PPC brand and trademark bidding, a contrarian view.

The general consensus on PPC bidding is that it should not be permitted. The rational being that a brand is already known so a merchant should not pay commissions to an affiliate who is also bidding on that brand. All of those sales would end up with the merchant anyway.

Really? What about competitors? The search engines allow ANYONE to bid on a brand or trademark. If you have a popular brand you will see competitors appearing in the paid search results. Don’t believe it? Just try a Bing search for “Under Armour” and look at the variety of PPC ads that appear. Now narrow it down even further and try a search for the exact domain name, underarmour.com – and look at all the PPC ads that still appear. Most companies that prohibit brand and/or trademark bidding proactively monitors PPC violations and comes down hard on their own affiliates who don’t follow their stated terms. Doing that does cost money in resources and time (I have no axe to grind with Under Armour – they are a fine company and have a fine affiliate program and am just using them as an example. I could just as easily have picked “SkullCandy.com” or other known brands.)

An alternative might be to allow PPC bidding on their brand by any active affiliates. That might help knock their competitors out of the search engine results pages (SERPs). So, what’s better – paying a commission to your own affiliate for a sale that you “might” have made without that affiliate’s PPC ad -OR – or not losing that commission percentage at all because THE SALE WAS LOST TO A COMPETITOR?

That is a question that you need to answer for yourself. We are about to launch a new program in the business checks vertical and we will launch with an “Open PPC Policy.” We don’t have the time or the expertise to effectively promote via PPC – so we will let our more knowledgeable affiliates do it – for themselves and (ultimately) for us. YMMV

4 Replies to “PPC brand and trademark bidding, a contrarian view.”

  1. Excellent points made here. Especially considering some merchants DO let their affiliates, or should I say *some* affiliates, you know…the certain special favored ones, bid on their brand name. I say all or none. And if you don’t know the PPC ropes, better to let your affiliates – ALL of them that choose to – bid on your name rather than your competitors. 🙂

  2. From what I understand Google only allows one result to link to a specific page. So if I was a publisher for McGuffins.com, and I created a PPC ad for the TM term “McGuffins.com” that lead to McGuffins.com home page it could edge out the PPC ad for the merchant. This means the merchant not only has to increase their PPC bid to out rank me, but also pay out commission on the odd order I refer after bumping them from the results. The final hit is that the commission they will pay me for that order is likely more expensive than the PPC bids required to generate that conversion. TM keywords are incredibly inexpensive, because there isn’t a lot of competition around them, which is why publishers find it so attractive.

    I disagree with Jill, I think an “all or nothing” approach really stifles what the CPA model is good for, a cloud of ideas. Good ideas, bad ideas, crazy ideas, humble ideas, all these plans and campaigns that I as a merchant can engage with at little or no risk to myself.

    We have a very talented PPC team here. I know there are keywords we are missing, and I know that somewhere there is a very talented publisher who can help send traffic through those missed terms. I am not asking they tell me what is in the secret sauce or hand over the keywords, and I will be happy to pay them when that sauce pays off until my team is able to pick up the slack.

    I let our publishers bid on keywords unrelated to our TM, not because our PPC team doesn’t know the ropes, but because a group of smart people is better than a smart person. CPA advertising allows me as a merchant to reward the ideas, all the ideas, that work out — especially the crazy ones.

    1. Some good points, Ben, but, being the contrarian that I am, let me provide another scenario. I am not in the pool supply vertical (maybe should be because there are likely a couple thousand pools within 20 miles of where I am) but lets just assume I am…

      I know your program does not allow bidding on your trademark and I am not interested in DTM but will, instead, have a customer be directed to my own landing page. If I bid on your TM and attract and convert a customer – and I am in your program – and you find out that I am violating your TOS – you will (justifiably) terminate me. If/when that happens I can just replace your program with similar products from another merchant. So you would not end up paying me a commission on a sale I make by bidding on your trademark. Why not? You will not get that sale at all – your competitor will.

      On the note about what Jill stated. I believe she was referring to the fact that some merchants do allow “certain” affiliates to disregard their TOS. I don’t imagine you do this but I do know that some allow it. Fair? Maybe to some folks because the merchant paying the commissions does get to set the rules. However, others may claim it reeks of favoritism, which it does. YMMV.

      I wholeheartedly agree that a group of smart people is better than a smart person. I also realize that I am not in the “smart” PPC category at all – so I seldom venture into that aspect of affiliate marketing. We are about to launch a new program ourselves and will not do in-house PPC. We intend to open the doors, so to speak, and happily pay out commissions – in lieu of payroll – to those that do know how to convert via PPC. YMMV

  3. Yep. I was speaking of those merchants that play favorites and allow certain affiliates to bid on their brand name but don’t allow other affiliates. (Especially if the merchant is supplying them with helpful information. Tsk tsk tsk). I’m not saying I won’t work with those merchants if I find out that they are playing favorites (because sometimes it makes more sense to use a number of merchants of the same products so you can offer your users the largest selection possible) but I certainly will put them and their products at the bottom of my pages. I like equal playing grounds and full transparency. 🙂

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