Website Digital Marketing Practices: What is illegal?

laptop with website content on marketing best practice - Digital Plant Sdn Bhd

At one point in their career, all professionals will encounter questionable digital marketing practices. However, it may not always be obvious: what may seem like a great idea to help your website visibility can in fact be illegal in regards to the internet laws applicable, and get you sanctioned. After all, hell is paved with good intentions (even in digital marketing). Seeing your brand in jeopardy by other unsuspecting or unethical businesses is not an agreeable situation either.

In this article, we will cover three digital marketing practices regarding websites at large and explain what the law states about them.

1. Domain names

A domain name is a website’s name. It differs from the URL as it refers to the whole website, not a specific page. For instance, Digital Plant’s domain name is “”.

Domain squatting” is registering, selling or using a domain name in order to profit from another’s trademark. Some may refer to it as “Cybersquatting”. Cyber squatters usually buy a domain name using the name of an existing business in order to:

  • Either resell it with a considerable profit to the same business,
  • Or gain some profit from the traffic deflection they create with online advertising.

This digital marketing practice is of course illegal and condemned by the global organization “Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers” (ICANN). In case of dispute, the claimant needs to expose how the domain name causes damage to his rights, and/or constitutes unfair competition.

Else, according to ICANN’s Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy, only a trademark can be opposed to a domain name. The claimant must then prove all three following conditions:

  • The domain name is identical or similar to a point of confusion to a brand on which he detains the rights
  • The domain name owner doesn’t have any right or legitimate interest to assert on the domain name
  • The domain name was registered and used in bad faith.

2. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the practice of optimizing your website in order to get traffic (organic or un-paid) from the search engine results page. The search engines base their result page on complex algorithms that, while kept secret, consider the following elements relevant:

  • Title and meta description tags of web pages
  • Visible content of web pages
  • URL address of the web pages
  • Popularity of the page (number of links directing to the page, etc.)

An illegal SEO practice is to use the Meta tags of your website to include distinguishing features of another’s trademark. The reproduction of these features is not always visible from visitors (tag not displayed on screen or displayed in the same color as the background).

The French courts systematically condemn this type of practice: the case law considers that it is a form of unfair competition. American courts consider it as trademark infringement, deceptive trade practices and unfair competition.

Cloaking is a technique used to deliver the content on a Web page to a search engine in such a way that different content than what is delivered to a regular human user appears on the search engine. The goal of cloaking is to boost a website’s search engine rank on certain keywords. In cloaking, the search engine and the user are literally not on the same page.” (source: Technopedia)

Since both visitors and search engine are deceived, this practice is also a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.


Robot cloaking process illustration

What is cloaking – Source:


In addition, while this type of techniques can achieve a raise in website traffic, it will be short-lived. Indeed, Google will likely find out, resulting in penalties or even suspension of the website.

Illegal practices at large in SEO are called “black hat SEO”.

3. Search Engine Advertising (SEA)

Search Engine Advertising is paying search engines to include your website in the first search result page, usually at the top or side of the page. Search engines label these paid results as “sponsored”. Advertisers choose the search terms (keywords) for which their ad will be displayed. For some keywords, demand is high, resulting in prices going up.

What could possibly be illegal in purchasing keywords? Well, purchasing a keyword of another trademark. The risks and penalties are the same as using another brand’s meta tags in your website. Since they deflect some of the other website traffic, this type of practice is unfair competition at the very least.

I was once an intern in a startup where the owner thought this type of digital marketing practice was a great idea: since the search engine allowed it, it should be legal. Search engines may allow it or not, search for their terms of use. Keep in mind though that, in various countries, search engines are not accountable for the keywords you buy (even if their algorithm suggested the keywords). Overall, the only cases where it is legal to buy another’s brand name as keywords are (source: American Bar):

  • If you’re reselling their product
  • If your website landing page provides detailed information about the trademark products or owner (and you don’t promote competing products)

Digital marketing is vast; various strategies are possible depending on your objectives. However, international organizations, local laws and policies regulate the profession. Be sure to stay compliant with your strategies.

If you liked this article or have any question, please consider leaving a comment! Else, you may contact us to send your inquiry regarding websites or digital marketing practices at large. Both options are LEGAL

7/09/2020 Content & Design



Mirella Remtoula

Born in Martinique, Mirella was raised in Africa (Ivory Coast, Madagascar & Mali) before going back to France for her studies. She worked there as a digital transformation consultant for over 5 years in several sectors: automotive, transports, services, telecoms, and e-commerce. Since moving to Malaysia, she is now a Senior Digital Marketing consultant, and Digital Plant’s Communication Manager.

She likes painting, comedies and sweet cocktails. City girl, Mirella enjoys street art, challenges, new ideas & exploring the world.

Prefers honest & transparent feedback. Definite foodie (except for cheese even though she's French).

51 responses to “Website Digital Marketing Practices: What is illegal?”

  1. says:

    An intriguing discussion is worth comment. I do believe that you
    need to write more on this issue, it may not be a taboo subject but typically people do not
    talk about such issues. To the next! Best wishes!!

  2. says:

    Very thought out! Whoa.

  3. says:

    I do accept as true with all of the ideas you’ve introduced for your post.
    They’re very convincing and can definitely work. Nonetheless, the posts are too short for novices.
    May you please lengthen them a little from next time?

    Thanks for the post.

  4. says:

    great submit, very informative. I wonder why the other specialists of this sector
    don’t understand this. You should proceed your writing.
    I’m confident, you have a great readers’ base already!

  5. says:

    Thanks for finally talking about > Website Digital Marketing Practices: What is illegal?
    – Digital Plant < Loved it!

  6. says:

    Great blog you have here but I was curious if you knew of
    any forums that cover the same topics discussed here?
    I’d really love to be a part of community where I can get feed-back from other knowledgeable individuals that share
    the same interest. If you have any recommendations, please let me know.
    Many thanks!

  7. says:

    Hey, thanks for the blog article.Much thanks again. Fantastic.

  8. Constance says:

    Very nice post. I just stumbled upon your weblog and wished to say
    that I have truly enjoyed surfing around your blog posts.
    In any case I’ll be subscribing to your rss feed and I hope you write again very

  9. says:

    I have been absent for a while, but now I remember why I used to love this blog. Thank you, I’ll try and check back more frequently. How frequently you update your web site?

  10. Ramon says:

    Good information. Lucky me I recently found your site by chance (stumbleupon).
    I have bookmarked it for later!

  11. Marissa says:

    Pretty great post. I simply stumbled upon your blog
    and wished to say that I’ve really loved surfing around your
    weblog posts. In any case I will be subscribing for your feed and I hope you write again soon!

  12. Shavonne says:

    Excellent items from you, man. I have have in mind your stuff prior to and you’re just extremely wonderful.

    I really like what you have bought here, really like what you’re saying and
    the way during which you assert it. You’re making it entertaining
    and you still take care of to stay it smart.

    I can’t wait to read much more from you. That is actually a wonderful web

  13. says:

    Have you ever thought about publishing an e-book or guest authoring on other websites? I have a blog based upon on the same topics you discuss and would really like to have you share some stories/information. I know my readers would value your work. If you are even remotely interested, feel free to send me an email.

  14. says:

    Very efficiently written story. It will be useful to anybody who employess it, including me. Keep up the good work – canr wait to read more posts.

  15. Ezequiel says:

    Hello! I just wanted to ask if you ever have any problems with hackers?
    My last blog (wordpress) was hacked and I ended up losing
    a few months of hard work due to no data backup. Do you have any methods to
    prevent hackers?

  16. Matthew Nathan says:

    Good read and it was very insightful

  17. Karolin says:

    Hey There. I found your blog the use of msn. This is a really smartly written article. I’ll be sure to bookmark it and
    return to learn extra of your useful information. Thank you for the post.
    I will definitely comeback.

  18. says:

    I really like looking through an article that will make men and women think. Also, many thanks for allowing for me to comment!

  19. Money Online says:

    Wow, awesome weblog format! How long have you ever been running a blog for? you made blogging glance easy. The overall look of your site is magnificent, as smartly as the content!

  20. says:

    What’s Taking place i’m new to this, I stumbled upon this I have found
    It absolutely helpful and it has aided me out loads. I am hoping to contribute & help different users like its
    helped me. Great job.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *