Do you know a teenage girl in the market for a homecoming dress? If so, warn her to be very wary of dress shopping online. The sponsored ads on both Google and Bing are completely dominated by Chinese knock-off sites. Given the prominent placements of the sponsored results, it is challenging to distinguish between the knock off sites in the sponsored results and the legitimate sites in the organic results.
How widespread is the problem? A recent search for the term “homecoming dresses” returned a results page with the top seven sponsored search positions all being controlled by Chinese knock-off sites.
It is maddening that Google and Bing are generating revenue by permitting counterfeiters to prey upon teenage girls. The fall homecoming dance is the first major high school social event for many girls. It is a big deal in their young lives. The dresses and the photo’s of them in their homecoming dresses should be a source of happy memories. However, the knock off sites prey upon them by offering cheap prices and shipping shoddy merchandise. The knockoff sites steal photography and designs, republish the photography on their websites, and if they get an order try to replicate the design based on the photography. They typically use cheap materials and poor craftsmanship. Sometimes the Chinese knock-off sites come close on matching the colors and embellishments, other times they do not. And often they are slow to ship orders.
How much blame should be heaped on upon Google and Bing for selling ads to knock-off websites? They are reaping profits from facilitating teen-age girls getting ripped off. Obviously, this is a huge user experience problem. Further, they are facilitating sales being made by offshore businesses that are stealing the intellectual property of U.S. designers. The American Bridal and Prom Industry Association certainly judges Google to be at fault, as the organization has indicated they will “go after Google”.
For reference, there are a number of legitimate online shopping sites for Homecoming dresses and Prom dresses. The Find Retailer links on the sites of leading designers provide links to reliable stores. As an example, the Mac DuggalFind Retailer search is a resource for discovering legitimate online homecoming dress retailers.