Recently, a friend of mine sent me an email asking for a favor regarding some SEO she was helping out with:

Please look at this for me, I know you know a lot about websites, I think this guy has too many meta tags.  I sent him a separate email with screenshots of other people’s metatags and he is pretty much adding everyone’s college names into his…thoughts?

I would recommend him get rid of anything that isn’t directly relevant to the content within his website in the meta tags.  With what he has now, it would actually be better to have no meta tags at all. He’s definitely going to be penalized organically. 

From Wikipedia:

Meta elements are HTML or XHTML elements used to provide structured metadata about a Web page. Such elements must be placed as tags in the head section of an HTML or XHTMLdocument. Meta elements can be used to specify page description, keywords and any other metadata not provided through the other head elements and attributes.

The meta element has four valid attributes: content, http-equiv, name and scheme. Of these, only content is a required attribute. 

Essentially, by including all of those irrelevant keywords in the meta tags, he is telling the spiders to look for content that isn’t being included in his page.  I’d suggest only using the keywords for the names of his school, DMA locations around the area, and broad keywords associated with his vertical.  Length doesn’t really matter, as long as the content is relevant.    Explain to him that the meta tag section is similar to the index or Table of Contents of a book.  If he were to open a book and try to find information from the index or TOC that wasn’t actually in the book, he would probably be upset.  The same goes for the search engines.

I hope this helps.  If you need me to explain it further just let me know.