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When SEO gets dangerous for your brand

When SEO gets dangerous for your brand Tom Crandall

Many of the legal departments for frequently searched companies have a well defined domain strategy to manage brand assets, facilitate go-to-market initiatives, and halt trademark infringement and criminal activities. Part of this process is to monitor the registration of domains that contain a trademark, determine if the domain is being used illegally (i.e. in commerce), and if it is, initiate steps to acquire the domain.

Because the internet makes it easy to create fraudulent storefronts and consumers are conditioned to trust brand names and logos, this is a primary business concern that affects the bottom line and brand reputation.

What I want to illustrate here is how the acquisition of externally registered domains by your legal department comes with a rarely known or utilized bonus for online marketing initiatives.

With all things equal, the one deciding SEO factor that ranks one web page over other web pages in the search engines is incoming links. It is a little more complex, but consider links from outside websites to your web pages as "votes" for your web pages in the eyes of the search engines.

This factor is known as link popularity, Google calls it PageRank, and many in my industry describe the effect of incoming links as "link juice."

Here's the rub. You can transfer the link popularity of an acquired domain by forwarding the domain to one of your web assets by using a permanent redirect. The result, when executed properly, is a boost in search engine rankings!

Let's examine a real world example using health/weight loss brand Herbalife. I did some research this morning and skimmed through some 2,000 registered domains which contain the Herbalife trademark (an essential weekly duty to protect your brand). I soon found one that is not authorized by corporate, and is leveraging the Herbalife trademark to generate revenue. Here is a screenshot of the site:

The next step is to identify the owner. Let's take a look at Who Is information and learn more about this domain. The screen shot below illustrates that this domain has been registered since April 2001, and contact details are private. The registrar, Domains by Proxy (Godaddy), can be contacted by the trademark holder to uncover the identity of the domain owner. Their Terms of Service state this clearly. If Herbalife were to have trouble reaching the domain owner, or the domain owner refused to transfer the domain, Herbalife's legal team could file a UDRP to acquire the domain through legal means.

The last step is to evaluate if there is any SEO benefit by forwarding this domain to a Herbalife web asset. The screenshot below examines how many incoming links the infringing domain has pointing to it. As you can see there are over one thousand incoming links which will have the impact of transfering link popularity to which ever Herbalife web page it would be redirected to.

There you have it, your Legal department can be a partner in your SEO efforts! I have used this strategy for several clients with impressive results. Build a relationship with your legal team and enhance your SEO initiatives.

Tom Crandall is the author of SEM Report Card and the CEO of Ayohwahr Interactive. Read full bio.

Tom Crandall is the managing partner and lead consultant for Tom Crandall & Associates, and the author of SEM Report Card. Tom’s firm provides consulting and agency services for brands with a local business model, including corporate...

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Commenter: Jeff Goodman

2007, August 23

What an awesome article WOW!!! I can't believe they are letting them get away with this, so much in lost revenue. These companies need your help. Keep up the great work Mr. Crandall