paid search scamTrademark infringement. Counterfeit merchandise. Domain squatting. Affiliate abuse. The old bait-and-switch. There are myriad ways of commiting fraud, but overall, some 600 million paid search clicks are stolen in the US every month.

At least, according to a recent study by MarkMonitor which found, based on an analysis of data from various sources including comScore, Marketing Sherpa, Hitwise and others, that one in seven brand-driven paid search clicks go somewhere they ought not to according to trademark law, affiliate agreements or the DMCA.

Things get even worse for luxury brands. CMO Frederick Felman says analysis of web traffic from five fashion brand indicates 47 percent of traffic is intercepted from their e-commerce sites, accounting for some 120 million visits annually. Paid search isn't the only contributing factor in this case; so is cybersquatting and black hat SEO techniques. Felman, together with his colleague communications VP Te Smith, are amassing a rogue's gallery of domains such as,,, and that infringe on trademark as well as cybersquat, and search ads that lead to sites featuring competitors' merchandise, a violation of search engine T&Cs.

Maybe you wouldn't be suckered in, but the numbers are nonetheless surprising. gets over 10,000 visitors per year, while the sham Vuitton site's traffic figures exceed 3 million.

What to do to prevent abuse and protect your brand? It depends, of course, on the type of abuse. Clear agreements with affiliates are, of course, de rigeur.  So is contacting the offending advertiser. All the major search engines offer online forms for reporting trademark abuse. Google also has links to report counterfeit goods and copyright infringement/pirated goods.

Knowing the basics of fair use is a critical first step before requesting enforcement. Advertisers can use your trademark if their site resells the goods; is informative on teh trademarked goods or services; or if it promotes component or replaceable parts. But advertisers cannot use a trademark if the site is deceptive, promotes a competitor, or sells or promotes pirated or counterfeit goods.

Rebecca Lieb

Published 30 June, 2010 by Rebecca Lieb

Rebecca Lieb oversees Econsultancy's North American operations.

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Comments (3)



Great Article on pais searc scam . Would like to add these

types of scams are emerging very rapidly and ofcourse sometimes

innocent web hosters or websites are penalised by search engines.

thanks for infro

about 8 years ago


Joe Cibula

The root of most Internet-related problems is the pay per click advertising and revenue model. Companies need to add inverse search and pay per response to their marketing mix to counteract PPC problems.

about 8 years ago



Interesting facts on the amount of traffic they receive, and unfortunately sad at the same time. Great information to bring up in meetings when doing campaigns for national and International companies. Thanks!

about 8 years ago

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