It can take years to build trust in a brand. Unfortunately all the hard work can be undone by a determined competitor who decides that your brand is ripe for the taking.
Most SMEs focus all their Internet marketing attention on competing for keywords. This not only leaves the back door open for competitors, it gives them an open invitation to steal traffic and their customers.
Usually when the owner of a company gets together with their SEO or web design company they often talk only about their keyword targets because they think the brand name will take care of itself. They often forget that it is just as important to protect the brand name itself.
The Internet has over the past decade evolved into a battle ground between those companies who hire the best SEOs and Internet marketing practitioners. The average spend on SEO alone in the UK is approximately £6,000 per year.
The assumption is that most business will be investing at least some of this money into to protecting their brand reputation, yet this is surprisingly not the case. The issue recently came to the attention during the US Presidential campaign when President Obama and Mitt Romney used it in a bid to hijack voters.
Brand hijacking is unethical, but if a brand name is there for the taking and the stakes are high, then gloves can often come off as we saw last month.
Setting up a website these days is the modern equivalent of a shop window – only without the protection. So it is just as important from a business point of view that when someone types in your company name on Google they are not seeing a competitor next to you at the top of the page or worse still, tarnishing your reputation.
The worrying thing is, unlike a real shop window, it is often easy for a competitor on the search engines to set up shop and hijack a brand name to divert attention from the original owner just by optimising pages on their website. Websites are often so vulnerable that this can be achieved in a matter of weeks.
If the domain attached to the brand happens to be a based on a keyword, then there is often very little the owner of that domain can do to defend the website without the added protection of atrademark. This can be one of the pitfalls of owning an exact match domain.
If, on the other hand, the website has an original trademarked name, like Starbucks for example, then it will be far more difficult for a competitor to hijack the name without a legal challenge. Unfortunately even if there is a strong case of someone hijacking your brand, then the outcome is far from certain. It will depend on how the court views the right to free speech in each case and there are certainly no guarantees, only expensive legal battles.
As website owners we can be fooled into thinking that Google automatically will protect us from trademark infringements and brand hijacking on paid search as well as organic search. A quick search of a popular brand names today reveals otherwise.
Most will have a whole host of competitors using their brand to promote themselves and divert additional traffic to their websites.
There is even less protection in organic searches where a website can theoretically cause damage to rival website and even outrank it, if not enough has been done to build brand reputation online.
The best way to protect a brand online is to obtain a trademark. It is then important to invest at least some marketing budget into the brand name itself to build a strong reputation. This means having content published in respected online publications and developing a strong social media presence heavily focused on promoting the brand to a wider audience.
For more information about protecting your brand online contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07969 502781.