Search, and you shall find... someone else!
August 25, 2004 6:24 AM   Subscribe

What should be done (if anything) about a site that is capitalizing on my site's distinctive name and search engine ranking to popularize itself in a way that is totally unrelated to my site?

I run an RSS feed directory with a distinctive name, reasonably good content, and a decent rank in various search engines. Last night a "watch" application told me that 2 new sites now contain my site's domain name in their URLs.

I took a look at both of these sites, and they are simply embedding my domain name in their URLs so that they have a chance of matching on searches for the name. The actual pages are throwaway filler (as is the entire site).

I'm flattered and insulted.

My site's name is not a trademark (perhaps it should be), and I don't want to draw artificial attention to it by posting a link, and I certainly don't want to link to the offending sites.

Has anyone else had something like this happen to them? What can be done?
posted by jeffbarr to Computers & Internet (8 answers total)
Write a paper letter to the operators of the other site(s) (if you can find them) and demand that they cease & desist using your site name. If there's money on one or both sides of this (i.e. you're making money from your site, or they're making money from theirs) then get thee to an IP lawyer to write the letter. If you've been running your site for a while (and can prove it), you may have rights in the name even if you haven't registered it. Of course, it'd be a good idea to register the trademark (and the lawyer can help you do it) if you'd like to be in a better position to stop this sort of thing in the future.
posted by spacewrench at 7:06 AM on August 25, 2004

Response by poster: biffa -- you are right. I didn't know how to do "more inside". Now I realize that I just need to reply to my own headline post!

Spacewrench -- that's good info, thanks. I have been running my site for 3 years, and I do make a little bit of money.
posted by jeffbarr at 8:32 AM on August 25, 2004

I'm pretty sure the search engines would like to know about these things. Do they have the resources to deal with this kind of abuse?
posted by jpoulos at 8:32 AM on August 25, 2004

This is the internet, the wild west. Most people doing this are probably outside anywhere your lawyers could get to them. Search engines know about the practice, but the ease of creating new sites compared to the cost of employing humans to weed out search engine spam makes it impractical. You'll find spam in Google for just about any reasonably popular term, and even a few that are completely obscure. It's Google's biggest archilles' heel at the moment, if you ask me, but there's nothing you or I can do about it.

That said, you only really need to worry about this if they start getting ranked ahead of you in searches for your site's name, which is very unlikely.
posted by reklaw at 10:54 AM on August 25, 2004

You should notify Tim Murtaugh's Pirated Sites of the matter.
A lot of designers and programmers refer to it, as far as pleading your case, it'll be making the rounds quite quickly.

As spacewrench mentioned, trademarking would be very useful for you. A number of nonprofits and small, privately-run outfits use them to avoid exploitation.
posted by Smart Dalek at 11:05 AM on August 25, 2004

If the sites in question are just filler, link farms, doorway pages, and pagerank gaming, most likely they are search engine spam, a byproduct of the "Search Engine Optimization" industry.

Notify the search engines you're concerned about about the link farms and they may exclude them from the index. Google, at least, seems to act on this stuff if you Report a Spam Result.
posted by majick at 11:36 AM on August 25, 2004

When people say "get an IP lawyer," do they mean an "Intellectual Property Lawyer," or an IP as in "IP Address" as in "Interweb" as in "Technology" lawyer? Do "Internet Lawyers" go by "IP Lawyers" at all, or is IP straight-up reserved for Intellectual Property?

Sorry for the tangent. I like pancakes.
posted by Hankins at 1:44 PM on August 25, 2004

IP lawyers are just for intellectual property. It's a bit unfortunate that the acronyms conflict like that.

(maybe one of those IP lawyers should sue whoever came up with the other kind of IP...)
posted by reklaw at 7:53 PM on August 25, 2004

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