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Back to Basics: META Tags, Part 3
by Scott Clark
Obscure META Tags
We've covered most of the popular and useful META tags, but what about the obscure ones that you hardly see, such as Dublin Core or rating?
If you're a normal person (I'm not, and I don't know any, but I heard they do exist), then you're wondering just what, exactly, is Dublin Core? No, it's not an Irish porno movie, but rather, it's a simple resource description record that has come to be known as the Dublin Core Metadata element set, or rather, Dublin Core.
Thanks to a considerate reader, we now know how it got its name. Dublin Core is the core set of metadata elements which were identified by a working group (comprised of experts drawn from the library and Internet communities) which met in Dublin, Ohio.
Dublin Core was designed with several issues in mind, namely to:
- enable search engines to filter by standard fields, i.e. date and author
- Browsers could have the ability to display metadata fields in a separate window
- enhance cross-collection, repurposing and integrating of content
- enhance site management, as old pages may be located more easily, etc.
Rating is basically the same thing as PICS-Label, and can be used for the same purpose, but PICS-Label is recommended over rating, as it is currently recognized by more software than rating, although it couldn't hurt to use both.
Many of the obscure META tags are produced by HTML authoring software. Microsoft Word supports a number of META attributes in its HTML export option, and if you create a document with Internet Assistant, FrontPage, etc, you'll notice that they automatically insert certain META tags, such as Generator, Content-Type, etc. into the Web page source. Other META tags are organization or search engine specific. The RDU Metadata search engine uses many such tags, including: contributor, custodian, east_bounding_coordinate, north_bounding_coordinate and others. Other obscurities are government META tags, useful only if you are within a government intranet or system.
Statistics show that only about 21% of Web pages use keyword and description META tags. If you use them and your competitor doesn't, that's one in your favor. If your competitor is using them and you aren't, you may now consider yourself armed with the knowledge. META tags are something that visitors to your Web site are usually not aware of, but ironically, a lot of times it was those same META tags which enabled them to find you in the first place. So for goodness' sake, don't tell anyone about thisÂ .let's just keep this our own little secret (just kidding...make sure to send this URL to everyone you know!).
Before we leave the topic of META tags, keep in mind that there are several legal issues that surround the use of these tags on your Web site. Danny Sullivan, editor of SearchEngineWatch, has put together a page detailing the lawsuits brought on revolving around META tags. At the present time there have already been at least five such suits, mainly focused on sites that utilized someone else's keywords within their META tags. The largest of these suits brought a settlement of $3 million dollars. Bottom line: use your own keywords, and definitely not words that someone else has a copyright on.
For additional META information, be sure to check out the WebDeveloper.com META Tag Resource Page, as well as Galactus' META info page, and Vancouver's own META tag page. If you'd like some assistance creating the META tags, check out Andrew Daviel's form-based META tag generator.
Comments are welcome
Originally written on WebDeveloper.com in October 1997. Revised: May 17, 2000