Trademark Bidding and Affiliate Marketing

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Trademark Bidding affiliate marketing

Trademark bidding by affiliates is and always has been a charged topic. But, if well-planned, a PPC strategy with trademark bidding allowances for affiliates can be a profitable strategy for both merchant and affiliate.

Is PPC Allowed in Affiliate Marketing?

Yes and no. The answer to this question truly depends on the program. Each merchant has its set of rules that govern what affiliates can and can’t do when it comes to PPC. We commonly see the rules fall into one of these categories:

When PPC Is NOT Allowed

Whether it’s due to a brand sensitive executive, an in-house paid search team or a lack of understanding of the affiliate channel, some merchants simply ban affiliates from using PPC to promote them.

If you are using PPC to drive traffic to your site or any specific merchant, pay particular attention to programs that forbid PPC. Though you may not be promoting that specific merchant, if they are mentioned on the landing page (consider sidebars with “recently added” coupons and deals for example), or one to two clicks away from that landing page, the merchant could have an issue.

When PPC Is Allowed
…but Trademark Bidding is prohibited, and additional keywords are restricted

The next category of merchants has thought through their PPC strategy and understands that affiliates can contribute to the big picture, but they want to keep the affiliates on a short leash.

Their reason – competition.

If the merchant is bidding on their trademark or a set of long-tail keywords, like “area rug coupons,” they don’t want their affiliates who are sending traffic to them to drive up the price of the clicks. The merchant knows the words they have covered, and they don’t want affiliates to compete with them on those words. So, they simply restrict affiliates.

They’ll start by prohibiting keyword bidding, and then will add a list of other keywords that affiliates can’t “outbid” them on. So, they essentially secure their top spot for those words/phrases. Affiliates can bid on them – but they can’t drive the price up for the merchant.

These merchants have thought about this strategy a LOT. They are watching their affiliates and their PPC competitors… most of them will subscribe to tools that help them monitor the activity and will know within seconds if you violate their terms.

When PPC Is Allowed
…but Trademark Bidding is prohibited

Like the last category, these merchants have a PPC group that does not want to compete with affiliates. They may not have their long-tail strategy worked out, or may have an abundance of SKUs, deals, and topics and have decided not to restrict additional terms. Whatever their driving force, expect these merchants to have a close eye on their trademark in paid search results – if you violate this term, they’ll know about it within seconds.

When PPC Is Allowed
…with no restrictions

The last category holds the most potential for affiliates. These merchants say “go for it.” You’ll find that most of them don’t have an in-house PPC department (if they do – there is fierce competition between departments) and have decided to leave it to their affiliates to handle their PPC.

This “kill two birds with one stone” approach could be your key to success with affiliate marketing…

Trademarks – the Key to Profitable PPC as an Affiliate

If a merchant allows you to bid on their trademarks, and you’ve got some budget to throw behind some PPC ads, it’s simply a numbers game. Can you generate enough sales (searchers who click and buy) with the keywords and ads you choose to earn more in commissions than you spend on those clicks?

Why does trademark bidding make such a big difference? Once a consumer is using a brand name or a store name, they are further along in the buying process than those searching for non-trademarked items.

Consider who is closer to purchasing a TV, someone who searches “40-inch TV deals” or “Samsung TV deals at Best Buy.” The one searching for a 40″ TV is higher in the funnel – they still have some research and analysis to do before deciding on an exact TV. The person who has searched for a Samsung at Best Buy has narrowed down both the brand of the TV and the store. Though they aren’t guaranteed to purchase a Samsung at Best Buy, they have made it further through the sales funnel, and a deal on a Samsung at Best Buy could push them to that final purchase.

Bidding on trademarks allows you to benefit from all of the work that the brand has done to build a name for themselves, your job is just to push them over the edge to make the purchase.

Who Allows Trademark Bidding?

So, you’re probably wondering which affiliate programs allow trademark bidding. We wondered too… so we asked the 10,000+ merchants we work with about their PPC bidding policies. We’ve compiled their answers and have flagged those that allow trademark bidding so that it’s easy for our clients to find these programs.

Datafeed subscribers can find the information by clicking Trademark PPC Report in your FMTC dashboard under Links & Tools.

Publisher Toolkit users can find the information by visiting the “Resources” page.

Best Practices

If you’re considering incorporating PPC into your strategy, here are some best practices:

Ask – some programs allow PPC bidding if you ask and agree to a set of special terms. Their terms may say “no,” but much like commission structures, terms can be negotiable. You won’t know unless you ask.

We suggest starting with OPMs. These agencies manage multiple programs, so asking one person can open up possibilities for you across several programs.

Sync ads with promotions – If you’re using our deal datafeed, you have the latest promotions, deals, coupons and special offers from your merchants. Using Google’s Automated Rules, you can turn your ads on and off based on whether or not there is a coupon, deal or other promotion that matches your keyword.

(Note: This takes a bit of programming and some creative thinking… there’s not a “how to” guide for this.)

Rules are rules – If a merchant hasn’t mentioned a single thing in their terms about PPC bidding, there’s a 50/50 chance that they’ll mind you running PPC ads that include their trademark terms. That risk is entirely up to you – you can ask for permission, or ask for forgiveness.

Now… for any merchant that has put any thought into a PPC policy for their program, always ask for permission. As noted earlier, many of these merchants actively patrol for violators, and they don’t all offer a second chance. If you’re caught, they’ll likely kick you out of their program… for good… and may tell their affiliate manager friends to avoid you as well.

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