|Apple or apple?|
I think what we need in the SEO world is for Google to recognize a Negative Keywords meta tag. Something that tells the search engine words that our site or page is definitely not about.
We currently have a Keywords meta tag that has a rather short and dirty history in the world of SEO. Way back in the 90s the idea was that you could help search engines understand what your page was about by tossing some keywords in the keywords meta tag. Of course this became abused very, very quickly, with adult sites filling their keywords meta tag with “stamp collecting” and anything else they could think of to trick you into clicking through to their site.
It didn’t take long before search engines started completely ignoring the keywords meta tag, and today (and for years) the keyword meta tag has done nothing at all to benefit search rankings.
Enter the Negative Keywords
Negative keywords are something that Google already lets adwords advertisers use to prevent their ads from appearing for certain searches. This is good for advertisers because they can ensure they’re getting more targeted ads and not wasting money on useless clicks, and good for Google because they can serve more relevant ads that users are more likely to click on.
But in the organic search world, we don’t have this option. If we have a site that sells hand-picked apples, we probably don’t want to rank for any search with the word “computer” in it. Those aren’t relevant to us and we aren’t going to sell any apples to someone looking for an Apple compute — and someone looking for an apple computer probably doesn’t want to find our site either.
A Real Life Example
In a more specific example, I have a client that manufactures custom ferrules; however, they don’t have off-the-shelf ferrules and are not interested in short run or prototyping ferrules for customers. It’s not worth their time. In an attempt to ward off RFQs for these, they’ve included this in the ferrules section of their site:
Some companies like Stimpson offer “off the shelf” ferrules or grommets as part of their product line and through their catalog. In these cases, companies like Stimpson have invested in the tooling required to manufacture these catalog items and can offer them in lower volumes at reasonable prices.
We do not have a ferrule product line, but instead works with customers on custom ferrules or eyelets for volumes over 500,000 per year with dedicated customer tooling.
They’re actually driving traffic to a competitor site to keep the non-relevant RFQs away, but because they continue to rank for ferrule-related terms, it continues to be an issue.
If we had a negative keyword meta tag, we could toss “short run,prototype” into the tag to keep those users away. This would be good for my client since they wouldn’t have to waste time on RFQs for jobs they won’t do, good for users who wouldn’t waste their time either, and good for Google because it would help Google serve more relevant search results.
Really, what’s the downside? Let’s get this going Google!
Can it be Abused?
Personally, I can’t think of a way offhand that the negative keyword meta tag could be abused. At it’s core you’re telling a search engine not to rank you for something, after all. It doesn’t help you to rank for anything else, just keeps you out of the top results for stuff that your page is not about.
Of course it’s also possible that I’m just not good enough at thinking black hat — if you can think of way this could be abused or exploited (short of hacking someone’s site, ’cause let’s face it, once you do that their ruin is certain) please drop a comment and then I’ll give up.
But until then, I’m going to keep asking Santa for a negative keywords meta tag.