Eric Goldman reports in his blog today that the state of Utah just can’t seem to get it’s legislative nose out of the keyword kitchen. For the third time, the legislature is taking a shot at regulating keywords. So, what’s the big deal?
As Goldman points out, they’ve done a lousy job in their first two times at bat, and the third time seems to merely be a codification of already existing search engine policies.
However he does spy the hand of a specific Utah company, 1-800-Contacts, as being behind the legislative effort. 1-800-Contacts doesn’t see eye-to-eye with the idea of its competitors being able to buy their trademarked keywords in order to skim traffic that might otherwise come their way. Keep in mind that in most cases the ad copy won’t actually include trademark terms due to engine restrictions.
I couldn’t help but notice that Goldman was sure to mention the company about a jillion times in his post, perhaps to make the point that even if the contact lens purveyor were able to squelch paid keyword buys on their trademarked terms there is always the magic of SEO to contend with. I’m eager to see if his post starts to rank in the top results for 1-800-Contacts over the next few months.
More to the point, the engine’s controls over search marketing advertising are sophisticated enough now to simply exclude Utah from the states where ads for a given campaign are displayed. While some consumers might welcome the absence of search ads (though many less than legislators might think), Utah’s local businesses are likely to feel differently.
I think it’s also worth pointing out that state-by-state regulation of this industry is a fool’s errand – driving up costs of compliance for everyone and making for an adgvertiser and user experience that is choppy at best. There hasn’t been any call to regulate keywords like this on a national level, and for good reason.
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