Buying up sponsored links for searches on competitors' names is a fairly commonplace practice among the cannier legions of PPC practitioners.
It's happened to Smarta. We were a bit put out at the time, admittedly, but a brief survey of our friends on Twitter resulted in a kind of communal shrug and a 'Nya, what you gonna do?' In fact, there were a fair few of our followers who thought it was not only fair game, but good business strategy. And we had to admit, as we do now, it's not a bad way to Pied Piper a rivals' semi-loyal customers towards your products instead.
Get a good deal advertised on that sponsored link you're paying for, and you can cash in.
It isn't the most salubrious and sportsmanly way of doing things, but it's far from the worst. After all, it's not all that different from, say, a customer going into Boots to buy Max Factor lipstick, then being seduced by a big shiny stand showcasing Rimmel lipstick that Rimmel would have paid plenty for, and buying the Rimmel lipstick instead.
The case throws up interesting dilemmas for the future of PPC advertising though. If Interflora is successful, this practice might start being phased out by Google, or penalised. It's not the first time a case like this has been brought to the courts. Earlier this year luxury goods mega-company LVMH (the LV stands for Luis Vuitton) previously brought a claim against Google for allowing third party resellers of its goods to buy sponsored links. But Google won as the European courts deemed there was no loss of revenue for LVMH (as it was still LVMH goods being sold).
If Interflora wins this case, it could change the face of sneaky PPC tactics. We'll keep you posted, and let you know if any measures are brought in that could leave you liable if you too are trading off rivals' names.
Read more about sneaky and black hat SEO and PPC strategies - but use them at your own risk!