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SEO Case Study: Attorneys Chasing Vioxx Organic Search Ranking

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Last week the drug manufacturer Merck pulled their pain relief medication Vioxx (rofecoxib) from the market due to studies linking higher incidence of heart attacks and strokes to long term use of their medication. The highly profitable medicine was aimed at Rheumatoid Arthritis sufferers and others who weren’t able to stomach aspirin, which is arguably more effective than Vioxx is for most pain relief.

Top search engine rankings for the trademarked word “Vioxx” were dominated by Merck-owned web site http://www.Vioxx.com as of September 30, 2004. The site is likely to keep that ranking now that hundreds of thousands are flocking to the search engines and typing in “Vioxx” to learn if they or their loved ones are at risk of heart attack from taking the medication.

News organizations are all linking to http://www.Vioxx.com site from online news stories about the health concerns and financial repurcussions to Merck of the sudden recall. Merck has run full page ads in top newspapers nationwide addressing the sudden action and sending those millions of readers to the http://www.Vioxx.com site and http://www.Merck.com site to read disclaimers and learn how to get refunds for the medication they already have in their medicine cabinets. The inbound links will soar at a point when they probably want it most so they can present their case to web visitors.

Taking the second position is the FDA page outlining the recall and linking to more info at the FDA site http://www.fda.gov/cder/drug/infopage/vioxx/default.htm Third place for the single word “Vioxx” also belongs to an FDA page and fourth and fifth positions are owned by a site that appears to be a drug index at http://www.rxlist.com/cgi/generic/rofecox_ad.htm

Sixth place is currently held by http://www.medicinenet.com/rofecoxib/article.htm at a medical site that dominates for many drug and medical terms due to extensive discussion boards and informational pages about thousands of medical conditions and their treatments. Seventh through tenth position are CNN’s news story on the recall, then Yahoo News with a similar story, two online pharmacies with curiously blank pages. Try to sell Tylenol from those pages guys – don’t waste the traffic with blank pages!

Pay-per-click advertisements were posted by agressive class action attorneys to run alongside organic search rankings and appeared immediately on the day of the recall announcement. The first search for the word Vioxx done at Google on Friday October 1st brought up an advertisement for http://www.Vioxx-heart-attack.com as the first result in the Adwords listings along the right side of the page. The bids were below a dollar a click on Friday, but are rapidly escalating as ever more law firms jump into the bidding war.

The real test comes now for organic search engine optimization firms as they set out to gain top rankings for their class action attorney clients. Interestingly, I’ve just finished reading the John Grisham novel, “King of Torts”, about a young “mass torts” attorney that made over an hundred million dollars by being the first to run nationwide television ads seeking clients injured by a faulty drug manufactured by a giant pharmaceutical company. Although the protaganist in the story has a web site to collect leads, nothing is mentioned of PPC advertising nor is it likely to be discussed in novels.

In “King of Torts” nothing is ever mentioned about organic search engine ranking of his web site either. Settlement seems to have come faster than would be possible to gain top rankings for a highly competitive search phrase. It will be extremely interesting to watch domain name sales related to Vioxx, since keywords in domain names always help rankings. Some that are showing up in PPC ads include the previously mentioned Vioxx-heart-attack.com, Vioxx-side-effects.com, Vioxx-Claim.com VioxxRecallLawyer.com and Vioxx-Lawsuits.com.

As of October 4th, 2004 the only NON-news related site in the top organic results at Google that are NOT online pharmacies, government agency sites, NIH (National Institutes of Health) or an information site http://arthritis.about.com/od/vioxx/ is a site that emphasizes giant class action lawsuits at http://www.bigclassaction.com/class_action/vioxx.html which has a PageRank of 5 as of October 4th at 5pm Pacific time.

The final ranked site of top 30 for the single word “Vioxx” at Google is the legal information site Findlaw in their class action section at http://injury.findlaw.com/vioxx/ which asks your zip code on first visit and must use IP delivery for robots visiting the first time since there is nothing on that page about Vioxx if you’ve never visited the page before.

Now we will see what techniques are used by Search Engine Optimization firms that hurriedly post sites full of links to gain search position for the word Vioxx in order to sell more links to those agressive law firms and attorneys (and they’ll run expensive click-through Google Adsense ads).

Without doubt, the most SEO savvy attorneys will compete at a fever pitch for top rankings over the next few weeks.

Mike Banks Valentine operates SEOptimism, Offering SEO training of
in-house content managers http://seoptimism.com/SEO_Staff_Training.htm
as well as the Small Business Ecommerce Tutorial at
http://WebSite101.com and blogs about SEO at http://RealitySEO.com
where this article appears with live links to SMO stories, buttons, blog posts and examples.

SEO Case Study: Attorneys Chasing Vioxx Organic Search Ranking
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