Court Declares META Keywords Dead


In a move that would only shock SEOs working in 1998, a US court has deemed Meta keywords as “immaterial” as it relates to their effect on search rankings.

The decision was reached during the Standard Process, Inc. v. Banks case. Standard Process had filed suit against Dr. Scott J. Banks for trademark infringement, the alleged infringement coming at least partly by way of one of Standard Process’s trademarks being found in Bank’s Meta keywords tag .

As Barry Schawrtz commented on Search Engine Land:

Standard Process did win part of the case, the judge ruled that since the keyword META tags do not influence search results, having trademarked terms in them are immaterial. I do not have access to the court document on that specific decision, at this moment, but I trust Eric Goldman on that.

In past cases, such as National American Medical vs Axiom, courts have ruled Meta Tags can be a form of trademark infringement. This case sets an interesting precedent for not only trademark law, but also the evolution of search knowledge.

The difference between the Standard Process, Inc. case and the National American Medical case is that in the former the court ruled based on knowledge of how the Meta keywords impact search engines and furthermore rankings.

Eric Goldman on his blog stated:

That’s why this new opinion appears to break important new ground. The court, citing this paper and Prof. McCarthy’s treatise, rejects the argument that keyword metatags create initial interest confusion, in part because keyword metatags are immaterial. Hooray! Hey all of you lawyers still citing to Brookfield for its description of search engine operations, I think you need to acknowledge this case now too.

So the next time you get a phone call from a shady SEO malpractitioner selling you on the idea that you are not coming up in the SERPs because of a lack of Meta Keywords, go ahead and tell them that Meta Keywords are dead, and you have the death certificate.

  • http://www.twitter.com/saadkamal Saad Kamal

    Meta keywords have been dead for a long time. However many other ‘less popular’ & meta search engines may still use it..

    Thanks for sharing!

  • Jeff O’Connor

    Thanks for pointing that out, Saad.

    I do side work in Web development and one of my customers was recently approached by a “professional” Web development outfit that sent him a laundry list of services they provide, most of which involve using free services from Google, search engine submission, and “dedicated professional META tag programmers” or some such nonsense.

    I think META tags still have their place in Web development and online marketing, but it’s a very small place; certainly not worth the price tag that so many of these fly-by-night outfits are putting on them.

  • http://seologia.com.ar Seologia

    In spite of what many (even official) sources say, I have experienced changes in the websites I optimize after adding META data to the most important pages. Don’t think they’re quite dead yet :)

    Seologia’s last blog post..El mito del PageRank

  • http://seologia.com.ar Seologia

    “Death certificate” link doesn’t work. Apparently according to the claranet people, MP insn’t a trusted site. Shame on them!

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  • http://www.portentinteractive.com Thomas M. Schmitz

    I feel like SEO just met Miracle on 42nd Street and fell in love.

    In the holiday classic, because the US Postal Service delivers to the plaintiff letters to Santa the court recognizes the bearded gentleman from the North Pole as being the real Santa. If a branch of the US Government deems it so then it must be true.

    Now a court has conferred official status concerning a topic of discussion that search engines fastidiously avoid.

    Expert witnesses aside, who tipped-off the judge? The Federal Witness Protection Program?

    Thomas M. Schmitz’s last blog post..Temporary Post Used For Style Detection (7597d686-a9c8-4060-a2c0-1f98a24ea21d – 3bfe001a-32de-4114-a6b4-4005b770f6d7)

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