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One of the most frustrating aspects of trying to gain mindshare with prospects is competing with pirated copies of your own software for search rankings. This is especially true in the Business-to-Consumer software market, where piracy sites have spent years building search engine optimized pages so they rank on the first page when you search for cracked software.

As an easy example, let’s take a software vendor with plenty of money to buy their way to the top, Microsoft. A quick Google search for Microsoft Office returns the results you would expect for both natural and paid search:

Not surprisingly, legitimate Microsoft listings dominate the first page of Google search results for the phrase “Microsoft Office.”

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Now let’s try the same search with the word “crack” in it – a common search term used by anyone looking for a free, illegal version:


There’s not a single link, natural or paid, to any legitimate Microsoft website! Microsoft with all their resources can’t crack the first page of natural search results, and can’t even buy their way onto the first page with Google AdWords. Why? Because Google won’t let them (in case you were wondering, neither will Bing…try the same search there and see what you get). It’s against AdWords policy to promote conterfeit goods (including pirated software), which prohibits even the product manufacturer from buying AdWord search phrases with the word “crack” in them.

As a result, all the money in the world can’t buy you mindshare with users considering cracked versions of your software. Studies have shown in mature markets, 83% of pirated users are potentially convertible to paid, happy users (don’t take my word for it, see this webinar we did with the former head of Microsoft’s Windows Genuine Advantage Program, Alex Kochis here) yet software vendors are unable to market to those users who just want a good deal on their product. Ironically, the Google AdWords policy designed to prevent piracy might just cause more, because software vendors can’t reach users with their legitimate message at that critical decision point prior to download.

What can a software vendor do? If you can’t reach convertible unpaid users at the point of download through search, at least reach them once they have downloaded a cracked copy through in-application messaging. We have created strategies to help numerous software vendors convert this huge market of unpaid users into new license revenue. You can benefit from these strategies, too.