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Overstock's Failed Marketing Strategy

SEO and SEM Ethical and Legal Considerations: Overstock.com

This analysis will review Overstock.com who used an illegal and unethical trade discount for links on other businesses’ websites. Overstock.com was giving discounts to businesses such as colleges and universities that would embed their link onto the college or university website (Devaney, 2014). In exchange, they gave the faculty and students discounts on Overstock merchandise. More than just embedding links on educational institution websites, they took to even providing discounts to the staff/students to drive in even more traffic.


In this example, Overstock.com acted unethically by leveraging educational institutions, who already drive a good amount of traffic and are trusted sites on the Internet, capabilities to drive their traffic. To make matters worse on top of their unethical decision, but to cover up the details of the bad decision, they offered discounts to people who commonly use the website to also drive traffic. While it can be understandable to want to attract or market to those in an educational setting, by embedding links and pushing discounts to promote visiting Overstock.com the strategy was utterly unethical.


Instead of embedding links on educational institutional websites, Overstock.com could have looked into purchasing a banner or ad spot on the websites instead. This would have worked not only ethically but also legally for the true traffic they would’ve received. According to Optimus, A common unethical practice are links that are hidden, or generally in the same font and color, on other websites (Optimus, 2013).


Some other ways in SEO & SEM that are found unethical duplicated content, Hidden text, and cloaking. Overstock could have easily been penalized on each of these. However there are ways they could have avoided these unethical strategies by not exchanging the website link to other educational institutions and instead of following up on industry trends and other strategies that could have helped target a person from an educational background (Optimus, 2013).


Simply for the unethical practices that Overstock.com took part in, they lost $1.05 Billion in revenue.

If Overstock.com had taken to researching more options to directly reach those in an educational setting (or not) they could have developed a budget-friendly campaign that would have resulted in a profit. For whatever the reason was for the unethical practice, they ended with not only losing more than they could have following ethical standards, they also created a black mark on their business’ brand for caring more about profit than ethical standards and practices.

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