To many of us SEO is something that we can use to get our hobbyist sites noticed on the web and to start earning some money. The people who blog about SEO the most largely fall into this category so it’s often perceived as a marketing method for those who don’t have the big money to put into an ad campaign. However SEO is much more serious than all that – it’s BIG business, and it’s something that huge companies are investing a lot of money in. It’s no surprise then that it’s something lawyers are starting to get dragged into – and particularly in the wake of some of Google’s newest changes.
Penguin for Lawyers
One of the most high profile recent changes to Google that you maaaaay have heard of for instance – Penguin – has rather large implications for lawyers. Penguin began to penalize websites much more heavily for spamming the web with lots of irrelevant and low-authority links. The idea was to stop sites getting to the top of the SERPs simply by submitting their sites to lots of link exchange schemes and low authority link directories. While this might have been a good way for Google to combat some of the spam on the net though it also opened up a lot of innocent websites to attack. ‘Negative SEO’ is the act of bombarding an opponent’s website with irrelevant links on useless sites in order to ensure Google punishes them in the SERPs and thereby sends them down the rankings leaving less competition for webmaster responsible.
In other words there is a full on SEO war going down between some sites sitting at the top of competitive keywords, which of course means that lawyers are going to get involved – asking site owners to take down links that the webmaster hadn’t requested (whether there’s any way they can legally enforce this if the webmaster doesn’t cooperate is unclear – it’s not illegal to have a link on your website and especially one you didn’t post…) and attempting to help webmasters take legal action against those using negative SEO.
DMCA Takedown for Lawyers
The other more recent update to Google’s algorithms that could get lawyers involved is the inclusion of DMCA takedowns. Basically this means that if you request a site be taken down due to copyright infringement, then Google will add this to a totally tally of such complaints that will start to negatively affect that website’s ranking. The more complaints the site gets, the more its position will be negatively affected and once again this of course creates an opportunity for webmasters to start using these rules as a weapon – don’t like the competition for your key phrase? Then you and a bunch of lawyers just have to hit it with a few complaints and suddenly its position will drop.
This time lawyers can work on the other side of the equation – helping you find ways to incriminate other sites that are using your content for instance, and helping you to formalise your complaints. At the same time though you might want to use a lawyer in order to not only help you ensure your site isn’t infringing any copyrights or trademarks (recommended) and to help you fight any accusations that come your way.
A lot of this lawyers will already be able to handle – and any intellectual property lawyer should know enough about copyright law to help you avoid getting into trouble. However it will still benefit them to start to learn the ins and outs of SEO to compliment this knowledge and to help give you the best advice. Likewise they will need to start understanding the complexities of how the web works as well as the laws surrounding it – they’ll need to know what a ‘nofollow’ link is, and they’ll need to learn everything they can about Google’s new DMCA takedowns and how they work. More than ever SEO is something that applies EVERYONE and that affects almost every business, and more than ever it’s becoming a more complicated and difficult game for individual entrepreneurs and hobbyists who can’t spring the funds for their own law department.
And for both lawyers and webmasters alike there are a LOT of questions still surrounding DMCA takedowns regarding the precise mechanisms of the algorithm changes and how other sites are going to start using this against them.
Luke Anderson is an experienced marketing professional associated with PR Agency for more than 15 years. He is one of the most reputed PR consultants in the United Kingdom.