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Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Uh Oh, Judges Are Ruling on Meta Tags

Eric Goldman can act as my "state of SEO" spokesman anytime. As always - he's on top of reality in our world.

As Barry Schwartz reports, a court has ruled that use of a competitor's trademark in "meta tags" can constitute copyright infringement. We aren't told whether it's the description tag we're talking about (at least that is often visible in search results), or the keyword tag. If it's the keyword tag in question, this will potentially get us back to the days of press coverage of those spooky-sounding "invisible words" in a "hidden file" that help "SEO black hats" get sites to rank "at the top." It's all so 100 years ago. Veteran search marketers, plug your ears.

A primer on that. Go to View...Page Source in your browser. See the part about meta name = "keywords"? That's the part that search engines no longer pay any frickin' attention to.

Prof. Goldman points out that the "court does not exhibit any understanding of anchor text," among other things.

The problem (or one of many problems) is: while there is certainly an archaic standard for how to structure so-called meta tags on HTML pages, there is no standard for how metadata is used. And with good reason. To quote Cory Doctorow's reasoning in the timeless ditty "Metacrap," "people lie."

The fact that a court is talking about meta tags is bound to confuse the general marketing public into thinking meta tags are something they're not. The reality is, it's an evolving landscape and telling a search engine where you would like it to rank you, on what terms, is not going to work.

Metadata in a general sense and as a general principle is fine and useful; in this context, bound to confuse the uninitiated. Say, am I beginning to repeat myself?

Because I'm not a competitor, I guess I'm legally allowed to write about Accu-Spina. Sheesh.

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