How to benefit from changes to Google trademarking


From 5 May any advertiser will be able to bid on trademarked single words in the UK and Ireland. Previously companies could ask Google to protect single word trademarks. Multiple word searches have always been subject to open bidding.

Many commentators – including the team here – have observed that this might be bad news for trademark owners. Conversely I see a great opportunity and not just for Google.

Open market vs closed market
Until now keyword competition and bid prices have been kept artificially low due to trademarking. With this change we’re about to enter a free and open market place, with average cost per click prices likely to soar before re-adjusting to a new market position.

In reality this offers a great opportunity for smaller players, resellers and affiliates. And hopefully, even trademark owners can limit the damage if they follow my tips.

Small players & resellers – test a new sales channel
Good times. Where you may have been blocked from even entering the marketplace by trademarked brands, you can now give paid search a go. Be careful though, bid prices are going to be high for the next few months.

My advice: If you’re going to ‘go for it’ with PPC from May, make sure you do so for a good few months. The longer you run on Adwords the lower you’ll be able to drop your bid prices. If you go into PPC in May it’s going to cost but you’ll be rewarded with better long-term results than if you enter a re-adjusted market later in the year.

But remember to develop targeted keyword groups; don’t just chase brand owners’ main phrases. Go for action-orientated phrases which include the brand name. For example don’t just bid on “nike”, bid on “cheap nike shoes” or “nike online store” – keyword phrases that lead to sales.

Trademark owners – use your affiliate partners
For trademark owners the initial outlook perhaps isn’t so positive but there are some constructive ways to minimise the pain and create opportunities.

(a) Monitor your trademark phrase

Many brands currently use trademarks to block affiliates from bidding on their brand name. With the new system brands and their affiliate management partners will need to be much more careful and precise when developing and enforcing their PPC bidding policies.

My advice: Frequently monitor your trademark phrases on Google. And don’t allow affiliates to use your domain name in their ads.

(b) Embrace your affiliate partners
New tactics may develop in the affiliate market. I can see a situation emerging where major brands may take a u-turn on any long-standing negativity towards brand-bidding affiliates.

Where brands once blocked affiliates with restrictive PPC policies they should now seek to welcome them with open arms and use affiliate partners to block competitors from bidding on their search phrases.

My advice: Brand owners should look after their affiliate partners and work with them to protect the brand and erode the market position of competitors.

Consider this hypothetical example; not only can affiliate partners in Brand A’s affiliate program help block affiliate competitors from using Brand A’s trademarks, but they can now also ‘raid’ Brand B’s trademarked phrases.

Because trademarking from the ad text will still be controlled by the trademark owner, you can – to an extent – continue to control the keywords used in the adverts. If needs be you can block all but your closest allies from using your trademark in their adverts.

Don’t block everyone though. Remember you’re going to need your affiliate partners and resellers to help protect your brand position.

Talk to your major PPC partners about what they can do to protect you.

(c) Make extra budget available for PPC

If you are a brand with a trademark my advice is to ask for a bigger PPC budget or draw in affiliates to help solidify your position.

You are about to see a significant spike in your Google adspend and will no doubt leak or lose sales to competitors. You need to control your cost per sale and keep competitors from the top paid-listings. The best way to do this is by working with your affiliates.

(d) Steal competitor’s market share
It’s a great time to gain market share on your competitors, but remember the trademark change only affects what search phrases you can bid on. You still won’t be able to use your competitor’s trademark in your ads.

My advice: Speak to your PPC affiliates about competitor bidding. They should be able to grab market-share on your behalf and within a tight budget. Remember, affiliate marketing offers the opportunity to make sales at a known price – and as such de-risks forays into competitor phrases.

Final note – trademark exclusions

Trademarks will still be enforced in ad text. Competitors will be able to bid on a brand terms but they won’t be able to use your trademark name in their own ads.

For example, BMW will now be able to bid on the search phrase “Mercedes” but they won’t be able to use the word Mercedes in ad text. For example, they won’t be able to say “don’t buy Mercedes, buy BMW” as the system won’t allow it.

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