Seven Illegal Search Engine Optimization Techniques

In this article I discuss seven illegal, or almost illegal, search engine optimization and related techniques.

1. Trademarked Keywords In Domain Names

If you're thinking of registering a domain name that includes a trademarked keyword, think again.

Using someone else's trademark to attract customers is illegal. It violates federal trademark law, which prohibits the use of someone else's trademark, if it causes a "likelihood of confusion" among consumers.

Take Yahoo for example. They objected to 37 registered domains, including AtlantaYahoo.com, DCYahoo.com, Jahu.com and Yhu.com. Read the full story.

2. Trademarked Keywords In META Tags

It's not necessarily illegal to use trademarked keywords in your META tags. But you could get sued, and people have.

It all depends on why and how you are using the trademarked keywords. If you used the keywords in what is deemed a deceptive manner, then you're likely to lose your case.

However, there has been one instance of a defendant who proved to the judge that she had a legitimate reason to use the trademarked keyword. Read the full story.

Here's a short story to illustrate the seriousness of using trademarked keywords in META tags.

I had a client who included the trademarked brand name of a competing product in one of his web pages.

One day, he received a letter from the lawyer acting on behalf of the trademark owner in question.

The letter stated:

"Use of [trademarked term] constitutes federal false advertising, trademark infringements, state unfair competition and is deliberately designed to trade on [trademarked term] reputation and goodwill. Placing the term, [trademarked term], in the keywords and META tags of your site inappropriately and unlawfully draws Internet users to your site."

They threatened to sue, unless my client removed the trademarked terms from the META tags. Naturally, we obliged! ;o)

What was surprising was that we could use the trademarked terms in the visible page body. So we kept the trademarked keywords in the page body.

3. Pagejacking

Pagejacking is copying someone else's web page and submitting it to the search engines as your own, in hopes of getting high rankings. Quite often pagejacking also involves page cloaking.

Pagejacking is no more than stealing copyrighted content. It beats me why people would be so dumb as to try this technique. Don't try it. You will be caught sooner or later.

4. Deep Linking

Deep linking is the practice of providing a link directly to specific content on a web site's sub-page, instead of linking to its home page.

On July 5, 2002, the Bailiff's Court of Copenhagen ruled in favor of the Danish Newspaper Publishers Association, which claimed that Danish company Newsbooster violated copyright laws by "deep linking" to newspaper articles on some Danish newspapers' web sites.

The argument is that in bypassing the newspapers' home pages, Newsbooster links deprive them of advertising revenue. Further, they asserted that Newsbooster is in direct competition with newspapers. Read the full story.

5. Deep Linking Without Permission

If a site you are linking to has stated that linking is prohibited, or requires permission first, then don't link to them. If you do, you're asking for trouble.

6. Trademarked Keyword Advertising

Thinking of bidding for competing trademarked keywords in search engines? Think again!

In January 1999, Estee Lauder sued iBeauty and Excite@Home, saying its trademarks were violated when iBeauty's ads were presented during searches for Estee Lauder trademarked keywords.

When a person searched Excite@Home's search engine for "Clinique," they were presented with a banner ad for iBeauty. In addition, the search returned a list of related web sites, including iBeauty.com.

In August, 2000, iBeauty decided to voluntarily remove the trademarked keywords from its list. Read the full story.

7. Deep Linking Within A Frame

If you link to another site's content by displaying it within a FRAME on your site, and your ad in another FRAME, you're walking on thin ice.

What you're basically doing is "stealing" other people's content to generate advertising revenue. I would recommend staying clear of this practice.


Take care with the marketing techniques you use. If you think a technique can be construed as illegal, search the internet for possible legal cases on the technique. If you can't find any, then it's a good chance that the technique in question is worth pursuing.


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