Let’s begin here with a question: “What happens when you do a quick search for yours or your client’s brand and/or website URL?” Hopefully, you’re coming up near the top in the organic SERPs, but you might also notice a fair number of paid ads appearing as well. Such a result leads to further questions such as; “Are any or all of these ads yours?” If you answered no to either of those, then you’re looking at a classic case of trademark bidding, something on the rise big time during the holidays.
Trademark Bidding in a Nutshell
The simplified definition of trademark bidding (also known as Brand bidding) is when other companies pay for their advertisements to show up in the results of searches for your brand. An example results if you take a look at the screen capture of a Bing search for “Altrec.com.” Highlighted in the red box are three additional retailers who have placed bids to show up when the term “Altrec.com” has been searched for.
This tactic certainly isn’t new (Search Engine Journal has explained it in the past) and has become so prominent it’s even prompted official guidelines from all major search engines. Google will approach trademark bidding on a case by case basis but only when a complaint is filed by the company getting infringed upon. Bing and Yahoo also approach trademark bidding situations in a similar fashion as well.
The Affiliate Angle
Things get taken a step further when you introduce savvy affiliate marketers into the situation. Now, instead of a different brand overtly advertising off of searches for your brand, affiliates with tracking links—ones that lead to your site—will structure ads to look as if they are from your company and redirect traffic that has clicked on that ad through an affiliate link to your site.
Retailers who have affiliates participating in trademark bidding will often pay out commissions for these affiliate conversions resulting from searches by people who are looking for their brand to begin with. Just like the search engines listed above, each affiliate network has a different stance on what trademark bidding tactics are and are not allowed.
On top of the network’s position, individual affiliate programs may have their own terms and conditions in place to regular the practice.
Increases with Holiday Spending
With the major increase in retail spending during the fourth quarter, occurrences of trademark bidding tend to rise significantly throughout October, November, and December. Internal reports from AvantLink.com covering over 350 online retailers show that trademark bidding occurrences from Nov. 1 to Nov. 30 increased an immense 1,790 percent over the same time period in August, a far slower month for retail sales.
These reports examined and recorded trademark bidding across all major affiliate networks and search engines for each of the 350 retailers and are a direct result of the increased spending of consumers during the Christmas holiday shopping season.
How to Monitor Trademark Bidding
Don’t feel like having your trademark or URL poached by trademark bidding this year? You’re not alone, and there are several resources available to help.
First and foremost are the search engine guidelines for trademark bidding mentioned above. All removals of paid ads for other companies that appear in searches for your brand will start by submitting any occurrences of trademark bidding to the search engine that the bidding is taking place on.
Does that guarantee a take down? Not at all. But it does help get the ball rolling in the right direction should your case actually be deemed a reasonable request to take down specific advertising around your name.
But how do you find occurrences of companies or affiliates who are bidding on your brand name? There are a handful of options available, starting with good old manual search.
Run a quick search for your brand on any search engine and check to see if the SERPs are full of ads that aren’t yours. This is a free option but is far too time consuming to manually search on a consistent basis, so let’s bring on the automation!
BrandVerity is a trademark bidding monitoring service that monitors all major search engines including Google, Yahoo, Bing, AOL, and Ask for any paid placement of ads resulting from company-specific search terms. It’s proactive, completely automated, and very thorough at finding most occurrences.
Finally, some companies may provide built in tools with their services to monitor trademark bidding activity. The AvantLink.com affiliate network, who the reports above originated from, makes the same tool used to get those trademark bidding reports available to any of their clients running a program on the network.