In one of our recent posts, we talked about owning your brand terms in Google AdWords. Now, we need to address what you can do (and can’t do…) to constructively combat other advertisers that are negatively impacting your business on PPC. When you have a brand worth protecting, it’s critical to keep tabs on all search results that show for your branded terms – including PPC results. Then, depending upon what you see, understanding what actions you can and can’t take.
First, a quick high-level review of Google AdWords ad text policies as they pertain to brand protection – Note that these do NOT apply to organic search. Also note that I’m paraphrasing here and the full policies can (and should) be viewed here:
- Some trademarks may be used in ads as long as they are for a reseller or an informational site and not competitive, critical, or negative
- Bidding on trademarked keywords is not regulated by Google (just the use of trademarks in the ad text)
- You can file a trademark complaint against specific offenders that you identify – if Google finds that your trademark is in fact infringed upon, they may remove that offending ad from results
Now, a few common tactics that may be hurting your branded PPC results and what you can do about them.
1) Undercutting your price or one-upping your offer
This isn’t a trademark or AdWords policy issue – this is a competition issue.
If you have resellers (or competitors selling the same product) that are beating you on price, then your best options is to beat them back. Offer an add-on (free shipping, free gift, free download, etc.) that incentivizes the searcher to buy from you. With resellers, this can be tricky as they are ultimately driving revenue to you and undercutting them can be a faux pas. With product competitors, searchers are less likely to care about where they actually buy from as long as they get the best price. If you can’t compete on price, you need to figure out a rock-solid message that tells searchers why they should buy from you and not the other guy with the cheaper bottom line.
2) Making false claims about you
Unlike TV advertising around election time, PPC advertising cannot be used to defame, lie or talk trash about others. It’s less likely that these ads will slip through the cracks at Google, which is pretty good about stopping such ads from going live in the first place, but if they do you certainly have grounds for action. If the advertiser is using your name directly in their ads, then you can file a trademark complaint with Google. If they are being smartly ambiguous – not using your name or trademarks in their copy – they may not be doing anything wrong in the eyes of Google and you may need to go directly to the advertiser (a cease & desist letter can work wonders).
3) Pretending to be you (or engaging in other forms of trickery)
If you have affiliates selling your product, this can be an especially prevalent. Affiliates may choose to purchase PPC ads as if they are you, even directing the ads to your site – then they take a cut of whatever sales are generated. The problem is that were it not for the affiliate, you probably would have gotten the sale anyway and wouldn’t have had to pay a commission on it. Further, affiliates will often use messaging in their ads that you wouldn’t use, which can also damage the brand. If this is the case, then you need to go directly to the affiliate – and be sure you have a solid “NO PPC” clause in your affiliate agreements.
If another advertiser is simply writing their ad text as if they are you, in order to deceive searchers, but are in fact taking the user to a site that is not yours and does not sell you product, then you have a case for a trademark claim at Google.
Always remember to look out for #1 on the web: if you have a brand worth protecting, you need to be aware of who may be infringing on that brand in all areas of search, including PPC – and now you are aware of what you can do to keep your brand safe.