SEO Law : How can the Australian Consumer Law and Intellectual Property Law be used to regulate the Black Hat SEO used by SEO companies in order to ... consumers and small business (Volume 1)

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In 1991, there was only one website. It was known as the World Wide Web and was invented by Tim Berners-Lee. According to the results of a survey by Netcraft, there are now, in 21st century over one billion websites on the World Wide Web. Since Google was launched in 1998, it has become the world number one search engine site. Although, Google created the need for Search Engine Optimisation (‘SEO’) and SEO professionals to help increase website ranking among more than one million websites in Google, the term ‘Search Engine Optimisation’ appeared before Google was established. It is possible that the term was first used by John Audette in a meeting with Danny Sullivan in 1997 or in the same year by Bruce Clay, these people being the first practitioners of the SEO internet skill. Throughout the history of SEO use, many issues have been raised due to the use of Black Hat SEO (‘BHSEO’) which delivers poor website rankings for small business owners and their clients. This research paper will discuss what White Hat SEO (‘WHSEO’) and BHSEO are. In particular, it will review and analyse if there are problems with BHSEO strategies under the current Australian Consumer Law (‘ACL’) and Australian Intellectual Property Law (‘IPL’). The paper will also suggest possible reforms in order to further protect business owners and online consumers in the current online market. SEO is an abbreviation for “Search Engine Optimisation”, which involves strategies that naturally increases website traffic and place a website in the Search Engine Results Page (‘SERP’) in response to the search queries of users. This section will discuss what SEO is, types of BHSEO and some significant issues of using BHSEO in the Australian market. There are three types of SEO strategies: WHSEO, BHSEO, and Grey Hat SEO (‘GHSEO’). While there is no clear legal definition of WHSEO, it can be explained as a positive SEO strategy, operated by a human, which improves the search engine performance on a SERP. Some examples of WHSEO strategies are press releases, social media campaigns, article submissions to high Page Rank (‘PR’) websites and Google AdWords campaigns. Similar to WHSEO, there is no clear legal definition of BHSEO. Another name for BHSEO is “Unethical SEO”. BHSEO strategies are the opposite of WHSEO and include cybersquatting, abusing meta tags, creating fake reviews to receive backlinks, sending fake website traffic, content farms and using spammy linkbuilding methods. The reason a business owner may pursue using BHSEO is for the advantages of cost efficiency, requiring short periods of time to increase PR, and the campaigns being easy to maintain by software. In practice, WHSEO costs much more than BHSEO as it is manually operated by a human being compared with mostly being performed by software. Some SEO companies use BHSEO tactics to get quick results and payments from their clients. Unfortunately, there are many SEO companies that fail to reach their intended achievement within a certain period of time. This can happen for many reasons. Some SEO professionals do not have sufficient legal knowledge and may become involved in BHSEO through the use of certain software. This may result in engaging in misleading or deceptive conduct under the ACL or a breach of Intercultural Property Law.

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