Search engine optimization. If there’s one aspect of the digital marketing world that’s so complex, it even confuses the experts, it is definitely SEO. You can research all the guidelines and rules about how to avoid keyword stuffing while still benefiting from keyword optimization, and you can read up on things like HTML meta tags and how to build really awesome backlinks, and you can keep this up for months -- nay, years -- and then suddenly find yourself on Page 3 without any idea how it happened.

Well, to be honest, there are plenty of things that could have happened. Maybe Google released an algorithm update, like Panda or Penguin (because of course, let’s take the the most cuddly animals possible and turn them into things the entire world dreads hearing about). Maybe you make a big mistake by purchasing a sketchy backlinkfrom a sketchy backlink service, and Google caught you.

Or maybe you’re the victim of cybersquatting.

What exactly is cybersquatting, you ask? We’re glad you asked, because it really is a growing problem and it’s affecting how well (or how poorly) legitimate businesses with legitimate websites are ranking on Google.

Cybersquatting is the term for when one business or organization buys a URL that is very similar to another URL belonging to another (well-known) business or organization. The first group -- the one “squatting” -- typically buys up a bunch of URLs that all fall into this category, and then it turns around and sells them to another person or group for an exorbitant amount. Call it Information Superhighway robbery.

The intent behind this is clear: take advantage of the well-known name and publicity -- and take advantage of many people not realizing that they’ve spelled a famous name wrong -- and then make scads of money off it, either by using the URL or by selling it.

If you find yourself the victim of cybersquatting, it ain’t fun. It can really ruin your keyword rankings, not to mention wreak havoc on your brand if people still don’t realize that it’s not actually your website.

Luckily, there’s legislation in place to protect businesses from this nefarious act, and it’s possible to contact the owner of the website and offer to purchase the URL (which happens quite often when it’s an honest mistake). The more drastic action is to sue -- which might actually be worth it, if you’re the victim of a really serious cybersquatting situation.

Whatever you do, remember that you have the right to take action and make sure that all of your hard SEO work isn’t for naught. Because let’s be honest -- Google already does a great job of messing with your rankings as it is.

By: Shannon Delaney