Hawaiian Airlines Cries Search Engine Foul

Hawaiian Airlines Cries Search Engine Foul

Hawaiian Airlines is alleging that new rival Go has improperly made use of the word “Hawaiian” too often and thus might be influencing search results.

Internet blogger Danny Sullivan disagrees. According to Sullivan, if Go is indeed trying to rank well with Hawaiian’s name, so far, it hasn’t worked. Checking Google, Yahoo, MSN and Ask for “Hawaiian airlines” shows that Go doesn’t appear on any of them for the first two pages of results.

Clearly, Go hopes that it will be found for the phrase “Hawaiian airline,” given that it uses that exact phrase in its meta description tag, meta keywords tag, its title tag and five times in its body copy. But “Hawaiian airline” is different from “Hawaiian Airlines,” the latter being a trademark of Hawaiian Airlines while the former is a generic term that fairly describes what Go is.

Sullivan said that Google has long had stemming, so that a search for the singular might also bring up the plural. But still, there are differences. A search for “Hawaiian airline” is not the same as a search for Hawaiian Airlines (and Go doesn’t show up in either case).

The same is true at other search engines, where you get different results for the different variations. But Go gets more visibility for the generic term.

At Yahoo, Go ranks No. 10 for “Hawaiian airline” but not in the top results for “Hawaiian airlines” (and Hawaiian rival Aloha Airlines, not accused of any wrongdoing, ranks in the top results at both places).

At MSN, it ranked number three for “Hawaiian airline,” but not in the top results for “Hawaiian airlines.” Aloha came up in neither.

At Ask, it was number six for “Hawaiian airline” and not listed for “Hawaiian airlines.” Aloha ranked in the top results in both versions.

No suit has been filed, so far — only a cease-and-desist letter sent.

“(Mesa has) loaded up their Web site with our name, which is called keyword stuffing, unlike any of the other carriers we compete with,” Hawaiian Airlines spokesman Keoni Wagner said. “Nobody else calls themselves a Hawaiian airline, for example, and we’re simply asking them to stop.

“It’s like identity theft. Mesa is using our name to gain business, and that’s just not right.”

In a cease-and-desist letter, Hawaiian pointed out that it owns various federal trademark registrations for phrases containing “Hawaiian,” such as “Hawaiian Airlines,” “HawaiianMiles” in connection with its frequent flyer program, and “Hawaiian Premier Club” for airline passenger services.

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