In the vast expanse of the internet, where clicks lead to destinations unseen, lies a lurking danger: counterfeit websites. Have you been faced with suspicious texts or calls promising the world if only you divulge a pinch of personal information? Most of us can easily recognize these attempts as the scams that they are.  Unfortunately, the threat runs even deeper, seeping into the very fabric of our online existence.

Picture this: you punch in a harmless search term on Google, hoping to find that perfect guitar for your next jam session. Suddenly, you’re bombarded with options, some promising deals that seem too good to be true. Spoiler alert: they probably are.

You see, Google, the behemoth of search engines, isn’t immune to cyber trickery. Despite its best efforts, nefarious entities slip through the cracks, masquerading as legitimate businesses with enticing ads strategically placed at the top of your search results. 

Recent findings have uncovered a disturbing reality: There is an alarming world of fake eCommerce websites out there. A staggering 1.35 million unique fake URLs flooded Google’s search results in the final quarter of 2022 alone, according to Google’s Ads Safety Report. These fraudulent sites undermine trust in online platforms and jeopardize the reputation and financial well-being of legitimate brands.

But fear not, for knowledge is power, and armed with an understanding of these counterfeit shenanigans, we can navigate this treacherous terrain with caution and confidence.

Understanding the Threat: The Impact of Counterfeit Websites

There are several ways in which cyber criminals try to defraud you. I’m sure most, if not all of us, have received phone calls or text messages about packages that can’t be delivered, or payments that have not yet gone through… and if we just give a little bit of information, everything will be okay. 

Clicking a link on Google feels like a safe bet. Google is the largest search engine in the world by a considerable margin. When an advertisement pops up as one of the top search results for the criteria you were looking for, it seems like it should be legitimate. However, Google allows anyone to bid on a brand name, regardless of whether or not that person is affiliated with the brand. Meaning, that the ad you are clicking on is not necessarily from the company for which you are searching. 

While Google has guidelines surrounding their sponsored content, the FBI has warned that cybercriminals are using search engine advertising services to impersonate brands using fake ads. In this way, these criminals can steal your login credentials and financial information. They purchase ads using domains that appear similar to legitimate businesses and thus wind up near the top of the search results page.

These counterfeit websites can inflict substantial damage on businesses as they lure unsuspecting consumers with promises of discounted products or services, only to deliver subpar or counterfeit goods. Or worse, steal personal and financial information through phishing scams. And, unfortunately, with Google’s dominant position as the leading search engine, counterfeit websites can easily gain visibility and traction, amplifying their reach and impact.

Google’s Response: Policies and Enforcement Against Fake Websites

Google isn’t just hanging back and doing nothing to combat these imposters. They have guidelines in place- stringent policies and enforcement mechanisms to try to maintain the integrity of their search results. They use a combination of automated algorithms and manual reviews to identify and remove deceptive content. However, things still slip through the cracks. Scammers get more sophisticated at creating fraudulent websites as enforcement becomes more stringent. It seems to be a never-ending battle between both powers. 

The Need for Action: How Fake Websites can Impact your Brand

Why does this matter for your business? Well, if a potential customer is looking for your brand and their search results yield a counterfeit website, they may ultimately blame and lose trust in your brand. The damage created by a fraudulent site can be irreparable; your brand reputation can take a dramatic hit. 

Removing these fake websites from Google becomes essential to protecting both consumers and your brand from harm. By eliminating fake content from search results, businesses can safeguard their brand reputation, prevent financial loss, and maintain trust among customers. 

How do we navigate this duplicitous terrain?

A User-Friendly Guide: How to Remove Counterfeit Websites from Google

  • Verify the Authenticity: Confirm that the website in question is indeed counterfeit by examining its URL, content, and reputation.
  • Report the Website to Google and request removal: Use Google’s tools such as the Search Console to report the fraudulent website. Go to and provide detailed information and evidence to support your claim, including screenshots and descriptions of the deceptive content. (The more information, the more quickly Google can react).
  • Monitor and Follow-Up: Keep track of the status of your removal request and follow up with Google if necessary. 

Targeting Fake Online Ads: How You Can Fight Back as a Brand

Your business can take the following steps to help mitigate the threat of fraudulent ads directly targeting your brand and your customers. 

  • Search your brand or product name on Google. Are there ads that don’t belong to your company? Are they coming from scammers or competitors?
  • If an ad appears to be fraudulent, you can request to remove it, using the above guidelines. You can also click on the kebab menu (those three vertical dots next to the Ad title) to gain more information and, if necessary, report the ad. 

Preserving your Brand: Using Automated Solutions for Enhanced Protection

A Minimum Advertised Price (MAP) solution serves as a crucial tool in a brand’s arsenal against fraudulent websites. 

Here’s how it works: imagine you’re a brand diligently monitoring your online presence, only to discover unauthorized sellers peddling your products at prices that undercut your carefully curated market strategy. This unauthorized activity not only erodes your brand’s value but also confuses consumers and undermines your relationships with authorized retailers. This is where MAP monitoring swoops in as the hero of the hour.

By employing automated MAP solutions like MAP Policy Partners, brands gain the upper hand in proactively monitoring various online platforms for unauthorized sellers. These solutions act as vigilant watchdogs, scanning the digital landscape to detect any deviations from your established pricing policies. When a rogue seller emerges, offering your products at prices below the agreed-upon minimum, the MAP solution springs into action, alerting you to the threat in real time.

But the benefits don’t stop there. MAP solutions empower brands to swiftly address these threats before they spiral out of control. Armed with insights provided by automated monitoring, brands can take decisive action against unauthorized sellers, ensuring that their products are sold only by trusted retailers at prices that reflect the brand’s value proposition. This not only safeguards the brand’s integrity but also protects consumers from falling prey to counterfeit goods or fraudulent schemes orchestrated by unscrupulous actors.

In essence, MAP solutions provide brands with a proactive defense mechanism against the pervasive threat of fraudulent websites. By leveraging automated monitoring and enforcement capabilities, brands can maintain control over their pricing policies, preserve their brand’s value, and foster trust with both consumers and authorized retailers. In the ever-evolving landscape of e-commerce, where counterfeit websites lurk around every corner, MAP solutions emerge as invaluable allies, helping brands navigate the digital realm with confidence and integrity.

The prevalence of fraudulent and counterfeit websites represents a significant challenge for all online businesses. But hope is not lost. By understanding the impact of these sites, familiarizing themselves with Google’s policies and removal procedures, and taking proactive steps to protect their brand and combat fraudulent content, businesses can lessen the risks these sites pose and uphold the integrity of their brands.

Stay vigilant. Stay informed. And safeguard your brand from fraudulent websites.