The big news of the past couple of days is that Yahoo now allows you to opt out of having Yahoo pull their directory titles and descriptions into their general search results for websites with directory listings. Jennifer covered this yesterday in her post Tired of Your Yahoo Title and Description Showing up in Searches?
As I was installing the new robots meta tag onto my home page I started thinking, "Why am I opting out when I never opted in?"
Okay, so you can make the argument that when I opted into the Yahoo directory I essentially gave Yahoo permission to do this. Fair enough. But that was years ago. In fact, back when I submitted my site to the Yahoo directory they actually were a directory. So things have changed over time.
One of the changes we've seen over the past several years is the changing of internet communications from primarily opt-out to opt-in. Let's call that one of the benefits of spam! Now, when I sign up for newsletters or forum participation or whatever (from any legitimate information source), I actually have to opt in first and then confirm that I opted in. Just a safety measure to ensure it was really me opting in.
Yeah, I know the NO directory tags is not exactly newsletter communications here but the concept is the same. Obviously many people don't like Google or Yahoo pulling titles and descriptions from DMOZ or the Yahoo directory, respectively. In fact, the SEO community has been trying for a long time now to get the search engines to provide these directory exclusions. Google was first and now Yahoo.
But my question is, why not just stop the practice altogether. I don't think anybody believes that this is helping the quality of results, or the perceived quality of the results. Search engines should know that the title and description that is provided in the SERPs is prime real estate. Putting that real estate into the hands of disinterested third parties such as directory editors (who are often not working in the directories best interest, let a lone the sites being listed) is just not a good idea.
Right now the search engines have it backwards. Instead of opting out, how about changing it so we have to opt in? We should not have to tell the engines not to use the directory information in our search results, we should have to tell them we do want them to us it. Wouldn't that be more in the spirit of good web practices?
I know... if you take this argument to the extreme then that means that everybody should have to opt in just to get the search engines to spider their site. But I think we're well beyond that to the point that the vast majority of people and businesses with a website want to be found on the search engines. With the NODIR and NOODP tags, I think its by far the opposite. While most probably don't even know or understand that this is being done, those who care (which includes those who are paid to care) don't want this information used and would prefer to see that as the default.
So it's time for search engines to start caring about the sites owners just as much as the searchers. Don't just give us the options to say "no". Instead, let us tell you whether we want it to begin with.
March 1, 2007
Stoney deGeyter is the President of Pole Position Marketing, a leading search engine optimization and marketing firm helping businesses grow since 1998. Stoney is a frequent speaker at website marketing conferences and has published hundreds of helpful SEO, SEM and small business articles.
If you'd like Stoney deGeyter to speak at your conference, seminar, workshop or provide in-house training to your team, contact him via his site or by phone at 866-685-3374.
Stoney pioneered the concept of Destination Search Engine Marketing which is the driving philosophy of how Pole Position Marketing helps clients expand their online presence and grow their businesses. Stoney is Associate Editor at Search Engine Guide and has written several SEO and SEM e-books including E-Marketing Performance; The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period!; Keyword Research and Selection, Destination Search Engine Marketing, and more.
Stoney has five wonderful children and spends his free time reviewing restaurants and other things to do in Canton, Ohio.
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