MarkMonitor recently investigated to what extent popular product searches led to websites offering counterfeit and pirated goods via paid search ads. The research examined 20 of the top 1,000 product-related searches in 2008 and focused on paid search ads across the three major search engines — Google, Yahoo! and Bing. In total, 583 unique websites (to which the ads pointed) were analyzed.
So, what did we find? Roughly 17% of the paid search ads for popular consumer products — such as designer handbags and shoes, music, movies, and hi-tech gadgets — led to sites likely offering counterfeit or pirated goods. This number gets even higher for certain categories, such as "designer handbags," where an eye-opening 32% of the paid search ads led to sites appearing to sell fake handbags.
Another way to stir up more ads for counterfeit or pirated goods is by adding terms like "cheap," "discount" or "wholesale" to a product name or category. Across all 20 product searches, for example, the share of paid search ads linking to sites selling counterfeits increased from 17% to 19% when these terms were added. In the designer handbag example, the share of paid search ads linking to suspect counterfeit sites jumped from 32% to 49%.
From these results, it is evident that counterfeiters have mastered the art of targeting buyers looking for unbelievable deals. As such, consumers need to be that much more vigilant if they're seeking authentic products at good prices. Brand owners also need to be cognizant of the strategies employed by fraudsters and monitor not only for the use of their trademarks or product categories as keywords, but also in conjunction with terms signaling counterfeit or pirated products.
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