Search Engine As Web Browser – A Double Edged Sword?

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Nielsen/NetRatings recently reported that 43% of online searchers use their search box like an address bar to navigate the internet. Most often a searcher will enter a brand name such as eBay or K-mart and the like to navigate to those sites. It’s an interesting short cut that’s becoming standard operating procedure for many.

Ken Cassar, chief analyst at Neilsen/NetRatings, states that “the search engine is the focal point of the online experience for Internet users.” This is further evidence that search is being wound ever tighter into the fabric of life online. That’s great news for SEO’s, the search engines and investors in those businesses. But there is a dark side (isn’t there always?) to this behavior.

Go to Google and type – abercrombie in the search box. Sure Abercrombie & Fitch is the top natural search result. But what about those sponsored links? Now Hiring: Home Typists, Make money instantly, Earn $1,000/Day. What do they have to do with Abercombie & Fitch? Nothing, other than the fact that they are using the abercrombie keyword to trigger their PPC ads.

The rather inelegant term for this is bidsquatting. A feeble attempt to generate ad clicks by bidding on popular keywords, even though totally unrelated to their business. A harmless practice you say? True, the amount of clicks and resulting lost business from these ads may be insignificant. Surely, these bidsquatters are wasting their time and money. And the damage to Abercrombie is probably minimal. So what’s the big deal? Well, search on the keyword phrase – Abercrombie & Fitch and things get a bit more serious. PPC ads for discounters and outlet shopping are listed.

Abercrombie & Fitch has spent a great deal of time and money to cultivate their trademark and brand image. Companies often overlook trademark protection on search results pages. An ever larger portion of internet users navigating by way of their search boxes are being exposed to PPC ads that may have no relationship to the desired destination website. The potential for lost sales and damage to the brand increases with every visit to a search results page.

Bidsquatting and trademark infringement, like click fraud, are becoming more prevalent. Sharpen your swords! Arm yourself and take action against the bidsquatters and infringers. Your bottom line and brand image will be better for it.

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