Q+A with Brad Geddes re: Trademark, PPC, Brand Terms

We had some great questions on our recent webcast this week — if you missed it, the entire webcast is available on-demand.

Q) How does a trademark owner handle the fact that Google and Yahoo are prolific at inserting the trademarks from the search into the ad title and content?

A) Brad Geddes: On the Content Network, technically, Google and Yahoo should not be putting a trademark term into the ad copy. Period. They shouldn’t be doing it, unless, of course, the company hits one of the exceptional classes. In that instance, screenshot those and send them over. Google’s gotten better with monitoring content, but it’s still not perfect, as we’ve seen by example. Yahoo works well with larger brands in helping them protect it. So I would call up your rep to see if you can get it sorted out. However, if someone is a reseller of other products you’re not going to win the fight right now for the United States.

Q) Do trademark policies cover usage of trademarks within the destination URL?

A) Brad Geddes: Within the destination URL you can put whatever you want to. Google Trademark policy does not cover destination or display URLs — those signify to customers where they’re going so they’re currently not included in policies.

Q) For brand owners, since affiliates will now have a higher Quality Score on your brand terms, would you expect traffic from brand terms to be more expensive?

A) Brad Geddes: What I’m seeing now is that there are affiliate managers and suppliers who are writing different contracts with words that affiliates or even their subcontractors can’t use for search marketing. If you do not protect your brand like that – if you allow affiliates to bid on them – you’ll probably see higher bids because there’s more competition. Look at your affiliate agreement. Usually, if someone’s using a branded term they’re looking for your brand explicitly. So it’s common for affiliate agreements to have a list of words which affiliates can’t use in ad copy or even as keywords.

Niraj Shah, Marin Software: Brad echoes what we hear from in our clients. It’s important for both sides — the brand holder and the affiliate to look at this when you are updating agreements. For the brand holder, sometimes it can be keyword you can’t bid, sometimes it’s positions. On the flip side, as an affiliate, make sure you look at the contracts.

Q) What is the policy for domain parking sites that use common misspellings of trademarked names? Like typo-squatting appple.com??

A) Brad Geddes: Google has a domain parking program – however, as far as Google filtering out typo-squatting, that’s not their job. That’s WIPO’s job. If someone’s squatting on one of your trademark domains where you think it could be confusing to the customer, you’re better off filling out a WIPO lawsuit and take domain back than fighting through Google. You’ll have more luck that way.

Q) What do you feel are best practices for brand owners to mitigate CPC inflation if they have several affiliates and indirect dealers who are using the trademark owner’s terms in their search programs?

A) Brad Geddes: First make a list of your branded terms. Assuming it’s for your company name, tell affiliates they can’t bid on them. Take Nike — thousands of companies sell Nike shoes. If someone’s bidding on just the word Nike, they’re really just going to the Nike site – so Nike may say to the affiliate “you can’t use it.” But Nike may say to Zappos, for example, “it’s ok to use the term in ad copy because we still get dollars at the end of the line.” It all comes down to your business model. If your are the sole seller of a product — if you have affiliates that only go to the website — update the affiliate agreements and say “these are the set of words you can’t bid on.” A lot goes to to your business model and how you handle traffic.

We’ll have some follow-up questions with Brad at a later date. Thanks again to Marin Software for sponsoring this webcast.

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