So for the past four months or more, Google has not supported the Google News meta keywords tag. Don't confuse this with the normal meta keywords tag, which Google has not supported in ages. This is specific to news publishers and a special keyword tag in the format of <meta name="news_keywords".
The old help document explained it as:
Our crawler also makes use of a Google-specific metatag to help determine how to best classify your content. By implementing the news_keywords metatag you can specify which keywords are most relevant to your articles. For example, in an article about the World Cup you could add the following code to help Google News better understand the nature of your content:But sometime before October, Google quietly removed it from the help document and did not publicly communicate the change. So publishers continued to use it that is until Joost deValk noticed the other day and asked about it.
<meta name="news_keywords" content="World Cup, Brazil 2014, Spain vs Netherlands">
Keywords could also be used to help disambiguate between related terms. Again, if this particular publisher wanted to specify that this article reported on soccerâs World Cup -- as opposed to rugbyâs World Cup -- then they could try the following:
<meta name="news_keywords" content="World Cup, Brazil 2014, Spain vs Netherlands, soccer, football">
Use a comma to separate each phrase or group of keywords. (Commas are the only punctuation allowed in the field.) You can add up to ten phrases for a given article, and all keywords are given equal value. For instance, the first keyword is not considered a stronger signal than the tenth keyword.
Please keep in mind that we use a number of signals to determine ranking in addition to the prominence of certain keywords.
This morning, as I reported on Search Engine Land, Google confirmed they no longer use the news meta keyword tag. John Mueller of Google said so on Twitter:
Hi Joost, it looks like we dropped support for this around the time when we removed it from the help center. Keeping it on pages is fine, we just don't use it for Google News anymore.
The meta news keyword tag came late in the game in 2012 and I used it regularly for my news stories. I guess I no longer need to use it anymore.Hi Joost, it looks like we dropped support for this around the time when we removed it from the help center. Keeping it on pages is fine, we just don't use it for Google News anymore.— John â.o(â§â-½â¦)o.â (@JohnMu) February 20, 2018
I am just upset Google didn't communicate this earlier but I doubt that was intentional.
Forum discussion at Twitter.