Q3 2011 Quick Links, Part 3

By Eric Goldman


Search Marketing

* Search Engine Land: “In many cases, it is worth buying keywords even if you rank organically for them.” Similarly, a Google study indicates that PPC advertising lifts clicks on organic results. Prior blog post.

* NJ Supreme Court Opinion 43 from the Committee on Attorney Advertising: “attorneys are not flatly prohibited from paying “perlead” Internet advertising charges provided the marketing scheme is advertising and not an impermissible referral service. Just as “pay-per-click” has become more prevalent in the Internet advertising community, “pay-per-lead” or “pay-per-contact” for Internet advertising is likely to become a more common model due to its inherent reward for effective advertising.”

* Most Expensive Keywords in Google

* Confusing developments in SF Comprehensive Tours v Groupon. Reuters article. The opaque ruling. Prior blog post.

* Google quietly liberalizes its policy on buying keyword ads on people’s names.

* Lawsuit over Paxfire’s role in allegedly redirecting some IAPs’ search traffic. In slightly related news, Nebuad settled its case.

* ClickZ: Why isn’t Google letting display advertisers do retargeting using search data?

False Advertising

* AdAge on the Great Wiener Wars. The case settled.

* WSJ: Litigation battles over the use of “all natural.”

* Nabors v. Google, 2011 WL 3861893 (N.D. Cal. Aug. 30, 2011) and McKinney v. Google, 2011 WL 3862120 (N.D. Cal. Aug. 30, 2011). Court dismisses false advertising lawsuits over the Google Phone allegedly not running at 3G speed.

Endorsements and Testimonials

* WSJ: “Digital Technology and the Re-Birth of Product Placement”: “Given the choice, the majority prefer placement to commercial breaks.”

* Car company Scion is forming its own record label. Remind me again, where’s the line between ads and editorial content?

* The FTC did a bizarre flipflop on the legitimacy of disclosures by Ashton Kutcher. Like everyone else, the FTC doesn’t understand its endorsement/testimonial guidelines.

* ConAgra invited bloggers to a free dinner where they surreptitiously served frozen food and videotaped their surprised reactions. This is great when it works; but if it doesn’t work, you’ve got a group of angry bloggers on your hands. It didn’t work.

* Brooke Burke’s contract gives a little insight into the insidious nature of an endorsement contract.

Other Topics

* AdAge on how Campbell Soups did eye-tracking studies and ethnographic research to improve the way its soups displayed on grocery store shelves.

* AdAge: Meredith, a large print publisher, is guaranteeing its largest advertisers that they will see a sales lift from their ads. It’s unusual for a print publisher to make such a guarantee given how much of the sales process is out of their control. On the other hand, advertisers are almost always seeking sales lifts from advertising, but usually they have to rely on weaker proxies to guess whether or not they’ll get it.

In related news, Time Inc. is going to try to measure its sales lift for advertisers. This is not quite as aggressive as Meredith’s guaranteed sales lift, but it’s a sign that traditional print publishers recognize that advertisers are buying results.

* Cracked: The 5 Biggest Disasters in the History of Marketing Ideas. Classic, especially the “bananas” one.

Search Engines

* Search Engine Land on a Searchmetrics study showing that: “YouTube is the number one video site that shows up for video results; Google Maps is the number one map site that shows up for map results; Google Product Search is the number one shopping site that shows up for shopping results; Google’s Blogger is the number one image site that shows up for image results.”

* Ugh. From Wired: Entrepreneurs scrape mug shots from public sites, SEO them and then charge the depicted individual money to have the photos removed.

* Google bought Zagat. The $125M price tag is incredible. It makes sense only if Zagat becomes Google’s foundation for its Places offering. This has to be a signal that Google will be more than happy to honor any de-indexing requests from Yelp. Expect plenty more howling about Google favoriting its own properties over third party sites.

On a related matter, I can’t imagine Orbitz/Travelocity/Expedia/Kayak are thrilled about the ITA implementation either.

* Google’s +1 apparently is going to influence search rankings. The story started at Kash Hill’s Forbes blog, but it appears Forbes spiked the story (at Google’s request…?), so that story is down. Now you have to read both the story, and the possible coverup, at Wired.

* Google killed Sidewiki. I doubt anyone misses it (it was one of Google’s many failed UGC/social efforts), but do you remember just how much angst was spilled when Sidewiki first launched?

* I’m sure you’re shocked to learn that Bev Stayart is headed to the Seventh Circuit…again… Prior blog post.

* NYT on Europe’s love affair with the “right to be forgotten.”

* My hometown, Mountain View, is becoming a one-company town. While we love Google, naturally this evolution will create some tension. Then again, the Mercury News declares Mountain View a good city for start-ups.

* ShopCity (not surprisingly, working with Gary Reback) has entered the bitchfest about Google rankings. As John McClane would say, “Welcome to the party, pal.”

* Findwhat Investor Group v. Findwhat.com, 2011 WL 4506180 (11th Cir. Sept. 30, 2011):

The Form 10-K contains affirmative statements of present fact—”[w]e employ an integrated system … that continually monitor[s] traffic quality,” and “[w]e enforce strict guidelines …to ensure the quality of traffic,” (Compl.75) (emphases added)—that unquestionably create the impression that MIVA maintains an active and sophisticated monitoring system for screening fraudulent traffic. Accepting the Plaintiffs’ allegations as true, these statements are misleading because they could mislead a reasonable investor into believing that the Defendants had systems in place that would detect and remove distribution partners engaged in extensive fraudulent revenue-generating practices, when in truth and in fact they did not.

However, management lacked the requisite scienter for securities fraud liability for those statements. Nevertheless, the 11th Circuit held that management’s failure to disclose information about rogue affiliates after it learned the news could constitute securities fraud. Rebecca’s coverage.


* The FTC has proposed revisions to COPPA’s regulations. The two most important points:

1) The FTC rejected that websites could have constructive knowledge that they are dealing with kids under 13. As a result, so long as the site doesn’t know a user is under 13 or market to kids under 13, the site can ignore COPPA.

2) The FTC is including geolocation and IP address information as PII. Does this signal that the FTC is taking an expansive view of PII across-the-board, not just in the COPPA arena?

In partially related news, the FTC scored a rare COPPA bust, this time from a mobile app developer.

* FTC settlement with FrostWire: the FTC takes the position that a software default setting that enables too much data sharing is unfair to consumers. This is similar to the LimeWire settlement with the Maryland AG. However, it raises the Q: is the FTC going to take the position that any service that enables too much sharing by default is engaged in unfair practices? If so, it will be taking quite an active role in telling software developers how to code, and the FTC will face an overwhelmingly large list of potential targets!

* Facebook is tracking logged-out users. Mostly this is due to the distributed Facebook “like” button, which acts as a driftnet for collecting lots of information from third party websites. Some members of Congress are unhappy. In contrast, the privacy plaintiffs’ bar is rejoicing! Named plaintiffs include Davis, Thompson, Graham, Singley, Howard, Seamon, Beatty, Parrish, Rutledge, Brkic and Hoffman.

* Pandora got sued for privacy breaches too. I’m surprised this took so long.

* OnStar had its own brush with privacy problems when it announced it would track non-customers, but it soon backed down.

* Specific Media settled its lawsuit. Prior blog post.

* Sams v. Yahoo appealed to the 9th Circuit. Prior blog post. Related blog post.

* The Lares Institute, Data Breaches and the Phantom Damage Allegation, July 2011: 97% of those surveyed had not “experience[d] any unreimbursed losses that you could trace to a security breach that occurred in the last 12 months.” [link may be down]

* WSJ on the growth of “corporate privacy” positions.

* Zynga gamified its privacy policy.