Tuesday, August 04, 2009

A search engine optimization question.

I'll just throw this search engine optimization question out there. Why am I routinely contacted by SEO firms who consider me a prospective client?

As part of my book promotion services, I help authors and publishers drive traffic to their book web sites. Although I'm not an SEO expert, search engine optimization is a hobby of mine, and I've spent a few years creating strategies to help my clients improve their book web sites' search engine rankings. The more content you create for your site, I tell them, the better search engines will like you -- assuming that your content is appropriately tagged with your keywords. Also, the more widely you disseminate your online content, the more backlinks you'll receive back to your book's web site, and -- again -- provided you've tagged the materials with your most important keywords, you'll get on the search engines' radar screens and, hopefully, you'll be able to say there.

I've practiced what I preached and have very much enjoyed terrific search engine placement on Google, Bing, and Yahoo. So it came as a surprise when I receive the usual solicitation from an SEO firm explaining that, with the merger of Bing and Yahoo, I should be very concerned about my placement on search engines besides Google, and all I had to do to get some help with my search engine optimization was to get in touch with this particular company.

Here was my honest response, which I sent to the company that offered me the service:

I'm always puzzled when SEO optimization firms such as yours solicit me to sell their services. I mean, you probably found me through Google (or Bing or Yahoo). Does it appear that I have a problem with my search engine visibility? If not, then why do I seem to be a good prospective client for you?>>

I probably won't receive a response from the search engine optimization company that sent me the solicitation. But it still puzzles me. Why is anyone pursuing clients who, demonstrably, don't need their services? Oh, well.

Associated Press Protects Its Copyrighted Materials

So let me get this straight. If, as a book publicist, I use an Associated Press headline in its entirety in a media kit for one of my clients, or I incorporate more than four words from an Associated Press story, I'll have to pay Associated Press for the right to do so.

That sounds fair.

According to a BNET Media story -- even though BNET isn't owned by Associated Press, I'm still a bit frightened to let you know the name of the story, so I'll just link to it here -- Associated Press is working overtime to guard its copyrighted material. They don't want their material to be used in blogs, press releases including, obviously, online press kits), or to be transmitted via cell phones, and they're trying to mandate that we all use technology that will rat us out to AP if we violate its copyright.

Well, all right. I'm perfectly comfortable with defending oneself against plagiarism everyone in the publishing industry is trying to do the same thing, so we can't blame a news organization for feeling the way that we do about protecting what it creates), and if AP feels the need to lock down its copyright material, then fine. I'm behind them.

But what does make me scratch me head is -- four words of an article? A headline? It strikes me as strange to think that so few words, when appropriated (granted, the Associated Press's lawyers would say "misappropriated") by authors and publishers to incorporate into online materials that support a book promotion campaign, would be off limits.

Four words? A headline? Here's a promise. If you ever want to quote me in your blog or on your web site, and four words or a headline is all you want to borrow, feel free to do so. I won't sue you, and I won't think unkindly of you.

Associated Press? I'm not so sure what their intentions are. Would they really sue a teenager who, while blogging, cited the headline of an Associated Press story? I'd be sorry to think so, but I suppose nothing should surprise us anymore. The online world is new, and I suppose we'll all experience a few growing pains as we get used to the new rules.