Earlier this year Google rolled out one of its last major updates that are designed to combat web-spam. We had Panda, fighting the low quality content, then Penguin, tackling link spam, and then finally the Exact Match Domain (EMD) update, addressing the fact that many exact match domains ranked relatively easily for key search terms.
Bit of Background
Experienced SEOs learned a while back that it was much easier to rank a series of domains which matched popular keyword searches than it was to build one website and rank it for multiple terms.
For example, it was easier to get howtomakemoneyonlinefast.com to rank for the search term [how to make money online fast] than it was to get joesbusinessblog.co.uk to rank for the same term. It is interesting to note at this point that currently (30/10/2012) the first 4 results for that search term are YouTube vidoes!
Before the EMD update the Google search results were stuffed with EMDs. It was the bane of every other webmasters life. In fact, I know a few business owners who invested in EMDs just to try to fight back – they had lost so much of their hard earned business to the Google spammers that they decided that if they could not beat them, they may as well join them.
But, Google sorted that out. The SERPs are cleaner. But to what cost?
The Rise of Brand and Trademark Theft!
I am starting to see a more serious crime happening now. Whereas EMD spam was just people gaming Google’s search engine, now that Google has stamped it out SEOs are now moving their content to new domains, often infringing on trademarks of other sites. For example, if one of the top results for the [how to make money online fast] search term was Webologist.co.uk, the SEO spammers would now target this brand.
What I am now starting to see is people are registering similar domains, such as WebologistOnline.com (not actually registered), and transferring their old “how to make money online” articles over. They are then attempting to piggy back on the back of a well established domain, hoping to win some brand searches in Google, while also trying to make their own site look more professional and more like a “real business“, with Twitter, Facebook and Google+ pages, street addresses, authors etc (most of which are made up).
How Does This Cost the Real Businesses?
The cost is two-fold really. First, established businesses may start to see some brand searches lost as the new domains sneak up on them in the SERPs. Secondly, to get these sites removed business owners may need to resort to legal action, and this costs money.
If someone steals your content you can file a DMCA with Google Search to get it removed – the spammers lose. If some does a lot of spam to rank well, you can file a spam report – the spammer lose. If someone infringes on your brand / trademark, you have to take it through the courts before Google will even consider removing it. On Google’s page, Removing Content From Google, when you select “A page appearing in Google’s search results is violating my company’s trademark rights”, the pop-up message from Google reads:
“In matters involving trademark, it is best to directly address the webmaster of the page in question. Once the webmaster has altered the page in question, Google’s search results will automatically reflect this change after we crawl the site.”
The emphasis is on getting a webmaster who is happy to spam Google for money, who is often resident overseas, probably anonymous, using web hosting and domain registration companies who are more relaxed about the rules, to read your letter to them and kindly refrain from piggy-backing on your success.
If lawyers were cheaper then this would not be a problem. But they charge an arm and a leg. And as the problem gets worse, as more SEOs realise that they can do this (I am suddenly loathe to post this), the problem of trademark infringement spam is likely to increase.
In a way it is better when they just opening spam or steal content. At least Google will act on violations against their policies. They unfortunately chose not to act on violations of the trademark law. Lets just hope the web hosts and registrars play ball from now on and act quickly.
Maybe Google will chose to change its stance on trademark infringements, and work with those who have a registered trademark. Who knows?
Has anyone else seen this? I am not willing to share the domains / brands that I have seen infringed upon at the moment, but I may do so at a later date. Depends on how things pan out over the forthcoming weeks and months.