Last week we started our Lead Gen Series with a post outlining the basic structure of lead generation sites and some of the potential issues in that model. This week we move on to a more specific issue: brand bidding by lead gen sites. At BrandVerity we see a lot of lead gen sites bidding on companies’ brand terms. Interestingly, despite bidding on brand terms and often using those same brand terms in their ad copy, these lead generation sites don’t necessarily promote those same brands on their landing pages. This practice should raise some very serious concerns for companies that partner with lead gen sites.
Want an example? We’ve got one.
On this SERP, a search for “farmers insurance” produced the following results:
The top search ad is for a “FarmersAuto” Free Quote and the display URL reads farmersauto.Insurancestep.com/Quote. The ad text and URL suggests that the consumer will be taken to a Farmers quote.
Guess what? It doesn’t. This is the page that loads when the ad is clicked:
No mention of Farmers, but there is Flo, the Progressive lady, smiling happily at Farmers’ potential customer.
Much like the examples in our previous post, when you proceed by clicking “Get Free Quotes”, you’ll be taken to a form that opens in a new window. This form asks for a variety of personal information:
Again, no sign of Farmers, but Flo is back and now we see the Esurance logo below her on the left.
Filling in the required information gives us the following page of affiliate links:
Farmers does (finally!) make an appearance here, but as the fifth option on the page. That isn’t prime placement to begin with—and it’s especially poor considering that this customer got here by specifically searching for Farmers by name.
Hmm… This seems like a problem for Farmers, doesn’t it?
Yeah, we think so. And the problem is multi-faceted. The same core question is there: specifically, how much do you really want to pay for a lead that all your closest competitors get as well? But, on top of that, the issue of brand bidding makes matters substantially worse. Unlike in reseller brand bidding, where the ads mostly lead to dedicated landing pages promoting the product in question, in these cases lead generation sites are using your brand’s keywords to promote your competitors. And even if that customer ultimately gets to you through the same lead generation site, you’re paying for a customer who was attempting to find your brand in the first place—a customer who would otherwise be coming to you directly.
In this way, the potential downside for you and your brand is very similar to that of working with unscrupulous affiliates. Your direct traffic is being diverted over to lead generation forms such that you end up paying unnecessarily for your own leads. At the same time, from a branding perspective, this kind of bidding by lead gen sites can undermine your brand. Instead of staying atop the customer’s mind, you are being presented as interchangeable with your competitors.
So, what can be done about this?
To prevent these issues, one approach is to audit the networks and/or publishers you work with. Ask them pointed questions about how the handle compliance and issues like this, and if they have any process or technology in place to manage it. Another option is to put the ball in your own court and carefully monitor who is bidding on your brand terms. Ultimately, you can make the choice not to buy leads from sites that are bidding on your terms, providing landing pages that direct consumers to your competitors, or otherwise diluting your company’s brand loyalty. By ensuring that you work only with trustworthy partners, you can get more value for what you spend on leads and protect your brand’s reputation.
How common is brand bidding by lead gen sites?
We've actually just released a study that includes information on this exact topic. Curious about whether this is happening in your industry? Download your copy of our report on the State of Branded Keywords here.
How do you choose which lead gen sites to work with? Do you monitor their bidding behavior or do you trust your relationships with publisher networks? Leave a comment below or contact us at BrandVerity!