Best Kept Secret to Maintaining and Defending the Top Spot with Paid Search
Paid search is the most common go-to strategy for brands looking to grow online.
The problem is that without proper knowledge and experience, you’ll quickly find yourself pumping funds into PPC campaigns unnecessarily. The reason for those inflated costs might not be because of direct competition, nor is it because others are playing fair.
Sometimes aggression is necessary with a paid search strategy, but it’s defense that wins championships in top spot marketing.
Below, we’ll highlight one of the essential keys to defending the top position on Google search that you’re not currently using in your digital marketing strategies.
What is Paid Search Monitoring?
Paid search monitoring is the process of actively observing user bidding behaviors on terms trademarked by or related to your brand.
While one might assume that only your company would have a reason to bid on branded keywords, particularly aggressive competitors have other ideas. They’re poised to benefit from bidding on your terms by actively harming your marketing efforts.
A branded keyword refers to any term or phrase that describes your company and/or trademarked products and services. For example, “iPhone” is a branded keyword that belongs to Apple.
While general keywords related to the industry are fair game, there are strict rules to protect your brand from search sabotage when it comes to branded keywords. However, your team needs to have an active role in catching these violations before they have a chance to cause real damage.
Why Do Competitors Bid on Branded Keywords?
There are several reasons why a third party might actively bid on your branded keywords. These reasons include:
- Actively driving up your cost-per-click by active bidding
- Harming your UX by directing your users to unrelated content
- Stealing clicks to sabotage your marketing efforts
In other words, it’s irrelevant whether or not a bad actor wins the top spot for your branded keywords. If they succeed in increasing your monthly paid search costs, the work is already done.
However, it’s very important to understand that not all trademark infringement is intentional or hostile.
If you work with partners that actively resell on your behalf, it’s very easy for that partner to hurt your paid search efforts. The same goes for any companies that actively utilize an affiliate program to extend their marketing reach.
When one of your affiliates or partners is unaware of the rules and regulations, it becomes easy to steal clicks by using your brand’s IP in their paid ads. This results in the same negative effects, causing you to lose clicks and negatively impacting your UX.
What are the Rules for Branded Keywords in PPC Ad Campaigns?
Google dictates its advertising policies regarding trademarks in search ads here
There are a few key passages to take note of when preparing your new paid search monitoring strategy.
A. Google May Restrict the Use of Trademarks in Ad Text
To actively combat the misuse of branded keywords, Google reserves the right to restrict or remove PPC ads that utilize your trademarked terms anywhere within the ad. This includes the title, the body, images, meta descriptions, and anywhere else you could provide such a term.
B. Google Does Allow Authorized Advertisers to Use Trademarks
Google will allow other parties to utilize branded keywords if you, the trademark owner, authorize a partner or affiliate as an advertiser.
Your resellers and affiliates may use branded keywords provided that:
- The ad and/or landing page is dedicated to selling products or services related to your branded keyword
- The ad and/or landing page provides accurate information regarding the items related to the trademark
C. Google Does Not Allow Use of Trademark for Competitive Purposes
Last, but not least, this rule protects your brand from aggressive competitors.
A competing brand may not utilize your branded keywords in the title of an ad or the text to direct traffic to a competing product or service. This is the most likely scenario that occurs any time a bad actor intentionally bids on and uses your terms to create a harmful effect.
However, it is critical to note that no rules are preventing a user from simply bidding on keywords.
So long as the competitor is not violating the rule of actively using the term in the ad, they may attempt to bid on and rank for these keywords at any time.
While you can get rid of ads that violate this policy by filing an official complaint, you’ll need to get your hands dirty when it comes to honest competition. Otherwise, competitors can still dominate search results for your terms so long as their paid search strategy outperforms yours.
How Can I Monitor Paid Search Effectively?
Now that you have official documentation regarding Google’s paid search policies on your side, you can start to actively monitor your trademarked terms.
You essentially have two options when it comes to addressing a legitimate trademark violation.
The first is to ensure that your paid search team actively monitors essential keyword bidding and traffic regularly. It will be easy to identify unusual bidding activities. You can then review who is using the term and how it is being used within the paid advertisement or website.
If you notice a violation, you can contact the webmaster directly. Inform that in an official way that they violate trademark use and Google’s advertising policies. In some cases, letting the third party know that you’re actively monitoring and protecting your brand can be enough to deter this behavior.
Alternatively, you can submit a complaint to Google directly, especially if the other party does not comply. Because this is such a common issue, Google warns that it may take time to review all submissions due to the high volume of complaints.
For this reason, it may be in your best interest to actively contact the other party in the meantime to expedite results.
Use Automated Tools to Monitor Paid Search
Despite our best efforts, some bad actors are just crafty enough to sneak by your paid search team’s active perception.
Because cheating the system is so effective, Google’s policies aren’t enough to deter all parties. Some will simply adapt and begin running ads to your trademarked terms in other locations or during unusual hours. This is a common tactic advertisers use to slip past your defensive strategies.
For this reason, relying solely on manual monitoring is generally not enough in 2022. You need automated solutions that can actively check the web for infringement. Sites like Adthena or BrandVerity promise to quickly detect infringement from competitors and partners alike.
Research your options to see what’s best for your brand or agency.
Create a Guideline Manual for Partners and Affiliates
Finally, every brand that relies on partners, resellers, or affiliates must create a definitive guideline book for advertising.
These guidelines should dictate:
- Policies enforced by search engines & paid ad platforms
- Rules & regulations unique to your brand & partnership programs
In this booklet, you’ll want to clearly define the acceptable use cases of trademark terms in partner advertising. It also helps to provide examples of what is not acceptable and explain how and why such actions can harm your company.
Furthermore, you should clearly define the possible repercussions for violations, whether it be termination of the partnership or additional legal action. Then, ensure that all partners or affiliates willfully sign this agreement before proceeding.
In most cases, trademark infringements from partners are unintentional and the result of misunderstanding the rules. If you do have any bad actors in your ranks, enforcing these guidelines will go a long way in ensuring they steer clear of actively harming your paid search strategy or brand reputation.
Defend the Top Position on Google Search
Your trademarked terms are your most valuable. Not only do they belong to your brand exclusively, but they’re also the most direct path for users to find your products and make a purchase.
Competitors know this and may actively attack those branded keywords to make advertising more expensive and actively hurt your average customer’s experience. Both can provide significant setbacks for your paid search strategy and lower your overall rankings.
Get intimate with Google’s advertising policies and make sure that your paid search team dedicates part of the week to actively monitoring third-party activity. It’s important to clamp down on violations quickly before they have an opportunity to hurt your ROI or domain authority.
Everyone wants the top spot. But, don’t forget that reaching number one means that you must actively defend yourself to stay there. Stay true to your strategy when it’s working, protect your trademarks, and keep reminding customers why you deserve to have the top position on Google search.