Watch Those Rules & Regulations With European SEM Campaigns

In my last column I addressed cultural differences within European countries. The main point was that Europe may be one continent, but you cannot treat every European the same way—there are many cultural differences among people in different countries, and in some cases, even within a single country. This is even more true from a legal standpoint. Each country in Europe has different laws and regulations that internet marketers must abide by. And Europe also has the European Commission, which writes out laws of its own.

In this article I’ll take a look at three examples of different rules, regulations and laws in Europe. All of them illustrate the differences between the U.S. and European laws, but also highlight the differences between European countries.

Gambling laws

Gambling laws differ in different European countries. Where the UK is one of the major countries when it comes to number of online gambling sites and players, other countries stay behind. This is because every European country decides for itself how to handle gambling regulations.

In the Netherlands, for example, you are not allowed to run a gambling website. The law says the government can only hand out one license. That goes to “Holland Casino,” a casino run by the government. The gambling law even goes further. You are not allowed to play a gambling game, either online or offline, if you know that there is no license for that game. You can however play when no money is exchanged between parties.

Some changes to the law are being made right now. Very probably the law will be changed slightly so that poker will be allowed.

Despite the laws, this doesn’t mean that the Dutch are not playing gambling games online. They are, on many websites. So as a marketer of a gambling site you can target the Dutch, you just cannot do so on a Dutch server with a Dutch website. Host your site in the UK and you will probably still get to those Dutch. Beware though: if you want to advertise for these kind of websites you are also not allowed to place a banner for a gambling site on a Dutch website. Webmasters in Holland aren’t allowed to accept these banners. You have to find other ways to get the Dutch to find your site.

Copyright laws

The Dutch copyright association, Buma/Stemra, decided to fight for the rights of the songwriters, and announced a measure which would affect many. The association said they were intending to charge a fee for YouTube videos containing music, meaning they would be charging bloggers. Embedding music in videos would cost 130 Euros ($191 dollars) for six videos. As you can imagine, the Dutch blogging community was far from amused. They decided to fight the association over this policy, and were successful. Last Friday the copyright association decided not to charge for embedding music in videos after all.

Though the embedding of videos is thus still “legal” in the Netherlands, the Dutch Copyright Association is sure to be looking into other ways of “protecting” songwriters and will undoubtedly introduce new measures. And that means everybody has to be careful, not just the Dutch. Buma/Stemra after all also intended to charge all bloggers, Dutch or not, for embedding music in videos.

The Dutch aren’t alone in this. Back in 2007 YouTube launched different versions of its site for different countries outside the US. Google however forgot to agree with the copyright organization GEMA on the fees concerning the copyright-protected clips that are uploaded on YouTube. That meant that in Germany YouTube ran into a lot of legal problems. These resulted in a measure that some videos on YouTube, which have specific content which contains music, are blocked and cannot be viewed from within Germany.

Google ran into more copyright issues in Europe. In Poland for example they can’t use the name Gmail because they didn’t own the domain. And recently Google got into trouble in several countries over its book-scanning initiative—Germany, in fact, sued Google over copyright issues.

Google’s problems could also be yours. If videos are blocked in Germany or any other country you should be aware of this when setting up a campaign. It would be a shame if that one video you worked so hard on was blocked after all. And if Google is not showing content which could help your campaign, you should at least be aware of that.

Keyword bidding on trademarks

The third subject I want to address is related to PPC: advertising on competitors brands. Virginia Nussey wrote an interesting post on this issue several weeks ago. She showed how in the US its legal to bid on any keyword, trademarked or not. In Europe the law is different. Google announced in June that it would no longer investigate trademark infringement claims based on AdWords trademark bidding in 200 countries across the world. That included a lot of European countries, but not all. Some of the biggest countries were not included in the policy change.

For example, the Netherlands (yes, those Dutch again), Belgium, France, Spain and Germany still do not allow advertisers to bid on trademarks they do not own. That means that in those countries you have to change your AdWords strategy if they are based on advertising on trademarked keywords. It’s therefore very useful to look at a country and its rules before you start a campaign.

How to handle the rules and regulations

These three examples illustrate just a fraction of all the different rules and laws in Europe. These laws definitely affect large companies like Google—but what do they mean for an SEO or site owner? Very much.

Advertising on trademarks is the most obvious one: if you’re not allowed to bid on trademarked terms this may affect your campaign. The same goes for gambling laws. Copyright issues are more difficult, since there are many different rules on that. But you don’t have to be a lawyer to get things done legally.

A couple of takeaways when you plan on campaigning in Europe regarding the rules and laws:

  • Make a plan for which countries you do and don’t want to target
  • Do your research for each specific country, not for Europe as a whole
  • Know work-arounds like hosting a site in a different country than the one you’re targeting where what you’re doing isn’t allowed
  • Use Europeans to find out which rules and laws you will run into

Above all, don’t get scared off by all the rules—it’s less difficult to do search marketing in Europe than it may seem.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Multinational Search


About The Author: is a Web/search strategist, international search specialist, trainer, and well-respected blogger. Bas is well informed about what's going on in the world of Internet and search marketing worldwide and especially Europe. Bas is the owner of and also posts regularly on his personal blog.

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