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Google Does It Again!!!

by Jimmy Bewley | July 6th, 2012

In our pursuit of trademark infringers over the past couple months; we noticed changes in Google’s keyword targeting algorithm that governs the display of paid ads in search results pages.  Prior history had proven that if another law firm showed up in the paid ads after performing a Google search for a particular lawyer’s brand, i.e. “Carter Mario”, the other law firm most definitely was bidding on that specific keyword through Google AdWords.  That made it fairly easy to identify infringers utilizing PPC to gain an advantage and “riding the back” of another brand.  Enforcement of trademark rights was a much simpler path to pursue using basic search techniques, regardless whether we could attain full compliance or not.

Well, as mention earlier, that was prior to a couple months ago.  At about that same time, we noticed numerous other firms’ ads displayed during searches, way more than the usual one, maybe two that was the norm.  After some intense research, we discovered that Google was beta testing a new search algorithm or program that would actually categorize a high profile personal injury lawyer’s brand and display ads targeting other frequently used search terms relating to personal injury.  That made our proven method of identifying potential infringers, for the most part, obsolete.  Frustrating needless to say, but Google strikes again.

Here’s how the program works.  They use what is called keyword matching options and there are four to choose from.  Broad Match, Broad Match Modified, Exact Match, and Phrase Match.  In an efforts to save time and avoid confusion explaining the differences, here’s a link provided by Goggle that breaks the versions down:

http://support.google.com/adwords/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=2497836

Only one option, Broad Match, is really in play that affects our trademark compliance efforts.   Broad Match relies on “synonyms, related searches, and other relevant variations”, whereas in our example, the search query “Carter Mario” is seen by Google’s system as related to queries such as “personal injury lawyer” or “auto accident lawyer”.  A marketer using AdWords may target the broad match keyword “personal injury lawyer” and end up having ads displayed when a user searches for “Carter Mario”.  And, to make it even more revolting, not only is Google riding the good will and brand recognition of CEM and other similarly situated, they are now getting paid a lot more money for doing so.  You see to purchase a brand name, like “Carter Mario”, is relatively inexpensive.  However, to purchase “personal injury lawyer” or “auto accident lawyer” is on the upper spectrum of PPC pricing.  By relating the brand name to the higher cost words, Google is also making massive amounts of more money by charging for the connection or relation.  In essence, even though a potential client searches for “Carter Mario”, if they happen to click on a sponsored link of a competitor they are charging for the higher priced personal injury keyword targeted by the advertiser, not the inexpensive brand name.  You can view it as justice served for the competitor to have to pay more.  Unfortunately, they have no control over the situation and many don’t even realize that it’s happening.  It’s all about Google and their pursuit of “more”.

Needless to say, we have our eyes wide open and continue to pursue every conceivable option available concerning trademark compliance and enforcement.  As this new development continues to unfold, we’ll keep you posted.