How much time should I spend on meta tags, and which ones matter?
The conventional wisdom a few years ago was that meta tags mattered a whole lot. You really had to tweak them and spent a lot of time to get your keywords right. And did you have a space or a comma between your keywords, and all that kind of stuff? And we’ve mostly evolved past that.
The pendulum might have gone a little bit too far in the other direction, because a lot of people sometimes say – “don’t think at all about meta tags. Don’t spend any time whatsoever on them”. Let me give you a more nuanced view. You shouldn’t spend any time on the meta keywords tag. We don’t use it. I’m not aware of any major search engine that uses it these days. It’s a place that people don’t really see when they load the browser. A lot of webmasters just keyword stuff there. So it’s really not all that helpful. We don’t use meta keywords at all.
We do use the meta description tag. The meta description is really handy, because if we don’t know what would make a good snippet, and you have something in the meta description tag that would basically give a pretty good answer, maybe it matches what the user typed in or something along those lines, then we do reserve the right to show that meta description tag as the snippet. We can either show the snippet that might be the keyword in context on the page or the meta description.
If the meta description is really well written and really compelling, then a person who sees it might click through more often. So if you’re a good SEO, someone who is paying attention to conversion and not just rankings on trophy phrases, then you might want to pay some attention to testing different meta descriptions that might result in more clickthrough and possibly more conversions. Don’t do anything deceptive, like saying you’re about apples when you’re really about red widgets that are completely unrelated to apples. But if you have a good and compelling meta description, that can be handy.
There are a lot of other meta tags. I think in the metadata for the video, we can link to a really good page of documentation that we had which sort of talks about which stuff we pay attention to and which stuff we don’t pay attention to. But at a 50,000-foot level, don’t pay attention to the keywords meta tag. The description meta tag is worth paying attention to.
by Matt Cutts - Google's Head of Search Quality Team