Back when Google was just baby talk and Netscape (remember that?) was The Way to get around, web designers regularly embedded keywords into meta data. There were rules against keyword spamming, and consultants charged hefty fees for optimizing them. In the first edition of the book I co-wrote with Kelly Goto (©2001) we even offered a tool to assist with coming up with them (page 190).
But before last night I have never received an OMG ARE YOU KIDDING ME? email — from a lawyer, no less — about keywords. I mean, keywords. Seriously!? But I get ahead of myself…
With the rise of the Google State, meta data keywords fell in importance. Google made it clear that they were far more interested in contextual keywords. What Are You Actually Saying? vs What Do You Want To Be Associated With? — this was the new benchmark. Kelly and I even removed the tool from the book’s second edition (©2004) and the download from the book’s companion website. At Waxcreative, we stopped allocating resources to putting keywords into site code. It was hard enough to get “real” content from clients.
Lately keywords are back in discussion. With the world dominance of blogging platforms (all hail WordPress, amen!), “tagging” — really just a way of adding meta keyword data — has become vital in search functionality. In January one of our clients submitted her own keywords to us, so we popped them in her head code. Her position advanced on Google by pages within weeks. Once again, the keyword is important. What You Want To Be Associated With is back on par with What You Are Actually Saying. (Take note Wax clients: we will be contacting you shortly to update your meta data.)
What keywords you choose is up to you. You still shouldn’t spam — meaning if you sell feather bracelets, you shouldn’t list “feather bracelet” in your keywords sixteen times. That’s just poor manners and Google will snub you for it.
But here is something you should always do: include common misspellings of your name. My name is EMILY COTLER. I should have these keywords:
Emily Colter, Emily Kotler, Emily Cotter, Emil, Amy… You see where I am going. This helps for when people are looking for you but might not have it correct. Search engines are like playing horseshoes in this way; getting close still counts if your keywords are helpful.
Which brings me to the lawyer, the email, and the “Seriously?!” moment from last night.
One of our long-standing clients — let’s rename her Karin Jones for privacy purposes — has a site that we originally built well before tweeting had meaning outside of birds in springtime, and thus her home page Head code contains keywords. Last night Karin forwarded this email that she received:
Please ask your attorney to contact me regarding the apparent embedding of my client’s name (Karen Jones) in your web sites metadata. I do not believe this is proper and I request that you cease and desist from this illegal practice, forthwith.
We are reserving all our rights.
And then signed with all the heft of legal letter.
Seriously? Does Karen Jones really think that she can control whether her incredibly common name is used as a keyword? There are over 6700 Karen Joneses on Facebook alone.
We recommend that Karen Jones include “Karin Jones” in her meta data. It’s good strategy. And we are happy to share.