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“Bait-and-switch” How to Improve Search Engine Optimization and Problems in Good Business Law

In Internet marketing, search engine optimization (SEO) is often used to improve search engine exposure and increase web page or web site traffic. Frequently used SEO techniques include content optimization and keyword optimization, as well as increasing page load speed. SEO is different from keyword advertising. While keyword advertising is also aimed at increasing visitor traffic, it is essentially a service offered by search engines themselves. In contrast, in the case of SEO, search engines are often a tool: SEO experts analyze their algorism, especially those related to natural search rankings, making marketed content more user-friendly for machine users search access to it.

Under Article 25 of the Taiwan Fair Trade Act (“FTA”), “no enterprise shall … commit any fraudulent or manifestly unfair conduct which may affect trading procedures.” The Fair Trade Commission (“FTC”), the agency responsible for protecting fair trade, has made a number of decisions that a buyer of keyword advertising would violate Article 25 if the exploited keyword is the competitor’s business name buyer, because the ads that appear on the keyword searches “take a free ride on the competitor’s business endeavors, disrupting the order of market transactions whose cornerstone is competition in price, quality, and other efficiency.” (e.g., FTC Resolution No. 109056 & amp; FTC Resolution No. 110075).

When SEO marketing comes across FTA more complex legal issues arise, because SEO involves a variety of techniques that have varying degrees of legal risks. But one can definitely say that one SEO technique called bait-and-switch has a higher risk of violating Article 25. By using this technique, the actor drives user clicks to his or her website itself, increasing website traffic, even while users are looking for unrelated content. In a decision announced this month, a local shopping platform and its affiliate using this technique were fined NT $ 2 million and NT $ 800,000, respectively, by the FTC for committing a breach. Article 25 (FTC Resolution Nos. 111019 & 111020).

According to the decision and news alert released by FTC, once the shopping platform system has noticed that a visitor is looking for a brand whose products were not listed on the platform, it would produce a marketing copy page on the platform embodies the brand in its content. When third party search engines like Google crawled up the content of the platform, they would link this copy page. After that, when search engine users searched for that brand name, the platform would appear in search results, and users would be prompted to click on it. As a result, visits and platform traffic would increase, although the branded goods were not offered on the platform.

This behavior was found to violate Article 25 of the FTA. The FTC said that by using this bait-and-switch SEO technique, the platform had misled users into visiting its website, and increasing traffic was only part of the plan. Through this technique, visitors directed to the platform would compare and then purchase similar products from other brands offered on the platform. As a result, the business exposure of the originally searched brand would decrease. As the FTC news alert put it, “this amounts to misleading consumers to ‘shop in the wrong bazaar.'”

The FTC emphasized that while the platform did not directly exploit a third-party brand through keyword advertising, its behavior caused unfair competition all the same to businesses selling goods from such third-party brands, because the usual consumer search and purchase processes for these. goods were disrupted and diverted.

The platform has announced that it will appeal the FTC’s decision, all the way up to court if necessary, so it is worth keeping track of the subsequent development.

In a digital age when search engines have become a necessity, search results have an undeniable influence on our purchasing behavior. So it’s no wonder that businesses would use search engine functions to improve their marketing. However, you are advised to know the red lines set by laws and practices and, as the laws and practices are constantly changing, consult a company with extensive experience to protect your interests.

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