Okay Google what gives? First Matt Cutts tells me Google absolutely, positively does not read meta data from your website.
Today I was reading the Google SEO reportcard and the report says they do read meta data from websites.
So who do I believe? Wouldn't it be great if Google published a rule book for search ranking so we would know exactly what to do and didn't have to rely on internet rumors? Of course they have the Google Webmaster Central which gives us some tips but it doesn't give us all of the answers. They speak in general terms and don't get into the technical details that webmasters really need to understand how Google works (plus Google isn't willing to share how their search algorithm works).
For those who are just getting into search engine optimization, the search engines used to rank websites based on the meta tags you placed in your HTML code. Some examples of meta tags include meta title, meta description, and meta keywords. By placing your target keyword phrases in these meta tags you could rank highly in the search engines. Today the search engines use many other factors in your search ranking because everyone caught on to the meta tag trick and there are many more websites competing for the top ranking.
Well after digging deeper into the ongoing debate about whether or not meta tags are used by the search engines here is what I've concluded. I can't tell you with 100% certainty that this is what the search engines do because none of them are willing to come out and just say “we do use meta tags in your search ranking” or “we do not use meta tags in your search rankings”.
1. Google does read the meta tags (meta title and meta description) in your website but they do not affect your search ranking
2. Google does not read the meta keyword tag in your website (Matt Cutts discusse this in his video)
3. Google uses the keywords in your meta title as one of their search ranking factors
4. Google uses the meta description in the display of the search results for your website
5. Yahoo and Bing still read your meta data and they use it to rank your website. They also use many other factors to rank your website which can be found in their respective webmaster guidelines.
Search engine optimization is a moving target so you have to keep up with the latest trends. The Bing/Yahoo venture will change the search landscape soon and the emergence of Facebook as the most popular internet website may change the way we search in the future.
Subscribe to my blog updates and I'll share the latest search engine news as it evolves. Also please comment on this post and share your take on the use of meta tags.
Until next time,