Protection Is the Keyword as Search Engines Face Legal Action

The Journal (Newcastle, England), August 11, 2005 | Go to article overview

Protection Is the Keyword as Search Engines Face Legal Action


In recent years, businesses have discovered the enormous marketing potential of the Worldwide Web. However, the online boom has brought with it new opportunities for mischief as well as for more legitimate enterprise. With brand name interception becoming an increasing problem, Antony Gold looks at the current situation for brand owners.

Internet users who are aware of a particular brand, but not the brand-owner's website address, rely on search engines to locate information. Approximately 70% of online transactions originate from search engine enquiries, making effective search engine marketing essential.

Brand interception can take two main forms:

Sponsored links

These are used by businesses to generate traffic to their website. They pay search engines to ensure that their website is shown as the promoted or sponsored site when an internet user searches against certain keywords. This is intended to encourage clicks onto the link allowing potential customers to view the website. A high search ranking is crucial in securing high traffic flow to a website.

Keywords can be generic terms relating to the advertisers' business. The most obvious form of brand interception arises when a user purchases the brand or trademark of a competitor as a keyword. So if Christian Dior purchased the name `Armani' as a keyword, internet users searching against `Armani' would be presented with sponsored links to Christian Dior's site.

Search engines search for more than just sponsored links and often use indexing systems which take account of visible wording appearing on a website, and hidden code ( metatags ( which does not appear on the website. When a search is conducted, the search engine searches against these metatags to identify a relevant website and rank it dependant upon the indexing system of the search engine.

Accordingly, if an advertiser uses a third party's brand name as a metatag, then a search engine may identify the advertiser's website when a search against that brand name is carried out. …

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