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 for most pain relief.
Top search engine rankings for the trademarked word “Vioxx” were dominated by the Merck-owned by the web site 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. Taking the second position is the FDA page outlining the recall and linking to more info at the FDA site 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
Sixth place is currently MedicineNet, 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 has CNN’s news story on the recall, then Yahoo News with a similar story, two online pharmacies with curiously blank pages. Come on guys! Sell Tylenol from those pages and get some benefit from the increased traffic!
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. Their inbound links will soar at a point when they probably want most to present their own case to the searching public.
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 about two dollars a click on Friday, but are rapidly escalating as ever more law firms jump into the bidding war. Estimated at $12 a click by Monday October 4.
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 about PPC advertising.
In “King of Torts” nothing is ever mentioned about organic search engine rankings for his web site either. Settlements seem to have came faster than it 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 30 sites at Google that is NOT an online pharmacy, a government agency such as NIH (National Institutes of Health) or an information based site is a site that emphasizes big class action suits, not surprisingly, which has a PageRank of 5 as of October 4th at 5pm Pacific time.
The final ranked site in the top 30 for the single word “Vioxx” at Google is the legal information site Findlaw in their class action section 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 so they can run Google Adsense ads with expensive click throughs).
We’ll keep this section updated as new sites dominate the phrases related to Vioxx, heart attack, stroke, Vioxx recall, class action lawsuit, Vioxx personal injury claim, Vioxx legal help, About Vioxx
CBS MarketWatch Net Editor Bambi Francisco wrote about this story on Friday
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