Its a Bird, Its a Plane, No....Its a Trademark Term, and Pubcon is Bidding!


Some search marketers are a bit more aggressive than others with comparative advertising. Usually after a business is well established they stop bidding on competing trademarks in the search space, if for nothing else then out of professional courtesy. That is unless of course their name is Brett Tabke.

Pubcon, which recently strongly defended its name, seems to also like the ad space for Search Engine Strategies™ and Danny Sullivan.


I did that sort of stuff a

I did that sort of stuff a few years ago, but I doubt I would do that today (certainly not to Danny at least). I can't see why Brett would at this point unless he uses an automated keyword list generator or is trying to create a controversy?

Could it be because Brett

Could it be because Brett don't know how to SEo anymore? :)

Some years ago I build pages to rank for a number of my good friends in SEO, just for the fun of it, and guess what - it's NOT very hard ... if thats what you want.

But, for Brett to do this right after he make a fuzz about his own brand is just plain out childish and stupid. Tune into Strikepoint tonight - we will have THIS on the agenda for sure :)

Far be it from me to disagree

I'm clearly the last person to defend WMW, but there's absolutely nothing wrong with those ads. There's a big difference between using a trademark, and advertising on that search term.

If he used SES in the ads, yes, that'd be wrong. But using your competitors brands as key phrases is Adwords(R) 101.

The ads can create user

The ads can create user confusion and as such a violation of trademarks. Some lawyers don't agree with me on this, but many do.

Also, there is no doubt why these ads was targeted to these keywords - it is to abuse others brand to attract customers. How much more abuse do you want?


So if I run some ads for using Pubcon as my keyphrase, that's OK right? Doubt it. I can hear him licking the envelope from here.

How do I count the wrongness?

Let me count the ways.

Advertising against my name. That's not a trademark violation. My name isn't trademarked, nor do I think it could be.

It is an editorial guidelines violation, most definitely. To quote Google:

"Your ad text and keywords must directly relate to the content on the landing page for your ad."


"Use specific keywords that accurately reflect your site."

Sorry to say, his conference has nothing to do with me. I'm not speaking at it. I'm not mentioned on his landing page. He doesn't say things like try comparing the confernences Danny organizes to ours. The site, the landing pages, they aren't relevant to my name in any way he's shown. That's why I asked today for Google to disallow the ads, along with two other ads that are targeting my name but which have nothing to do with me.

This stuff isn't new, of course. Heck, at one of our SES shows, I was on a panel on trademark issues when someone in the audience showed how I think WebProNews was targeting my name. But in that case, there was at least some relevancy. They were targeting my name as part of their coverage of the event. Now someone searching for [matt cutts] or [tim mayer], two other names the Brett or whoever is running the PubCon ads is targeting, those are relevant. Both of those people will be speaking there.

How about the term [search engine strategies]. Again, the relevancy guidelines should kick in here. PubCon semi-competes with the SES events, so I suppose the ads might work if they were meant to lead to a comparison advertising landing page. But they aren't. They just take you to PubCon with no mention of SES at all. That's not relevant.

Consider the newbie Google searcher, trying to find info about SES. They type that in, see PubCon and perhaps wonder if that's a different name for SES and clickthrough. They're looking for SES info, get an ad that Google promises will be relevant in some way, yet it's not relevant for their search term.

On the trademark front, no harm no foul in the US. I believe SES is a trademarked phrase. Since the ads don't use that in the copy, nothing wrong in targeting the term to North America. Editorial guidelines still shouldn't allow it, but trademarkwise, he's OK.

Not so in Europe. I'm seeing the ads in the UK. For outside the US, Google's trademark policy is that you can't run an ad targeted to the trademark of others. The only exception is if this is happening through a broad match implementation. Maybe that's what's happening. As Aaron said, it could be that Google itself somehow threw out my name and SES as a synonym for keywords he's targeted. Perhaps.

but search engine strategies is a common phrase

I don't see how "search engine strategies" could be protected. It is a common phrase that can be used in casual conversations.

Have you heard of any new search engine strategies ?
Lets go talk about search engine strategies that help me rank better in google.

Where is 'BoboTheCat'

when you want some input?

Maybe more "bait & switch"?


I don't see how apple could be protected. It's a common phrase that can be used in casual conversations.

Have you eaten an apple today?
Lets go talk about apples that fall off of trees.

Seriously, trademarks provide trademark holders with certain protections, in certain contexts. Yep, people might say they want to talk about search engine strategies. I agree entirely. Having a trademark doesn't suddenly give you the right to control those particular words in every single context. I hate people who make that assumption. But put the words in a context related to the specific industries they relate to, and suddenly there are more protections in place.

Fair to say, "apple" can be protected when talking about computers and used in particular ways, even if it is a generic term. Orange is a fruit unless you want to talk about cell phones in the UK. The same is true for "search engine strategies" when applied to conferences about search engines. If you wanted to run your own "Search Engine Strategies" conference in the US, you'd probably find yourself causing consumer confusion and perhaps vulnerable to trademark law. I think that's the exact reason Brett decided to act on the PubCon trademark, adding to the irony here.

But don't get me wrong. I'm not saying this is a trademark issue. I'm saying that using my name doesn't appear to meet Google's own editorial guidelines on relevancy, which can be whatever Google wants to set.

On the trademark front, Google doesn't care if you have a trademark or not if you want to a link an ad to those words, at least in North America. In Europe, it's a different matter. You got a trademark? The ads can't link to it.

I suppose you could argue that Brett's conference is about "search engine strategies" in general and so he's trying to perhaps tap into those terms as generics, rather than the brand. You know, go after all the people thinking they need better "search engine strategies." Of course, if that's the plan, I'd make use of those trigger words in the body copy. You know, speak to the intended audience.

Ultimately, I guess that would be up to Google to decide if it were a trademark issue in Europe or a relevancy issue in general. I'm not worrying about things on either front for SES. Incisive Media can decide if they want to pursue more things with Google on the ads linked to those terms. It's their show -- their trademark.

But my name? C'mon. Is it relevant for that ad to come up for my name? From what I read on Google's guidelines, I'd say no.

I suppose you could argue

I suppose you could argue that Brett's conference is about "search engine strategies" in general and so he's trying to perhaps tap into those terms as generics

That is the argument I would make if confronted with a challenge to it's use. Sure its obvious to us what the intent is, but I don't think you can argue it successfully. Then again who am I to say, I'm definitly not a lawyer.

But my name? C'mon

I completely agree, thats lame. Do you think Brett manages his PPC campaign himself ? Perhaps it was an employee getting too aggressive.

Perhaps it was an employee

Perhaps it was an employee getting too aggressive.

Or perhaps someone was trying to cause a may have been done outside of the company as well.

I know when people were chewing me out about a similar situation a few years back (I was mr aggressive guy) that a few days after someone started chewing me out that one of their affiliates started bidding for like EVERYONE'S names. That rouge affiliate may have just been an instigator.

That is the weird thing with bidding on names. The cost is so cheap that people can buy ads for third parties, with intent to help or hurt them.

Could have been

Could have been an aggressive employee; it honestly could be that Google itself might have suggested some of these. For example, if I use the keyword research tool and point it at, it comes back with my name as a suggested term. It's pretty buried in the misc area, but it comes in down at the list. So you could have someone who was building terms research this way ending up with my name. Similarly, I could see someone entering [search engine conference] and looking for related terms. search engine strategies is one of the top related terms. OK, you have to manually add that to your list. But it might also be that if you go broad match for something like the words search conference, Google might expand to pick up SES. Of course, I can see that Google suggests using "strategies" as a possible negative word, so it might be that it automatically prevents that from happening. Broad match can definitely be tricky. Plenty of advertisers have gone down the wrong road accidentally with it. Or it could be that the names and terms were explicitly chosen. A search for [danny sullivan conferences] doesn't bring up the ad while neither does [danny] or [sullivan] or [sullivan danny] but [danny sullivan] and ["danny sullivan"] do. For the latter to happen, if I remember Google correctly, you had to explicitly gone with phrase match or exact match -- a more conscious decision.

On Ruckus

Absolutely a possibility. But that's an expensive ruckus to do. I mean, the ads show for things like "pubcon" and "search conferences," so it doesn't feel like someone said, "hmm, let's see if it gets brett in a sticky situation by buying an ad linked to danny's name." Plus, the ads aren't doing any redirection. Just feels like someone with PubCon itself bought a whole bunch of terms to promote the show.

keyword dump from a list

> That is the weird thing with bidding on names.

People have been buying names for years - I am surprised to see it is even brought up here. Every SES and PubCon, someone will buy all the names listed. Even old DaveN had his bought last summer.

30-50 ads on going for years:

5-15 ads on going for years:

5-10 ads on going for years

It is so common place, I don't think the person that placed our ads even thought twice about it.

> a whole bunch of terms to promote the show.

Yep it was. A keyword dump off a kw tool.

> But that's an expensive ruckus to do.

Pretty dirt cheap actually. 200+ keywords - mid level bids. Less than $50 a month total spend. If there were any less roi keyword space to bid on, I don't know what it would be.

Pretty dirt cheap actually.

Pretty dirt cheap actually. 200+ keywords - mid level bids. Less than $50 a month total spend. If there were any less roi keyword space to bid on, I don't know what it would be.

from past experience industry terms like names were some of the cheapest on the market...and some of them would convert at 1-2% on 5 cent clicks....that is like $2 to $5 per lots of other visitors that may pay for themselves through linking, recommending, emailing a good tip, etc.

A little common sense

.... from NeoSeo and Aaron.

I've done the long rant too often, so here's the short version.

The big boys in marketing have been doing stuff like that (and far worse) forever.

Advertising where your competition is? Yeah, it called Marketing 101. If the laws allow it and the medium you're advertising in allows it ... then this is so basic a tactic that I don't get why it keeps coming up.

And as for relevance, if someone is searching on Danny's name, there is enough knowledge, interest and curiosity in SEO/SEM that it's hard for me to see how an ad for search marketing education and/or services, would not be relevant.

Outing someone, stealing stuff...yeah that really blows. Running competitive advertising? Seems pretty tame to me.

It is common sense, but it

It is common sense, but it is also something that is looked upon unfavorably by some. From a business standpoint, maybe it's a good idea. From a reputation standpoint, it shows lack of class in my opinion. Squatting on domains, bidding on competitor's names, and hypocritically threatening to sue someone for referencing their conference name. Sort of goes against that whole "community" feel amongst webmasters that they try and build.

The move does reek a tad of desperation. The forum has obviously lost many of its best posters (many moderators) in the past year along with their biggest attraction (Mr. GoogleGuy himself) posting more frequently in other places and even being the first individual to use WordPress to create a FAQ.

To me it's really a non-story. I know the bashing of him brings in posts and produces some of the lengthier threads on the forum. He's just trying to breathe some life into a dying forum. Cut him some slack.

Or it could be a really neat piece of Guerilla Marketing.. promote both conferences at once.

We all know that Brett and Danny have known each other for years - how better to get both conference names talked about just as we are coming into the conference season. And in front of exactly the right the right target audience.

> It is so common place, I

> It is so common place, I don't think the person that placed our ads even thought twice about it.

That is a very lame excuse. You could say the same thing about drunk driving but it still dosn't make it right to do.

Bidding for other peoples names in general are wrong, when in fact they are not related at all to your product. Bidding on good friends name in a very "community-like" industry such as ours is very rude in my mind. Thats just not a way to treat good friends - business or not. It's just bad karma.

It's just business

We can discuss "fair" and "the right thing to do", but it is just business. Nothing more, nothing less.
Those that don't like it, shouldn't get into the ring.




Let me count the ways.....
more like
Let he who is without sin....
Only takes two words to bring out all the pompous and self righteous and those two words are
Brett Tabke
Bo Bo
Neo Seo
Youre all so boring banging on about this guy again and again and again. Who really cares?

I agree

Only takes two words to bring out all the pompous and self righteous

That's a bit ironic, doncha think?

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