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Paul Rushing

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When dealers are allowing review sites to show up for their name they are giving away to much brand equity. It does not even require the dealer name to be used in the title tag if the property using a name in content is authoritative enough.  Review sites generally speaking do not have an aggressive optimization strategy, they rely on contnet and home page linking strategies, because automotive seo efforts are fairly soft for dealer names they rank naturally for those terms.
In response to the dialog that Joe Orr and Brian Pasch are having about dealer name piracy.
Conversely the review site ranking strategy would be very easy for your competitors to take advantage of. With just a little bit of link building an aggressive competitor could have negative reviews optimized for your name. Negative review sites have more authority, more people will link to negative information than positive. Links to these negative review can be bought really cheap.  Which gives these negative reviews more search engine relevance than hundreds of positive reviews.  Some review sites even participate in buying fake reviews so they can optimize for your name.  Jim Rucker did an article about it where www.lotpro.com is participating in this scheme. Your competitors with an aggressive dealer microsite strategy could also rank for your name very easily. We have dealers occupying as many as five search engine entries with microsites for their competitors names, done in such a way that their competitors do not have a leg to stand on, this is the same strategy that Sean Bradley has touted with VSEO, but if they complain we will remove their name from the site.  There are many ways to grab traffic on competitors names and insure your own name in the search engine results pages. On grabbing traffic on competitors names you need to make sure you don't have any reason to have a business relationship with that store, it can and will make that relationship difficult if you participate in this strategy.

Fair Use, Trademark and Copyright Opinion:

(*See Disclaimer) The term Online Piracy is being misused.  A dealers name cannot be pirated.  Piracy refers to the unauthorized reproduction and distribution of copyrighted or patented materials.  You cannot copyright a trade name it is trademarked.  Piracy deals more with distribution of copyrighted intellectual property such as movies, music and written work or applications such as patented software.  Many popular peer to peer networks have been closed down due to piracy suits.  It sure is a cool buzz word even if applied improperly. Some dealers are on the right track with protecting their online reputation. A dealers name is trademarked so others cannot use it for "commercial" purposes as Brian pointed out but once an activity is in the public domain, such as your review site strategy, that information falls under fair use. The complaint is with the search engine not the site owner. An aggressive affiliate marketer could take all of your reviews good and bad, pull them into a landing page for lead generation or cpc offers, put your name in the title tag such as "ABC Motors - Consumer Reviews and Brand Name Dealer Pricing Any City, Some State" and you would not have a leg to stand on and could tell you to pound sand when you send the cease and desist letter, most would not but some would. Ebay Listings? Another whole can of worms. A title tag "ABC Motors Auction Listings - City, State" if you participate or "Brand Auctions Near ABC Motors in City, State" on a car centered domain name if you don't. eBay does pay affiliate marketers for traffic referred to their site.  Don't want eBay afiliates using your inventory and name in their content?  Don't list cars there and you may stay under eBay affiliates radar. Car.com, Edmunds.com, up2drive - BMW Bank of North America, Web2carz, Experian Automotive, Yahoo Motors, LeaseTrader.com and Vehix all pay affiliates for traffic or lead conversion through Commission Junction.  Chances are you may have granted some those organization license to use your name and it is passed on to their affiliates and or partners, pretty broad.  Carfax has agreements with many inventory providers and inventory aggregation sites, they make money off your listings and is a topic for another post. Couple review site rss feeds and automatically updating eBay listings on a landing page like that with aggressive optimization techniques. You may even lose position number one for your dealership name. Fair use and licenses you granted would win, want it out of the search engines? You better hope the webmaster is willing on their own free will. Send the wrong webmaster a C&D you may not like outcome, you would hate my response if I was on the receiving end of one due to an affiliate marketing property.

As long as the content does not suggest endorsement or sponsorship you don't have much room to complain. A site disclaimer as simple as "This site and offers presented are not endorsed or sponsored by and dealership presented" is probably enough to grant the webmaster safe harbor.  The fact that you let review sites present advertising on your dealership name would also help bolster their case because then you are participating in selective enforcement of your trademark especially with the very competitive ads shown on the screen cap below. Using the lead gen site example. If they were trying to capture leads using a call to actions such as "Get a fast Internet Quote from ABC Motors" when the leads were going to other dealers then your trademark claim would be valid if they were only going to you then you need to contact the lead provider and protest. If the call to action said "Get Quotes from Brand dealers and Compare the price offered by ABC Motors" a complaint may fall on deft ears. Think the "Pepsi Challenge" In Brian Pasch's post about "Online Piracy" he bought up his experience with BMW

I had BMW attorney call me one day because I had a BMW SEO case study website up on http://www.bmwseo.com.  They said that since I was in the business of making money from SEO, I can’t use the BMW in the domain even though it may help their dealers.
In Brian's bmwseo.com predicament. I may of told an attorney that reached out to me, depending on his demeanor, to fly a kite unless his client wanted to purchase the domain name. That really falls under fair use, especially if you were offering a service geared or case study specifically to BMW dealers. A better option on the domain name would of been bmwdeaelrseoservices.com to completely avoid confusion and prevent a trademark dilution claim.  A product description such as BMW Dealer SEO Services is an acceptable derivative, with the right disclaimer.  bmwseo.com may create confusion in the eyes BMW consumers but once they clicked through it would be obvious that it was a service offering to dealers and not an offer to sell cars.  It really is no different than after market accessories for Honda Accords when they use the words Honda Accord in their product description. Trademark law is generally focused on Consumer Protection not the protection of the trademark holder.  It is to protect consumers from confusion.  In my opinion it is completely legal to use a dealers name or competing vendors name in a strategy or product review, however you need to be able to live with the repercussions.  Those that publish them usually are well aware of the pros and cons. My company would never use a dealer client's name in our online marketing materials in indexed content, however we may use a vendors name that we represent because our website message and traffic is geared towards consumers of online automotive marketing solutions.  That is the balance we maintain. Dealers that are really concerned with trademark and copyright concerns want to dig into http://www.chillingeffects.org/ which covers many of these topics.  That way they can get a better grasp of what is really involved in protecting their brand, their rights and the rights of those they feel are infringing upon it and not just take my word or another vendors word for it.  It is a a joint project of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Harvard, Stanford, Berkeley, University of San Francisco, University of Maine, George Washington School of Law, and Santa Clara University School of Law clinics. Make sure you are in attendance for our next webinar Wednesday at noon est 10-28-2009 where Jim Rucker, Brian Pasch and myself will discuss ways for dealer to own all 10 positions for their name and offer some differences of opinion.  You will be able to ask questions during the webinar and we would welcome another panelist.
Paul Rushing 912-266-1629 www.dealerbytes.com SEGA Systems, LLC “Without Traffic Everything Fails”
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* Disclaimer "The GA Bar requires me to inform you that I am not a licensed attorney. Any opinion give is just that opinion. I do not have a law license nor have I ever practiced law. Completely discount my opinion based on it's legal merits, it is probably wrong. I have been accused in the past of misrepresenting myself as an attorney, however a room full of attorneys that made this accusation could not prove it and a judge laughed at them, furthermore I do stay in a Holiday Inn Express at every opportunity I think the running water and the switches that make the lights come on are awesome amenities. That was the same qualification I gave the judge for representing myself when accused of impersonating an officer of the court, he bought it."

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