META Tag Mayhem

Stephen Yagielowicz

It's an all too common situation: in a misguided quest to attract every last surfer to their site, Webmaster's resort to 'key word stuffing' of their META tags, incorporating even the most innocuous of search terms in an attempt to garner clicks; oblivious or uncaring of the consequences, they can cause problems for both our industry, and themselves:

I have written before about the dangers of using search terms such as 'Teletubbies' in your 'META tags;' after all, they only serve to draw children and other non-qualified traffic to your site, which quickly drains bandwidth, and opens the door to a Pandora's Box of foreseeable (and unforeseeable) problems. In a similar example, one of Cosmic Village's regular contributors has run afoul of the Nintendo Corporation for using the word "Pokemon" in his META tags.

Posting his experience as a word of warning to others who may be guilty of such infractions, he hoped to keep others from the potentially serious legal problems that can arise from infringing upon the Registered Trademarks of another company. While I admire the courage it took to publicly acknowledge his guilt in this matter, and attempt to turn it into an object lesson, I also found it comforting that his fellow Webmaster's took him to task for it. This indicates to me anyway that many adult Webmasters have 'gotten the message.'

This lesson transcends 'targeting children' by using keywords that appeal primarily to their demographic, however, as anyone who has been scolded for using terms like "Playboy" or "Penthouse" as well as a variety of 'celebrity' names in their META tags can attest.

As the World Wide Web moves further away from its once wild and wooly roots, into an ever deepening quagmire of litigation and regulation, all Webmasters, and adult Webmasters in particular, must become increasingly vigilant about the way we choose to promote our products and services, and even about the sites we choose to link to. This is an important issue that is as serious as a heart attack, and which deserves as much attention as I can give it; and even if only one person is helped by this lesson, then it was worth it. Here's what some of you had to say on the subject:

ericwood commented: ":how dare you use a kids cartoon/trading card game, etc... for use in meta tags! Not only will kids come across your page when they search for Pokemon, you may have exposed them to your pornographic material! Not only is that morally wrong, that is just plain disgusting."

PMGames said: "I don't understand why you would have ever thought about doing this type of key-wording. I personally buy a ton of delete domains, and they do with games sometimes, but I first go onto link popularity and make sure that they are not linked from child oriented sites. You have to be more responsible. I can't figure how you thought someone searching for that keyword would actually want to come to your porn site and see porn instead of a child's game/toy."

Lopix added: "If you spam for popular terms, such as "mp3" or "games," what kind of traffic are you going to get? Are people looking for 'Korn' downloads going to suddenly whip out their CC to buy your smut? I doubt it very much. So, now you have a ton of traffic, high bandwidth charges and not a single sale to show for it? Was it worth it? Didn't think so. Last reason that this sort of crap is not a good idea is that it does give all of us a bad name, not just you. Every time an adult website uses non-adult terms to lure traffic to their site, it makes us all look bad. It pisses me off, when I am searching for something, whatever it is, and suddenly I am confronted with some sort of pitch to sign up for nasty pussy farts. And I work in the biz! Imagine what that is like for those that don't." I admit it's negligent for me not to have cared what those keywords were nor to have considered what type of traffic it would generate.

Finally, jason138 opined: ":We are hated by search engines, feared by parents and hunted by Washington because of these mistakes, I think he should be given another chance, but this does not mean he is off the hook. This should be beaten into every Newbie on the block, like it was for me. There are professional standards that must be maintained:and ignorance like this is a sin that hurts all of us."

To be fair, I've read much of what Nigel has contributed here, and he seems to be an innovative and caring Webmaster who unfortunately made a serious mistake, and then tried to turn it into something positive; as he put it himself: "I grabbed a bunch of keywords from a page I stumbled across. "Pokemon" was among those keywords. I admit it's negligent for me not to have cared what those keywords were nor to have considered what type of traffic it would generate. As someone who agrees with educating children on sex and sexuality my warning pages tend to point at Ask Alice on the exit link. If they're curious about sex, then they should learn the facts about it - I consider this better than pointing them to Disney or Yahoo. I'm not trying to exonerate myself - I understand that my actions were irresponsible:"

You can read all the comments as well as the Cease & Desist Order by following the link below:

I hope that we can all learn from this - I know that Nigel has. If there are questionable search terms or phrases in your META tags or elsewhere on your site, now is a good time to remove them. Doing so may very well spare you some expense and embarrassment, and trust me now, the level of scrutiny that our industry is receiving will only increase in the future. Take care!
~ Stephen

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