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.