The battle for search terms and key words is becoming more competitive. Some dealers are getting frustrated with competitors who they say are engaging in unethical online marketing.

One complaint is that some dealers, to drive more traffic to their websites, are buying key words from Google and Yahoo that consist of their competition's names.

Companies can bid on key words that they believe their customers will type into a search engine, such as Google or Yahoo, when searching for a product they sell, enhancing their position both on the ad listings and the free listings of search results.

Another practice that some say is more egregious is placing a competing dealer's name within meta tags in their website code when optimizing the website to get a higher ranking on a search engine's free listings.

As a result, dealers not paying attention may lose valuable website traffic to dealers who are more aggressive online.

One school of thought maintains dealers should buy key words that refer only to their company or products. However, restricting the words that companies bid on is a restraint of free trade, say others.

Google's policy is that trademarked names cannot be used by competitors in their ad copy appearing on search-engine results listings. Companies, though, can buy any key words they choose.

Google has a system that allows companies to file complaints when they believe infractions have occurred.

The advice for dealers? Stay vigilant and make sure others aren't hijacking shoppers who are online looking for you.