SEO hijacking not off limits to start-ups

An SEO expert says start-ups should consider hijacking search terms associated with other businesses in light of General Motors’ recent SEO success using phrases featured in popular Super Bowl advertisements.


As part of the advertising frenzy surrounding Super Bowl Sunday in the United States car manufacturer Chrysler attracted a lot of attention for its advertisement featuring rapper Eminem and the tagline “Imported from Detroit”.


After seeing the advertisement General Motors marketing executive Joel Ewanick instructed his staff to make a “keyword bid” on Google.


That meant anyone who typed the phrase “Imported from Detroit” into Google would be greeted with a paid search ad about General Motors’ Chevrolet brand as the first link.


General Motors also purchased other search phrases including “Darth Vader” in an attempt to capitalise on another popular Super Bowl advertisement for Volkswagen, which featured a child dressed as Darth Vader.


According to Ewanick, General Motors attracted more than 54 million page views after the Super Bowl and the company “did the right thing to ride the wave”.


Chris Thomas, chief executive of SEO and SEM company Reseo, describes General Motors’ tactic as “SEO hijacking”.


Thomas cites a local example between NAB and Bankwest, triggered by NAB when it launched a campaign called “We Killed the Asterisk” which refered to its abolishment of monthly account fees.


When users entered the term “asterisk” into Google, they were greeted with links to NAB’s campaign but Bankwest hijacked the campaign shortly after by running its own Google advertisement with the line “We’ve saved the Asterisk!”


According to Thomas that would have resulted in an intensive bidding war between the two banks as they both fought to maintain the top spot in Google AdWords.


Thomas says start-ups should definitely consider SEO hijacking as part of their SEO and marketing strategies because it can be highly successful if done properly.


“If I was starting a business I’d do it – any publicity is good publicity. But if you’re going to do it don’t do it on a trademark term,” he says.


Thomas says businesses should check with IP Australia to verify whether another company has trademarked a term or phrase and failure to do so could lead to court proceedings.


“With Google Ads ensure you have a landing page (displaying the search term or terms) because Google visits landing pages to see if those key words are on it,” he says.


“If they are Google will assign you a good quality score, which means you will appear higher in the list of search results.”


“If you receive a low quality score it can cost a lot of money to get decent listings. Displaying the search term on your home page isn’t sufficient – make sure it is on the landing page.”


To prevent other companies from “piggybacking” off your search term Thomas says start-ups should trademark their search term as soon as possible.


If a competitor piggybacks the term anyway businesses can lodge a trademark infringement complaint with Google and the matter will be investigated.


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