Read all about it… in the meta tags

It’s reasonably well known that Google doesn’t look at the keyword meta tag when indexing pages for its search engines.
Keywords in meta tags became so ridiculously abused, that the search engine giant ignores them completely.  However, it HAS recognised a weakness in this policy, for a specific type of website.
News sites, if  they quality, get special treatment by Google in the Google News Centre. It’s like a search engine just for news publishers. In fact, that’s exactly what it is. News is categorised, prioritised and streamed from a selection of providers and ranked according to relevancy and authority.
Since meta keywords are ineffective, publishers have turned to headlines to try and get their articles up the search ladder, leading to cumbersome article titles and an element of trickery.
And so Google has introduced support for a new meta tag, created just for its own news service, and called it, appropriately enough, the meta news keyword tag.
An article on the Google News blog, A newly hatched way to tag your news articles, explains how Google will use the new meta tag to allow keywords to return.
Recent Panda and Penguin updates have placed much more focus on content and less on traditional SEO techniques, and penalised sites which try to influence their position through keyword and link abuse.
But while descriptive titles work well for non-news sites, there is a tradition for writing headlines that wouldn’t get a second glance from a search engine spider.
In news publishing, headlines summarise articles in one short, snappy, descriptive sentence. The skill of a headline-writer is to make the reader want to read the story.
Malcolm Coles cites a classic example in his article How to write headlines that work for SEO.
'Gotcha'‘Gotcha’ was the Sun’s front page splash headline when the General Belgrano was sunk in the Falklands conflict. It was an emotional, effective, and now historical headline, but although the article appeared long before the Google News service was around, if it were to happen today, no-one would have ever searched for ‘gotcha’ and publishers who wrote ‘General Belgrano sunk’ would have fared much better in searches.
And so the meta news keyword tag will allow headline writers to tag their articles with up to 10 relevant keywords, and in turn, allow them to write much more creative headlines and maintain some search engine value that otherwise be lost. But how this pans out is yet to be seen. It could be keyword mania all over again. Keywords in headlines will still beat meta news keywords, so ironically, this time round, it might be the publishers that snub the meta tag, although I have no doubt they will be aggressively tested
News publishers are just as desperate to get up the search engines as anyone, but things are different now, Google’s updates could pan a badly behaving site overnight. And that’s too big a risk to take.
This time round, search engine optimisation is a very different kettle of fish, and it falls on the publishers to use it responsibly, otherwise they’ll be in danger of losing it… again.