Did you catch the World Series? Not only has Boston broken the curse, they swept the Cardinals in the process of doing it! I was kind of torn on who to cheer for. Being an Arizonian, there is a combination of three players that were part of the Arizona Diamondbacks 2001 World Championship team – Curt Schilling (Boston), Tony Womack (St. Louis) and Reggie Sanders (St. Louis). I think it was the fact that I like Curt so much and wanted to see Boston overcome the “curse of Babe Ruth” that I cheered Boston on to a World Series victory. Congratulations Red Sox!
In today’s issue we will discuss the meta description tag and how it has been given a new life and in our feature article, we will take a look at copyright and SEO issues.
In this issue…
- NEW LIFE FOR THE META TAG?
- FEATURE ARTICLE – COPYRIGHT LAW & SEO, PART I
- SEARCH ENGINE HEADLINES
- CLOSING COMMENTS
NEW LIFE FOR THE META TAG?
It appears that the meta description tag has being given a second life…. with Yahoo at least. The Yahoo SERPs (search engine results pages) are now displaying content found in the meta description tag as the description for results listed. If a meta description tag does not exist or if it is fairly short, then Yahoo displays a snippet of content from the page itself.
For quite awhile now Google, Teoma, Wisenut and Yahoo have pretty much ignored this tag. They would index the tag but would not display it in listings that show up in the SERPs. Rather, a snippet of html text would be displayed which was pulled somewhere off the page. In the case where there was no html text, the search engine might display the text from a alt attribute in an image tag. On rare occasion where neither of these existed, they would then display the meta description tag. Now it appears that Yahoo has gone back to using the meta description tag. This is why web site owners should make sure they not only have them but that they are optimized to accurately represent the subject matter of the page they are on.
When Google rose to popularity, people stopped worrying about them because they do not make that much of an impact in how Google ranks web pages. However, Inktomi has always valued them in its algorithm and continues to do so even to this day. Yahoo acquired Inktomi in 2003 and eventually used the technology to build its own search engine that they debuted in February 2004. When the Yahoo search engine came online, they like Google would use snippets of content found on the web page to form the descriptions that appear in the SERPs. Now that has changed, for the time being anyway.
So for those of you that may be unaware, what is a meta description tag anyway? It is a tag that lies between the opening and closing head tags in the html of a web page whose purpose is to provide a short description of a web page. They are usually placed underneath the title tag and may look something like this:
<title>Title of Your Page</title>
<meta name=”description” content=”Description of your web page”>
Therefore if you don’t have them on your pages, should you add them? Absolutely! Yahoo is not only a popular search engine in itself but it powers All The Web, Alta Vista and MSN.
How does one optimize them? First of all, try to keep them under 200 characters. You can have more but search engines will cut them off at some point. Include keywords that are related to the page and for which you think people will search to find your site. Make sure they read well. People will see them in the SERPS and if they are simply stuffed with meaningless keywords, not only will they look silly, but they are less likely to trigger a response by that searcher. Finally, allow each web page in your site to have its own unique meta description tag. Using the same one over and over again is not going to help. Make sure each one is unique and specific to the page it relates to.
I am glad that the meta description tag is being used once again. They are easy to include, easy to optimize and give a web site owner more control over the description that a searcher will see when they are combing through results of their query.
FEATURE ARTICLE – COPYRIGHT LAW & SEO
I am honored to have Ian McAnerin as the contributor of this month’s feature article. I originally met Ian at High Rankings Forum where he and I both moderate. He is a former lawyer with an undergraduate degree in cultural anthropology, has lived and worked in Canada and the US and has significant experience in international business and marketing. His legal expertise along with his experience in SEO certainly qualify him to write on the subject of copyright and SEO.
Copyright Law & SEO, Part I by Ian McAnerin
What Is Copyright?
Copyright is a legal right granted to the authors of certain artistic or creative works. I’m sure that wasn’t very helpful, so allow me to explain: it literally means “the right to copy”. This “copying” can be in the form of translated or derivative versions, reproductions, public or private distributions, displays, or broadcasts.
SEO’s encounter copyright issues all the time. One of the most important things we bring to a client – unique, effective, keyword rich content – is the very thing copyright law serves to protect. A computer can’t just spit it out. It is this creative element that helps to make a site stand out well on the search engine rankings. Google isn’t interested in indexing the same content over and over again, and it also removes computer generated “landing pages” whenever it finds them from it’s results. By offering fresh, informative content to the search engines and the visitors, the SEO (and SEO aware copywriter) helps a website achieve high rankings without the costs of pay per click, banner ads, and other forms of advertising. This translates into more money in your clients pocket for the same (and often better) results and traffic. Naturally this content is worth a lot to your client, and by extension, you.
Unfortunately, there are many persons in the world who do not respect basic principles of fairness, sometimes due to issues of moral bankruptcy or deliberately criminal behavior, and sometimes due to an inability to understand what the big deal is. Rather than coming up with their own content, they would rather steal yours. Even worse, once they have stolen your content, it’s no longer “unique” and therefore not as likely to be ranked highly – in some cases you could be dropped off the results all together, if the infringers site is older than
Copyright infringement has become even more prevalent since the beginning of the computer generation. In the past, the copyright violator had to go through some effort and expense in order to, for example, copy a painting or record a musical number. Today a perfect digital image of an original picture, literary work or sound recording can be copied and transmitted to millions of people almost instantly. The ease of this transmission, along with it’s high quality, has lent itself to a whole new generation of people who seem to feel that anything that can be found on the internet is or should be free for the taking.
How Do I get a Copyright?
Easy – do something creative and original and commit it to some form of recording. An oral speech is not copyrightable, but as soon as it’s recorded or written down, that recording is automatically copyrighted. There is no need to register something in order to obtain copyright protection.
You can’t copyright: ideas, equations, thoughts, names, data, or things that should instead be patented, trademarked, or registered as an industrial design.
You can copyright: web copy, articles, musical recordings, video recordings, photos, designs, computer programs and most artwork.
How Do You Prove Your Work is Your Own?
One way is to register it. This is a method by which you take a copy of your work (for example, put your website on CD) and register it with a third party who can provide proof that you had this information as of a specific time. There are several reasons to register your copyrighted material — first, you have proof on file. Second, registration creates an automatic assumption in the courts that your copyright is valid and that all your statements in the application for it are true. Third, in the US you are then able to take advantage of several statutory advantages that are not available otherwise.
If you don’t register it, your options are more limited, but they are available. Some people use the Wayback Machine to show an approximate publication time, but if your site is new or not indexed it may not help you. You can also point to file dates and so forth, but as you can imagine on the internet these things are easy to forge.
Some Popular Misconceptions – In the old days, if you didn’t have a copyright symbol and date on your copyrighted work you were in trouble. This is no longer the case in most countries. The format is usually:
Copyright © 2003 Your Name. All Rights Reserved.
It’s really hard for an infringer to stand up in court and say he didn’t know it was copyrighted when this notice is at the bottom of the pages he stole the content from. In order to receive protection under the Berne Convention, you were originally required to use the © symbol, but most countries have changed that requirement. I would strongly recommend using it though.
Remember that if you become aware of a copyright infringement and choose not to enforce your rights, you may find yourself prevented (“estopped”) from complaining the next time. Always defend your rights. Even if it’s minor, at the very least tell them you want permission asked for the use.
Fair Use and other Defenses – There are times when you can legitimately use someone’s copyrighted materials. But since this is also one of the automatic defenses infringers use, it’s important to know what fair use is, and isn’t. Fair use (also called fair dealing in Canada) basically covers the ability to make copies of a work for “legitimate” purposes. This includes the ability for you to print off a copy of a web page at home for personal research purposes, and for public review, criticism or news reporting.
It does not cover the copying of all or substantially all of a work for public display. In short, if you rip off an article or artwork from someone else’s website, and then make some minor formatting changes and perhaps alter a byline and a bit of text, and then post it as your own, you are clearly and obviously infringing copyright. There is a very fine distinction between fair use and infringement, and there is no specific amount or percentage that is “safe”. Quoting a few lines is safe, quoting the whole article is not. In Canada, fair dealing for criticism, news, or review requires a full citation to the original author. This is not required in the US, but I would recommend it anyway.
If you want effective copyright protection on your work, do this:
- Create an original and creative document – web copy, website design, or artwork.
- Once you have created this work, place a © copyright notice on it.
- Register the work in your home country (if available), and perhaps the USA as well.
- Defend your rights consistently and vigorously.
Ian McAnerin is the founder of McAnerin Networks Inc, an SEO/SEM company specializing in cross-border internet promotion. A former lawyer with an undergraduate degree in cultural anthropology, he has lived and worked in Canada and the US, and has significant experience in international business and marketing. McAnerin Networks Inc has offices in Las Vegas and Calgary.
SEARCH ENGINE HEADLINES
Here are some of the latest headlines related to the search engine industry.
Search Online, Buy Offline: How to Tell?
Many people do extensive product research online but end up buying from brick and mortar retailers. How can you track the effectiveness of search marketing campaigns that result in offline purchases?
Google’s New Threat to Microsoft
Microsoft has warned that it’s preparing a Google killer in the form of a better search tool. But while MSN fine-tunes its algorithms, Google has struck at the heart of Windows with a beta release tool to search PC desktops.
Google Desktop Search Launched
Google released a new Google Desktop Search tool today that allows people to scan their computers for information in the same way they use Google to search the web. Its ease of use, plus how it enhances the Google search experience, make it a compelling product to use.
I hope you enjoyed today’s newsletter. I’ll be back the first Tuesday of next month with more search engine marketing tips as well as some of the latest trends in the search engine industry. I think I might write a summary of all the events that have transpired this year related to the search engine world. I’m just thinking out loud right now but that would probably be a good subject to cover.
Have a great week and also a great Thanksgiving holiday which will be here before we know it. See you next month!