Trademark Policy for Lead Generators: Google's New Rules

Mason Smith Nov 30, 2016

Recently, Google updated their trademark guidelines to restrict the use of trademarks by lead generators. If you work with lead generation partners, they are no longer allowed to use your trademarks in paid search. And we believe this is a good thing.

A Loophole for Trademark Bidders

In the past, any lead generator could use your trademark to lure traffic to their site and generate leads through free quotes, comparisons, or offers on anything from insurance policies to online education programs. That might be okay if it’s a known partner that has your permission to trademark bid—but a lot of these generators were doing it without permission. And frequently without any relationship to the brand.

Many brands complained that lead generators were masquerading as partners while diverting traffic away from them and selling the leads to competing organizations. Google’s historical stance was that they did not want to be a third-party negotiator of business relationships. As a result, they did not intervene and anyone that looked like a partner was afforded fair use trademark protection.

What does it look like when lead generators do this? Through BrandVerity’s Paid Search Monitoring tool, I found a lead generator, ZipQuote.com, using Hagerty Insurance’s trademark on a search for their brand.

Lead Generator Blog Post_Hagerty Insurance.png

Clicking on the advertisement takes you to the landing page below, which includes six pages of form fills.

Free_Auto_Insurance_Quotes_and_Slack_-_BrandVerity.png

So, What’s Changed?

Google’s new policy clearly states that it will no longer allow third-party ads that use your trademark for the purpose of generating a form fill. From now on,

“the landing page must clearly provide a way to purchase the product or services, or display commercial information about the product or services.”

According to this new policy, Hagerty Insurance can contact Google directly and ask them to take down the ad. After all, if a customer is searching for your brand, do you think you should capture that traffic or someone else?

Lead Generators 101

Many insurance and financial services companies forge relationships with lead generation partners. These partners add value by sourcing traffic to their websites, capturing customer leads, and then selling those leads to the insurance and financial services companies they work with. Unfortunately, it is typically a business team that creates these relationships and they don’t necessarily consider how the partner will drive the leads. 

Moreover, many lead generators operate their own network of websites, which they may not disclose. This makes it hard to track down and correct violations. Lead generators freely poach leads and then sell them back to the brand owner at an inflated cost. Even worse, some lead generators sell those leads to one of the brand’s key competitors!

Good for Google

This update on its own is newsworthy for brands in industries that lean heavily on lead generators, such as insurance, education, consumer finance, and others. When taken together with other recent changes, it appears Google is working to give consumers and brand owners greater protection.

For example, last year Google virtually wiped out Download & Toolbar sites from Adwords by instituting a policy that only permits advertisers to link to the primary distribution source for a piece of software. Google continues the trend with these lead generation changes, helping searchers find their desired destination and emphasizing a higher quality user experience. 

Good for Brands

There are few things that indicate your customer’s purchasing intent more than a search of your branded keywords. When people search for your brand or products, you want to capture and convert that traffic. After all, branded searches are the highest-converting and lowest cost keywords in search engine marketing for most brands.

This new rule enables brands to protect their traffic and customers. By preventing lead generators from using trademarks in their ads, brands will have more control over their branded keywords. That often means lower cost-per-click and increased click-through rates on the brand’s paid and organic listings.

And what about Lead Generators?

In the past, Google passively allowed lead generators to take advantage of a policy gray area. The current guidance leaves little room for interpretation. It is very clear what is and is not allowed. As a result, lead generators are likely not thrilled with Google’s policy change.

BrandVerity’s Paid Search Monitoring

Our customers include brands of all sizes around the world. Through our Paid Search Monitoring tool, many of them discovered for the first time that lead generators were bidding on their branded keywords. Now they use the BrandVerity platform to notify Google and other search engines of trademark infringements and take down violating ads.

We believe if a customer is searching for your brand on a search engine, they should find you, not a lead-generating site that confuses your customers and doesn’t add value.

Want to find out how trademark bidders such as lead generators affect your brand? Contact us for a free brand snapshot.

 

Topics: Trademark Bidding, Search Engine Updates, Trademark and Law

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