Paid Search Monitoring 101: Why Protecting Your Campaigns Is Crucial

Ulla Saleh Jul 18, 2017

As a paid search marketer, you spend the majority of your time optimizing keywords, CPCs, ROAS, conversions, CTRs, and other metrics. But are you spending any time protecting the brand you are so busily building? If not, you are losing revenue and letting others control your customer experience.

What’s the point of all your optimization gains if they are being looted by competitors and rogue trademark bidders. It’s akin to filling up a bucket with water, only to find a hole in the bottom. While easy to fix,  first you have to find the leak and then keep an eye out for future cracks. Similarly, to hit your metrics and maintain control over the Search Engine Results (SERP), you need to build and protect your brand. Central to any brand protection effort is a comprehensive paid search monitoring program.

Paid Search Monitoring Defined

Paid search monitoring involves actively monitoring to see who is bidding on your brand and how often they are advertising. You can see the headlines, ad copy, and URLs they use. When infringing ads–like unauthorized ads from partners or third parties who use your trademark–are found, the final step is to remove the non-compliant ads by notifying the search engines or contacting the partner or third-party. Some of this can be done manually, but we think an automated monitoring tool is better at detecting and crawling thousands of ads than a human–more about that later.

Why would anyone bid on your branded keywords?

Because it is profitable, and if you aren’t looking, they can continue to do it without any negative consequences.

In fact, branded keywords are more valuable than some people think:

  • Larry Kim, Founder of Wordstream, wrote:  “Branded keywords generate ‘ridiculously high’ click-through rates (40-60%) and Quality Scores (9 or 10).”
  • Bing Ads found that running ads on branded terms gained 31 percent more clicks.
  • Google found that branded keywords yield more than 2X the conversion rate of generic keywords.

 

Because branded keywords are valuable, they are a target.

Since branded keywords are the most valuable and highest converting search traffic, they are a tempting target for partners, competitors, and third parties to run ads on. By bidding on your branded keywords, these bad actors are driving up your Cost Per Click (CPC) and driving down your click-through rate (CTR).

It is called trademark bidding and refers specifically to the practice of targeting paid search advertisements to branded keywords (searches that include a brand name or some variation). Our recent eBook, The Monsters of Paid Search outlines the different kinds of trademark bidders and how they can rob you blind if you aren’t careful.

Our research indicates that trademark bidders, who are also called brand bidders, take at least  180 million clicks away from brands every year (and probably a lot more than that).

One of our customers, Getty Images, knew they had a trademark bidding problem but didn’t know the full extent of the issue until they started actively monitoring. Using our paid search monitoring tool, they found that 35% of a competitor’s ads contained trademark infringements against their iStock brand.

The good news: Trademark bidding can be stopped.

Once you start monitoring and submitting trademark infringements, the results can be pretty quick. In the first five months of using the BrandVerity Paid Search Monitoring tool, Getty Images cut down these trademark infringements by more than 60%.

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The 4 Benefits of Monitoring

Paid search monitoring allows you to proactively protect your brand with the following benefits:

#1 Get the full picture with all the details you need

Adwords only gives you so much. Do you currently know who is bidding on your branded keywords, what landing page they are using, what’s on that landing page, and how competitors are using your trademarked terms in their ad copy? As a paid search manager, you need visibility into what is happening to your brand terms in PPC. That’s the only way to maintain control of the the SERP.

#2 Stop letting partners and competitors take advantage of you

Why should you pay commissions to a partner or an affiliate for a customer you could have acquired on your own? You shouldn’t.

In your agreements with affiliates, you may explicitly allow some of them to bid on your branded terms. In the case of unethical affiliates, however, who bid on your trademark without permission, the case is different. Since they use tactics like geo-targeting and dayparting to evade detection, it is almost impossible to get a comprehensive picture of who is bidding on your brand without an automated monitoring tool.

#3 Control the customer journey

Today, many consumers use search engines instead of the browser address bar to go to a brand’s website. This means that even if they know the URL, their interaction with your brand might end up being through a branded search on Google, Bing, or another search engine.

How your brand is presented and where customers find it on the SERP therefore impacts their overall customer experience. Customers who easily find your brand after a branded keyword search are more likely to buy your products and services than those who, after typing in your brand terms, see a competitor or partner’s website at the top of the page.  

Let’s look at two examples that we found using the BrandVerity Paid Search Monitoring tool.

In this first example, Joss & Main, a competitor to furniture and homewares brand Restoration Hardware, bid on the term “restorationhardware”. Customers—wanting to go to Restoration Hardware’s homepage—may mistakenly click on the Joss & Main advertisement at the top of the SERP and find themselves on a different website than they initially intended.

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In this second example, the shopping site www.shoppingdays.us bid on “bestbuy.com” to siphon off Best Buy’s traffic. In the ad copy below they even offer a 50% discount and free shipping.

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In both cases, the top result on the SERP should have led to the retailers’ home pages. Instead, these trademark bidders created potential confusion for searchers and negatively impacted the customer experience.

#4 Get Peace of Mind

One of our customers recently called paid search monitoring their “smoke alarm.” It goes off when there is a problem, but otherwise runs quietly in the background, making sure that everything  is as it should be. When you are monitoring, you know you are covering your bases and doing all that you can to protect your brand.

Add brand protection to your PPC strategy

Ultimately, if you are responsible for paid search for your brand, you’re the last line of defense. You need to have information at your fingertips to make good decisions and proactively defend the brand you have worked hard to build. Now that you’re convinced you need to monitor your paid search, you may wonder how exactly to do that and what components are necessary for a successful monitoring program.

In a future post, we’ll discuss different monitoring methods, and requirements for a successful monitoring strategy. We’ll also talk about how monitoring is not just a defensive play, but also a valuable component of a revenue growth strategy.

Want to find how badly your brand is getting targeted? Sign up for a free demo today and see live data from trademark bidding on your campaigns.

Topics: Paid Search, Trademark Bidding