December 2nd, 2009.
A few weeks ago I had an interesting discussion with a few attendeesÂ to one of our online marketing workshops. The workshops are designed to give small business owners guidance in what they can be doing to improve their own marketing campaigns with advice on link building, creating content and how they could be using social media to promote their sites.
One particular debate arose on the legality of competitors squatting on variations of their branded domain names, and offering up the domain name for extortionate prices. I did a little research and dugg our the Oasis case study from earlier in the year:
Since 1991, the highstreet brand Oasis has been trading as a UK women’s clothing chain, and in 2006 the domain name oasis.co.uk was acquired by Mr. James Dale who parked the domain name and displayed sponsored links to women’s clothing sites using the DoubleClick advertising network through Google AdWords.
Earlier this year Oasis challenged the registration of the domain oasis.co.uk, stating that the domain took unfair advantage of the company brand and trademark, taking their appeal to Nominet.Â Under Nominet’s Dispute Resolution Service, the initial case had been won by Oasis, and initially decided that the domain should be transferred to Oasis.
However this was no ordinary Nominet recovery case.Â Mr. Dale then came forward shortly thereafter to advise that the complaint had been mailed to his previous address, thus meaning he found out about the decision without having a chance to appear to do anything to fight it.
Mr. Dale had failed to update the Whois registration information after changing both physical and email addresses, and only found out about the decision after a friend contacting him to offerÂ commiserationsÂ on loosing such a valuable domain. Mr. Dale was able to appeal against the decision, stating that Nominet had his correct details from otherÂ correspondenceÂ and asked that this violation was overlooked.Â He was allowed to file an appeal, although the DRS appeal to a three person panel would cost him Â£3000.
In Mr. Dale’s response to the complaint, the panel allowed the submission of new evidence, which was not their normal practice. However, due to the fact that his non-appearance at the initial hearing was due to circumstances of notification rather than just a basic failure to appear, they felt that the fee for filing the appeal was punishment enough. Thus they allowed the new evidence in the interest of true justice, rather than depriving him of the domain in an unjust fashion. By this time the appeal panel had in essence already found in favor of Mr. Dale based on the merits of the case.
Mr. Dale informed the panel that when he spent Â£4000 to purchase the Oasis domain name he had no idea that it had been a domain related to a women’s clothes shop. He had no interest in such a business and wanted to use the Oasis domain for a financial services or bingo website. Mr. Dale then produced proof of discussions that had taken place in which he could prove that the domain was intended for financial services. These kinds of claims are often viewed by dispute domain panels with much skepticism, but they could not dispute the proof provided by Dale. Combined with the fact that Oasis was a common English word, the panel accepted Mr. Dale’s argument that he did not wish to target Oasis with the registration of the domain and thus the acquisition of the domain could not be considered an abusive registration.
Due to other factors, however, the case would not end here. Unlike the UDRP, under the DRS abusive use later on is sufficient, even in cases where the domain was actually acquired in a genuine fashion. The question that then came about was if it was abusive to use the domain for sponsored links directing to women’s clothing websites. Under Nominet’s policy, parking pages are not abusive in and of themselves. The nature of the domain, it’s links, and the ultimate responsibility for the domain by the registrant must all be considered by the panel.
Since some parking pages depend on specifications set by the owner while others have content that is generated automatically, the appeal panel found it would be dangerous to simply draw conclusions by looking at parking pages. Parties should explain in detail how their parking pages work, but in this case there was no explanation by either party.
It was then claimed by Mr. Dale that the parking page originally used contained only general links. To build his case against Oasis, Dale produced a statement from the parking company. The statement suggested an uncommon situation of how the women’s clothing links appeared on the domain’s parking page. It seemed that Oasis was using the domain name of “oasis.co.uk”, which was not owned by Oasis, as a keyword in their online marketing campaign. This in turn meant they would be targeting users specifically searching for the domain owned by Mr. Dale. Although Dale’s claim was short and did not provide much detail, the panel thought it was something that should be considered.
Oasis’ dismissal of the claim as “fanciful, unproven, and bizarre” did not satisfy the panel, as there was no statement provided by Oasis that it hadn’t used the keyword “oasis.co.uk” in their marketing efforts.
Since this claim was brought up by Mr. Dale and Oasis didn’t seem to have a valid defense, the panel then decided to check the Oasis website out for themselves. Upon inspection of the Oasis website, it was found that the keyword “oasis.co.uk” was indeed among the keywords being used to drive traffic to their own website.
What turns a genuinely acquired domain into an abusively used one can be assessed by Nominet panels by using the abusive acquisition or abusive use test provided under DRS. The normal approach to this situation has been that liability by the registrant is only present if they actively exploited their position by making reference to the trademark. The panel backed up Mr. Dale’s claim that it was the action’s of Oasis themselves which led to women’s fashion links appearing on the domain oasis.co.uk. Oasis lost it’s appeal as it was proven that not only did Dale not actively exploit his position, but the complaint that Oasis had filed was actually caused by their own behaviour.
While this may have looked like a good case for Oasis, it shows that assuming any DRS case is a “pushover” is a risky assumption. Detailed evidence must be provided explaining how the parking pages of any parties domain work. The content of a domain parking page cannot be assumed to be the responsibility of the registrant, and information from the parking company itself could be a necessity.
My point is this: if you can prove domainers are holding a variation of your domain to capitalise on your brand or trademarks then you probably have a strong case for appeal. If however the domainer can find any excuse (such as not updating their whois record after moving house!), they can drag the process out and duck out if they have some form of proof the domain was acquired for any other purpose.
AlsoÂ trademark owners need to be aware that it may not be in their best interest to include domain names that they don’t own in their marketing strategy!
December 16th, 2008.
One question many site owners make as their website grows- â€œshould I use a subdomain or a subdirectory to place my blog in?â€.
This common question isn’t limited to just blogs– news sections, articles, careers sections… any grouping of content will at some point cause the question.
For those who don’t know- ‘news.google.co.uk’ is an example of a subdomain, where â€œnewsâ€ is the subdomain of â€œgoogle.co.ukâ€.
A subdirectory is a folder within a domain- e.g.- ‘google.com/analytics/’ where â€œanalyticsâ€ is a subdirectory (or folder) within â€œgoogle.comâ€.
While these may appear relatively similar, subdomains and subdirectories have different uses for a site, as well as different effects in a pages ability to rank in search engines.
Generally, search engines will allow pages within subdirectories to rank easier in comparison to pages within a subdomain. This reason being subdirectories inherit more authority from the domain name, whereas pages within subdomains inherit less authority from the domain (thus being treated similar to an external domain, although still receiving some of the authority from the main domain.)
So if subdirectories inherit more authority from a domain, why do companies choose to use subdomains?
Subdomains are used to segment a large amount of content on a site by a specific topic. If the number of pages are relatively high for a section (e.g. hundreds of pages), it may be logically better to place these pages within a subdomain rather than a subdirectory.
Otherwise, we recommend keeping within the content within the domain (i.e. using subdirectories)- this will make it easier for pages to rank better in search results as these pages inherit more authority from the main domain.
December 12th, 2008.
One common misconception many site owners make is the assumption that:
more websites = more traffic = more sales.
Logically, this may seem like a good idea- after all, two hands are better than one, five are better than two, right?
When it comes to domain names and search engine optimisation- this couldn’t be further from the truth!
Sadly, many site owners with limited SEO knowledge make this assumption- either, pointing many other domains to their existing site or copying their existing site and hosting it separately with other domain names. Both methods don’t work, and are likely to get your existing site penalised, causing less traffic and less sales. Why?
Search engines use links to crawl pages within and outside of a site. If links point to a page on a domain name, search engine robots will crawl that page. However, having multiple domains pointing to a site allows search engines multiple entrances to the same content, effectively presenting the same page multiple times.
E.g. if www.mysite1.com points to the same server directory as www.mysite2.com, search engines can see the same single page through more than one source- and if not correctly managed (using 301 redirects) duplicate content problems will occur which will result in the sites receiving a decrease in rankings and potentially a ban from search engines altogether.
In the second instance, by hosting the same content on multiple sites the duplicate content issue is also present, resulting in a drop and a possible ban for all duplicate sites (including the original site) in extreme circumstances and probable indexing issues.
How Can Multiple Domains Provide Any Value?
Having multiple domains can provide your site with additional value if managed correctly. For branding purposes, companies may purchase premium domain names which can potentially provide additional direct traffic from searchers typing in the URL directly.
For example, searchers for â€œcablesâ€ may directly type into their address bar â€œcables.comâ€, providing this site with additional direct traffic.
Other large corporations buy the localised versions of their domain name, partly to protect their brand and largely to help with usability.
For example, hp.co.uk provides the UK index page for HP, while HP also own hp.com, and hp.com.au, to name a few.
How is it then that large companies are able to use multiple domains and not get penalised in search engines? The answer is, these domains are managed correctly and redirect these domains to the appropriate pages on the server. By using a ’301 Permanently moved’ redirect, these domains point to a single page on the server, therefore minimising duplicate content issues.
i.e. when someone types in hp.co.uk, a request is made to the HP server, where the server then identifies this request and directs the visitor to the UK main page on the universal site, therefore not duplicating the content on the page as search engines see the same file on the same server, be it through hp.co.uk or through http://welcome.hp.com/country/uk/en/welcome.html
Should You Consider Using Multiple Domains?
If you are a large corporation and if this will help the usability of your site then consideration of multiple domains should be made. However, if your brand is not internationally known and if there is no main benefit and no potential direct traffic, we strongly advise against it. Remember- very few people are going to directly type in ‘this-is-my-nice-branded-domain.com’ or ‘thisismynicebrandeddomain.com’- domains such as this example will bring little (if any) direct traffic from the domain name, and whilst they may look good for additional branding, they provide no real support to your current sites domain.
December 10th, 2008.
After reading some interesting posts over at Holistic Search and Brand Republic, one of the largest florist chains worldwide is suing Marks & Spencers and Flowers Direct for using the Interflora brand name to trigger AdWords ads for their competitors.
Google updated their policy on brand name keywords and trademark terms that trigger competitorâ€™s adverts to display back in May. Previously, competitors could not bid on other brand names to display their ads, but since Google updated their policies on brand name keywords and trademarks, competitors in various industries have been using competition brand names to trigger their adverts.
It has been reported keywords include â€œInterfloraâ€, â€œIntafloraâ€ and â€œInter-floraâ€ which have been used to trigger the display of competitors adverts.
Interfloraâ€™s argument is that the actions of Marks & Spencers and Flowers Direct are a breach of trademark law, as marketing director Michael Barringer stated:
â€œThe Interflora brand is extremely valuable and we will not tolerate competitors taking advantage of it and infringing our right.â€
However, both M&S and Flowers Direct are abiding by the Google Terms of Service- no mention of the band is made within the advert itself and is now somewhat of a common practice across industries, as a spokeswoman for Marks & Spencers was quoted saying they are â€œextremely surprised by Interfloraâ€™s course of actionâ€ adding it was industry-wide practice and not unlawful.
Interestingly, there has been no mention of Interflora or any other company suing Google over the use of trademark terms in AdWords for allowing this to happen.
This is not the first report of companies suing over the use of their trademark terms on Google AdWords either, as Dominic Farnsworth (a partner at Lewis Silkin) commented:
“There are a lot of legal letters flying around in the background at the moment and many disputes are being resolved without the need for legal proceedingsâ€.
This poses an interesting situation for advertisers and search agencies- how long is it before competitors terms cause a lawsuit against your company or client, or how many more examples are needed before Google considers refining their policies? As Google have recently allowed the advertising of gambling and alcohol related sites, it appears they are expanding their policies to get even more from their advertising revenueâ€”could this be Googleâ€™s solution to the current economic downturn? Let us know your comments.
December 9th, 2008.
If you own or operate an e-commerce website, chances are your competition may supply the same products you do. While competition is great, there are certain considerations you should make regarding the content on your product pages to beat your competitors.
Every product page should have great descriptions of the product, as well as inviting and well-presented professional photography to entice and attract searchers into making a purchase. However, one common mistake many e-commerce sites make is copying the descriptions written by the manufacturer.
Lets take the Apple iPhone product page as an example:
From the official product page, searching for the first sentence â€œWith its beautiful 3.5-inch widescreen display and Multi-Touch controls, iPhone is also one amazing iPodâ€ in Google returns 13,500 pages!
This shows there are hundreds of pages using the default description as the description on their pages- causing lots of duplicate content in Google’s index.
Why is This a Problem for You?
Duplicate content is a large problem search engines face. Search engines do not want to display pages in their results which contain the same content as another, as this can affect their credibility in delivering the closest possible results to which the searcher is looking for.
In addition, search engines do not want to waste their time indexing content which is provided on another site, so may skip a duplicated page, and are likely to skip an entire site if too many duplications are found. This not only has an effect on the new product page but also has a knock-on effect to other pages already indexed- penalising your site.
And this example is just for one product- supposing you sold other Apple products and copied the description from the manufacturers product pages? This means a large amount of the text on your product pages is copied.
This causes a problem for your site in search engines, as duplicate content is a major problem which search engines can and will penalise your site for!
So how can you avoid this problem? The ideal solution is to not copy the manufacturers description to begin with. Instead, creating your own product descriptions is far better- not only can you tailor it more specifically to your customers needs and desires (thus getting you a better conversion rate), but this also gives search engines more unique content to crawl when indexing your page.
If however it is essential to copy the product description from the manufacturers site, ensure you add additional unique content to the page- and don’t forget to reference and link to the manufacturers page.
By applying this small change, search engines are less likely to penalise your site for duplicate content, giving you a better chance of outranking your competitors, along with other on-page and off-page optimisation techniques!
October 13th, 2008.
The benefits of a blog on your companyâ€™s website can be phenomenal. If you havenâ€™t already got a blog on your company site, Mattâ€™s post on corporate blogging is a vital read.Â If you do have a WordPress blog set up, great!
Not only is a WordPress blog great for engaging with visitors and sharing information, itâ€™s also a great traffic stream to your company website. However, there are a few tweaks that can be made to ensure you get the most out of your blog in terms of search engine optimisation.
Out of the box, WordPress is pretty search engine friendly- it has an excellent internal linking structure through its use of categories, archives and tags, along with its ability for easy content creation, which are a couple of reasons why search engines like them so much. But to maximise the efficiency of your WordPress blog from a search engine optimisation perspective, there are a few additional steps we recommend taking to ensure your blog is as efficiently optimised as possible.
By default, WordPress uses URLs which arenâ€™t so efficient in terms of SEO. Permalinks allow more efficient URLs to be used making links more efficient, improving the structure of posts and not to mention the ability to include keywords in the posts URL.
Permalinks can be activated under â€˜Settings>Permalinksâ€™. We recommend using the â€˜Day and nameâ€™ option- the URL shows the age of the post through the date as well as the post name (and if youâ€™re using post names correctly youâ€™ll have important keywords in the post name, thereby including them in the post URL if using this method).
Post titles represent the title tag for the posts page- one of the most important aspects of on-page search engine optimisation- their importance has already been covered in the Top Five Tips For Optimising Your Businessâ€™ Meta Tags post. By default, WordPress uses the format “Blog title Â» Blog Archive Â» Post Title” which ideally should be â€œPost Title Â» Blog Titleâ€. Search engines pay more attention to keywords at the beginning of the title tag; therefore placing the post title (which should contain those important keywords) at the beginning of the title is more efficient. This also helps the readability of the pages result in the search engine results, therefore increasing the click through rate (CTR) in the search engine results pages (SERPs).
To change the post title structure, additional plugins are required. There are a few good WordPress plugins available, we recommend using the All in One SEO Pack plugin and changing the post and page titles found under â€˜Settings>All in One SEOâ€™.
To optimise the titles, click the â€˜Rewrite Titlesâ€™ checkbox and change the title formats for each option. We recommend:
â€˜%post_title% | %blog_title%â€™ for post titles
â€˜%page_title% | %blog_title%â€™ for page titles
â€˜%category_title% | %blog_title%â€™ for category titles
â€˜%date% | %blog_title%â€™ for archive titles
â€˜%tag% | %blog_title%â€™ for tage titles
â€˜%description%â€™ for description format
â€˜Nothing found for %request_words%â€™ for the 404 title
â€˜- Part %page%â€™ for page format.
It is also wise to check the â€˜Use noindex for Categoriesâ€™ and â€˜Use noindex for Archivesâ€™ checkboxes to disable indexing of these pages.
Optimising Posts and Pages
Now that the basic general optimisation for the blog has been set up, you can optimise your posts, starting with the post title.
Remember to keep the title relevant to the post topic and to include your important keywords in the post title. Also remember the post title will show up in search results, so make the title interesting and have a call to action inÂ the title where needed.
Tags are incredibly useful for internal linking- if a visitor is on your site and likes the content for a specific topic, they may click on one of the tags. You should therefore add tags to all posts and pages, making sure the tags are relevant to the post. Tags are comma separated, just click the â€˜Addâ€™ button after youâ€™ve entered the tags and the post will be recognised under these tags once the post is saved or published.
As with tags, categories are also efficient in terms of internal linking. Categories can also improve the time a visitor is on your site- if they can see you have more relevant information on a topic under a category, they will probably want to see what other posts are in that category if they enjoyed the contentÂ of your post.
Make sure categories are well structured and specific. Check the boxes which your post is most relevant to.
All in One SEO Pack Tag Optimisation
If youâ€™re using the All in One SEO Pack recommended earlier, you will also have an All in One SEO Pack tab when writing/modifying a post or page. Here you can override the defaults already configured. To do this, enter a title tag, description tag and keywords tag to override the default settings already entered.
There is also a â€˜Disable on this page/postâ€™ checkbox- this will disable all SEO modifications and revert back to the WordPress defaults (which is unlikely you would want to do so) so do not check this box unless there is a specific reason.
Once each post/page has been optimised, save the changes. This covers the basics for WordPress Search Engine Optimisation- there are more advanced changes which can be made but by implementing these recommended changes you will notice an improvement in your search rankings, your listing in the search engine results and an improvement in the indexing of your blog.
September 17th, 2008.
The recent news of the fall of Lehman Brothers Bank has caused a knock on effect for large and small businesses around the world. More and more companies are assessing their expenditure, including online marketing budgets.
However, the latest report from Netimperative shows that online advertising is proving to be the choice advertising stream for small and large businesses, having a dramatically increased prediction for advertising spend over the next couple of years.
According to the report:
â€œ81% of advertisers claim that their allocated online ad spend has grown in 2008 and predict that it will continue to do so over the next couple of yearsâ€
With a predicted increase of 16% in 2009 and 17% for 2010.
Furthermore, â€œthree quarters (73%) state that they are increasing their use of online as an advertising medium whilst 31% of advertisers claim their use of TV is decreasing and 40% cite a decrease in the use of newspapers.â€
So What Does This Mean For Your Business?
In this economic climate companies are rightly evaluating where and why they are spending money. However, businesses looking to cut back on their advertising spends should be aware of this report when deciding which advertising streams to cut back on.
The predicted growth of online advertising according to this report is set to be potentially the best, with TV and newspaper advertising decreasing. With the support of these latest statistics, it would be a wise move to increase your online marketing budget, as the growth of your online audience delivers cost effective results.
The timing for increasing your online advertising return on your business is now. With the growth prediction for online advertising for the next two years, increasing your online advertising budget now will help increase brand perception and brand awareness for your business, whilst bringing greater return on your online advertising spend.