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Old 07-23-2004   #1
hamidz32
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Affiliate Marketing and SEM

Ah, what it feels like to be a newbie on a message board again. Greetings all, I've enjoyed the dialogue and banter thus far, and seek to create my own.

Today, I had a brief conversation with the Director of Affiliate Marketing at our firm about whether affiliates should have the right to bid on trademarked keywords. From the affiliate's perspective it obviously makes sense (you increase the amount of visitors you drive to a company, increase your take, etc). For us, it does not make as much sense, for obvious reasons.

I'd love for this highly informed gathering of professionals to share their ideas on the subject.
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Old 07-23-2004   #2
NFFC
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It's real simple, never ever allow any third party to bid on your trademarked terms. Ever.
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Old 07-23-2004   #3
bhartzer
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This same exact discussion came up at a recent conference I attended this week, the IAB Search Roadshow (in Dallas).

The consensus was this: no one could really make up their mind whether it was better to allow affiliates to bid on trademarked names because there is absolutely no data (research) to support one decision or the other.

So, I would like to offer this spin: I actually feel that affiliates should be allowed to bid on trademarked names because they are actually adding to the branding effect of that trademarked name. Consider how many more times your trademarked name appears when the affiliates get ahold of it. Normally, you (the corporation) has to pay $$ to get your trademarked name out there in the public eye. But, in this case, someone else is paying to get your trademarked name out there.
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Old 07-23-2004   #4
doppelganger
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Affiliates

There are actually a couple schools of thought on this... However, my feeling is that letting an affiliate bid on your trademarked terms may not be a good idea. First of all, those are terms you should be bidding on, and letting affiliates bid on it as well may mean that they drive up PPC costs for you on those terms... In addition, there is an argument to be made that affiliates could do damage to your brand image as well - i.e. creative is not moderated by you, there could be interim landing pages before an affiliate referral is driven to your site, etc...

However, there has also been an argument made by some folks that letting affiliates bid on these terms actually helps by making sure that you capture as many clicks as possbile for searches on those terms... Think of it as brand saturation...

In addition, letting affiliates bid on trademarked terms or related terms can also drive your competition out of the picture...

My general feeling is that brand help/harm aside, you have to crunch the numbers if you're using your PPC search ads in a direct-response manner... If you let an affiliate bid on your trademarked terms, how much does it cost you for those referrals? It just might be that the math doesn't favor letting them do it.
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Old 07-23-2004   #5
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hartzer...

Looks like we were in the same room this week!
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Old 07-23-2004   #6
bhartzer
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If you're not allowing your affiliates (or anyone else) to bid on your trademarked name then you're technically not bidding on it, you're simply paying for it--as I understand it, bidding only happens when two or more parties are essentially in an "auction" process. If no one else is allowed to bid on that term, then all you have to do is to pay the minimum bid for it to appear--you're not bidding on it anymore.

If you allow your affiliates to bid on the trademarked term, then you should probably stay out of the bidding process and you won't have to compete with them. They're the ones driving traffic to your landing pages, let them pay for it. After all, whatever they pay cuts into their commission.

Speaking of landing pages, you're the one who should be controlling where your trademarked name appears, so shouldn't those landing pages be on your website rather than on the affiliate site? In the typical situation, the corporation creates and controls the landing pages where the trademarked name appears. The affiliate just drives traffic to those landing pages.

Another way to handle some of this is to have the corporation create "approved text ads" that can be used at the PPCs. Then, the affiliates won't be creating PPC ads, just bidding on them, paying for them, and driving traffic to the landing page that the corporation controls. If an affiliate wants to cut into their commission, more power to them, right?
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Last edited by bhartzer : 07-23-2004 at 06:48 PM.
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Old 07-26-2004   #7
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Another way to look at not allowing Affiliates to bid on your trademarks is this:
When someone searches for your trademarked term there is a good chance that they are doing a bit of research on your company. (I personally Google any company that I am going to buy something from everytime.) This means that they have either been to your site already or have seen some of your advertising somewhere else.

If you allow your Affiliates to bid on this term then you are diluting the power of your Advertising and Affiliate programs because you are Advertising for your Affiliates.

Bottom Line - Do not let anyone bid on your trademarked terms, EVER.
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Old 07-27-2004   #8
5starAffiliatePrograms
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This really is a complicated issue with many different answers. Rather than write a book about it here, let me post links to an affiliate blog which will soon have some really good points from all sides of the equation.

PPC Bidding by Affiliates Part 1: It's about Controlling Your Brand
http://www.revenews.com/davidlewis/archives/000121.html

PPC Bidding by Affiliates (Part II)
http://www.revenews.com/davidlewis/archives/000124.html

Well the links above are the "con" side of things from one person. Revenews is working on an affiliate manager conference call where several leading AMs will be discussing all the pros and cons regarding affiliate programs, trademarks and SEM/PPC models. So stay tuned for more info on this topic.

Linda
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Old 07-27-2004   #9
NFFC
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>This really is a complicated issue with many different answers.

It is really simple honestly.

"Bottom Line - Do not let anyone bid on your trademarked terms, EVER."

Is excellant advice for a merchant.
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Old 07-27-2004   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NFFC
It's real simple, never ever allow any third party to bid on your trademarked terms. Ever.
That about hits the nail on head good post

Cheers
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Old 08-03-2004   #11
Jeff Molander
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NFFC:
Respectfully... your conclusion/theory is one without any reasoning at this point. I find your recommendation difficult to take seriously given that it's based on an over-simplification of a moderately complex matter. Others in this thread have pointed to the many various facets and considerations marketers should examine. Your continued "it's simple" response would seem to be suggesting that nothing matters and that your decision-making process is purely an emotional one. I also find the "high five" you just received to be rather pointless. I thought we were here to discuss? Why not step up to the plate and tell us why it's a bad idea to the point of it being a no-brainer? I would value your thoughts.

I encourage everyone on this thread to check out this journal entry by David Lewis... an affiliate.
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Old 08-03-2004   #12
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With Yahoo now monitoring affiliates in certain areas, why would you turn a % payout that doesnt allow you full control over image or brand?
Developing your own expansion on your business site, does take more time but allows proper direction in the areas of further development in-house where offering a "anyone promote theory" only waters down your exposure across the board which in turn does give less weight

cheers

WC
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Old 08-03-2004   #13
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Control Your Brand and Pick Your Partners

Linda and Jeff, thanks for linking to my posts on ReveNews. I have tried to start a rational, positive discussion on the topic as most people seem to be reactionary on it. There are 2 more posts that I will put up this week and next detailing other issues and what merchants can do to be proactive to grow their programs and control their brands.

NFFC: If you have a good rationale for your blanket statement, please post it. Right now you are merely throwing fuel on the reactionary fire. Would you recommend that brick-and-mortar businesses ban EVERYONE from using their trademarks? Why are you recommending throwing the baby out with the bathwater. And, why do you hide behind anonymity? Who are you? Why do you care about this topic? Did an affiliate harm you in your past and do you now seek vengeance against all affiliates? I look forward to reading your thoughtful arguments on the topic at hand.

Yes, there are affiliates out there who do bad things. There have been people who have done bad things since the beginning of time. Bad people is not an argument to stop working with good partners. Let's look at the issues and not the bogeyman of "bad affiliates". You can use good affiliates to meet your needs. If you are an affiliate manager, have you written down on a piece of paper what makes a good affiliate and what makes a bad affiliate? Do you find ways to help your good affiliates grow as they help you grow your business and protect your company's image?


Three simple rules for letting affiliates bid on your trademarks:

Rule #1: Using a merchant's trademarks is a privilege and not an affiliate's right.

Rule #2: Pick your partners online as wisely as you would offline.

Rule #3: Control your brand. Do not cede control of your brand to Google and Overture. Your good affiliates will help you.
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Old 08-03-2004   #14
NFFC
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Tough crowd.

>given that it's based on an over-simplification of a moderately complex matter.

I will say again, its not even the slightest bit complex. From the merchants point of view it is very, very, absurdly simple, do not let anyone bid on your trademarked terms.

>If you have a good rationale for your blanket statement, please post it. Right now you are merely throwing fuel on the reactionary fire. Would you recommend that brick-and-mortar businesses ban EVERYONE from using their trademarks? Why are you recommending throwing the baby out with the bathwater. And, why do you hide behind anonymity? Who are you? Why do you care about this topic? Did an affiliate harm you in your past and do you now seek vengeance against all affiliates? I look forward to reading your thoughtful arguments on the topic at hand.

I would strongly recommend that you maybe take a break, chill out a little bit, relax.
------------------
I think it depends on where you are coming from, affilates are either valued partners or scum sucking the profit from a company.

I think they are valued partners, I would never ever do anything to hurt a valued partner of mine. But as a valued partner of mine, please, don't bid on my trademarked terms, I will have no choice but to stop you. If I don't everybody will see the term as fair game, thats the way it works.

Work with your merchant, not against him.
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Old 08-03-2004   #15
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NFFC, it sounds like you are a merchant. What is your site? What experience have you had with affiliates bidding on your trademarks? How much do you spend on brand marketing? What types of results come up in Google and Yahoo for your marks (e.g. recalls, bad press about your company, your competitors)? You still have not given a reason why affiliates should other than it being the right thing to do. WHY?!?

Thank you for making my point. You wrote "If I don't everybody will see the term as fair game, thats the way it works." Exactly! Protect your trademarks. Banning all of your affiliates from bidding on your trademarks actually dilutes your trademarks, it does not protect them. You need to treat your trademarks online as you do offline. If you have a separate agreement with a limited number of affiliates who agree to stringent conditions on the use of your trademarks, you will protect your marks and your investment in them.

Please, stop with the blanket statements. If you cannot give a good, logical reasons, don't post. I think that the readers and posters on SEW are intelligent and would like to read well thought out arguments. They will ignore you if you can't back up your statements. [Plus, you degrade the value of SEW and hurt its trademark. ) ]
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Old 08-03-2004   #16
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With Yahoo now monitoring affiliates in certain areas, why would you turn a % payout that doesn't allow you full control over image or brand?
Sorry, what monitoring are you referring to and how does it connect to paying affiliates to conduct search arbitrage?

As for why... simple... advertisers view this as "outsourcing SEM" to their affiliates. They are either too scared or ignorant or both. I'm not saying that's good or bad (yet)... I'm just reporting the news.

Quote:
Developing your own expansion on your business site, does take more time but allows proper direction in the areas of further development in-house where offering a "anyone promote theory" only waters down your exposure across the board which in turn does give less weight
How does it water down your exposure? I don't see it that way. I see it as giving up control... so I think we agree (in the end) that it's a dangerous thing and that an "anyone promote" attitude is asking for trouble.
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Old 08-03-2004   #17
NFFC
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>NFFC, it sounds like you are a merchant.

....and an aff guy and a general SEO type person, Tri-sexual would be a better description

Just do me a favour though, when I have my merchant hat on don't bid on my trademark name, sends my lawyer crazy. If you are a true partner you will try and work with me, not against me.
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Old 08-03-2004   #18
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Without getting into the debate of right or wrong, I must say that every merchant's situation is different. I do know some merchants that don't do PPC themselves and welcome their affiliates doing natural search and PPC with their trademarked keywords. Is it wise? Depends. Is it their right, certainly.
Should merchants have a right to say - no way! Of course that's what TOS are for.
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Old 08-03-2004   #19
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Please, read my posts at ReveNews. I agree that affiliates should be partners. Before you assume that all SEO and SEM by affiliates is bad, read my blog. You will see that affiliates can protect you. Lawyers go crazy when the brand is not protected. Change the way your lawyers think. Give them a good rationale to allow it and a great way to protect your marks as they are used to doing.

Your good affiliates will view themselves as an extension of your marketing department and not out to make a quick buck off of you. Use your affiliates to protect your brand.

Why are you leaving your brand management to Yahoo and Google instead of taking control of it yourself.

P.S. NFFC, please let me know your trademarks so I won't bid on them.
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Old 08-03-2004   #20
NFFC
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>Please, read my posts at ReveNews.

No.

>Before you assume that all SEO and SEM by affiliates is bad

I don't, I'm a switch hitter, remember?

>read my blog

No.

>Change the way your lawyers think.

I am just a man, not God!

On the same train of thought, trust me on this. If a merchant asks you as a partner not to bid on their trademarked terms respect that request. Man to man, partner to partner, is it too much to ask?
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