulas used to rank sites are secret and constantly changing. Companies may be able to guarantee ranking using pay-per-click ads, but this is a different thing entirely. So, when considering an SEO project, beware companies that promise a specific ranking. They're misleading.
You'll never be done with your SEO work. You have to accept this when you begin any SEO project if want to avoid frustration, disappointment, or confusion. SEO isn't something you can do just once and declare it done. Rather, SEO is one of the most complex areas of online marketing, and must be worked on regularly and treated as a process, testing and revising techniques. If you don't do this, your SEO work may be effective only in the short term, or not at all.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|