A search-engine expert witness is a person who helps attorneys, judges, and juries understand evidence related to search engines on the World Wide Web–most commonly the Google search engine, but also search engines such as Bing and Yahoo!
Search-engine expert witnesses understand how search engines work, how they are used by typical users, and how Web sites can be “optimized” to rank well in search results. Search engine experts can help attorneys find the information they need to prove their case. They can explain why certain results appear on a page, or why other pages don’t appear at all. The expert witness will be able to tell how someone might have searched for something online, which could be important evidence in some cases. In addition, the expert witness might also be able to explain why some websites were more successful than others with regards to getting people’s attention on the Internet or with paid-advertising campaigns.
Search-engine expert witnesses are frequently employed in trademark cases, in which Plaintiff’s often complain that competitors are using search-engine optimization improperly or misleadingly, perhaps using the Plaintiff’s brand name in the keywords meta tag, for instance, or are optimizing their pages in other ways to rank their pages for the Plaintiff’s trademarks. Such experts are also frequently used in litigation related to online defamation, contract disputes, and various other legal practice areas.
Search-engine expert witnesses typically write reports interpreting the information available in the case (sometimes they help counsel understand what kind of information to request from the other side). They are often deposed and questioned about their report, and their background experience. And they may, occasionally, be required to testify in court.