Google and Meta Tags

December 4th, 2007 by Chris

For years I’ve taken the stand that Google doesn’t use meta tags for ranking purposes. Going back to 2001 I’ve always said that Google will sometimes use the meta description tag for generating a site abstract for the SERPs, but not for ranking, and the meta keywords tag is not used at all.

Not only have I told people that going on 7 years now, but I also did experiments showing it to be true, and yet still I would get into forum arguments on the topic, quite heated ones, and even one time someone who runs a webmaster site made a page on his site, calling me out by name, more or less calling me an idiot for believing what I did.

It is nice to be right. Like I said in my intro to my new SEO guide I have a really good track record of being right with things involving SEO, and this very literal post by Google confirms the meta tag issue in my favor very handily.

You’d think that since this “discussion” started in 2001 it would have ended by now, but it hasn’t. Only instead of me putting on the boxing gloves to teach the SEO neophytes over at SitePoint, John Conde has been doing it instead. The threads about meta tags still come up though, hopefully, now, they stop.

7 Responses to “Google and Meta Tags”

  1. Kyle  Says:

    Interesting find…

    As of March 2007 (yes 2007!) Danny Sullivan said Google completely ignores the meta description tag and generates a description by scanning your content automatically. Google actually has been using the meta description for a few years now, and often will pull that as the description for the SERPs.

    Obviously this article needs to be updated, but what it shows is how he fundamentally misinformed the public on such a simple, obvious issue. And it is recent. And he is looked to as an expert, so just imagine all the misinformation that still goes on from the norm in this field.

  2. Kyle  Says:

    By the way, an important thing to consider is how lengthy people are with their articles. Making things wordy makes your content ‘richer’, generally generating a better page for ranking in search engines. However, since the above page is so long, it is then assumed Danny was trying to make it as detailed as possible. That is why he deserves to be heavily criticized on that incorrect statement. If his post was a paragraph long, and he wasn’t being so careful in his word choice, one may believe the mistake was a simple error or ‘brain fart’. This article was so detailed, that it is obviously he truly believed this as of March 2007…

  3. Tommy  Says:

    Thanks, as a seo newbie your site teach me much. Not sure when will I’ll finished my reading here. :D

  4. Andy  Says:

    I have to say that I learnt everything I know about SEO from Sitepoint and now more recently keeping up with this site, and it’s easy to spot the lunatics in the SEO forum at SP, and John does a great job there also it must be said.

    An interesting debate is whether reciprocial linking is still has any real SEO value? Could you post some of your thoughts on this particular aspect Chris?


  5. Paul  Says:

    I figure the meta description is my chance to catch the eye of a searcher looking down the list of search results and trying to decide which one to click. I write them for the reader, not the spider :)

  6. Ken Barbalace  Says:

    My use of the meta description is the same as Paul’s I use it to capture the reader’s attention and to let them know exactly what a page/article is about.

  7. Bill Cawley  Says:


    I read the following on your SEO Guide page “I do maybe one or two jobs a year for other people,” and am wondering if I might be permitted the opportunity of being one of those couple of jobs in 2008? We’ve been following your advice, but frankly need a little hands on direction. Please advise and thank you for your consideration.

    Bill Cawley
    813-767-3176 (cell)
    813-884-5450 (office)

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