Troutman Sanders law firm put out a good article on two recent FTC enforcements. “Given these decisions, it is particularly important for businesses engaged in internet marketing to carefully consider the search terms they use to drive customers to their websites. If words purporting to describe a product or service would not be accurate when stated directly to consumers through traditional advertising, then businesses should not use those words to describe their goods or services through keywords.”
Summary from the Troutman Sanders LLP article: These two companies were charged with deceptive trade practices.
1) Lumos Labs, Inc., the owner of the online “brain game” portal Lumosity was charged for deceptive trade practices for making it sound like their brain puzzle game could help prevent Alzheimer’s disease. The FTC complaint against Lumocity stated: “Defendants have employed an extensive search engine campaign, including through Google AdWords, and have purchased hundreds of keywords, including many variations of words related to memory, attention, intelligence, brain, cognition, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease.”
2) Stratford, a for profit web-based school offering degrees to students seeking high school diplomas engaged in deceptive trade practices by misrepresenting that their high school equivalency course would give its graduates he program would help students with career advancement and enable them to apply to college (this was not true, the program they offered fell short of the required courses and many employers and colleges did not view this as the equivalent of a high school diploma). “The search terms Strafford bought were “official high school diploma,” “high school diploma equivalent,” and “real high school diploma online,” in order to direct potential students to the Stratford website.”
So what we learn here is we need to be careful about the actual keywords we buy to promote our services if such keywords are not representative of the products or services we are offering. Note that the keyword purchases were a factor among other advertising done by these companies and the totality of the circumstances will likely be reviewed by the regulator to find the violation.
For the entire Troutman Sanders Article – see FTC Looks to Purchased Search Terms in Deceptive Advertising Complaints