It comes as a total surprise that Google has introduced a new “keywords metatag” to be used as a ranking signal when featuring the latest News items in its search results. Surprising, mainly because Google has already dismissed or downplayed the regular metatag and Google’s spokesperson Matt Cutts is on record as saying: “You shouldn’t spend time on the meta keywords tag. We don’t use it.”
This new metatag is even more surprising when you consider Google has blasted the practice of “keyword stuffing” with its Penguin Updates in recent months. Links and content which are too “keyword” focused have virtually disappeared from Google’s Index. Sites which have used SEO to “over optimized” their content have received the same fate.
So what’s up with this news_keywords metatag which will let publishers give the specific keywords for a news article. The tag will be like:
<* meta name="news_keywords" content="Emmys 2012, Homeland, Modern Family, Jimmy Kimmel, tv, tv shows" *>
(Please remove the *’s in your actual HTML code.)
You can use up to ten phrases for each article and each phrase should be separated with a comma, Google says each keyword will be given equal value.
Now Google is asking you to classify or help it understand your news stories. It is intended to be a helpful tool to better gather and quickly present relevant news items to its users. But is this new tag the best option for Google?
Obviously, Google from past experiences, must know this kind of tag is open to abuse. Keep in mind, although this is a News-Related tag, alert webmasters will already know Google news items often appear in general Google search results.
That’s why they already have quality guidelines in place to handle this kind of content. Google News is strictly for informational material directed at current events, important happenings, timely reports… other articles such as How-to, advice columns, general weather forecasts, stock data… will not be displayed.
In its News guidelines, Google also reminds us that Google News is NOT for promotional or marketing material and won’t send its users to sites created solely to promote a product or organization. Google wants unique quality articles written by experts in the field and won’t accept any aggregated content. News sites should have proper author biographies with clear contact information displayed for its users. Correct spelling and grammar should be used at all times as this provides for a much better user experience.
Google also reminds us this “news_metatag” is only one ranking signal of many it uses to rank content/sites on the web. Webmasters, journalists and news organizations should take advantage of this new tool, but given Google’s recent crackdown on keyword stuffing, it definitely should come with a “use with caution” warning for anyone who would try to “misuse” this new metatag.