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Finding your partners/dealers/affiliates etc., in position 1 for your brand terms can be very frustrating. So, it becomes crucial to do a Search Engine Audit and Compliance.

Three facts are essential to understand:

  • Anyone can bid on any keyword in the search engine. This includes your brand keywords as well. Nothing stops your competition, partners, dealers, franchisees, affiliate partners, or even marketplaces you may have tied up with.
  • Your Brand Keywords are the best-converting keywords on search. They will always have the most negligible conversion cost and quality at par with your Organic users. This is because many users search for your brand to find your website and click on the first result to go to your website. This happens because most browsers allow search inside the URL window.
  • Trademark protection of your brand on Search engines means:
  1. Anyone can STILL bid on your brand keywords. Trademark protection doesn’t mean others cannot bid for your keywords.
  2. Anyone can use your brand keywords in the Ad-URL or even the Ad Title. They cannot use it in the ad copy itself (it is slightly different for different Geo’s as per local laws).
  3. The onus of reporting trademark infringement is on advertisers mostly. Search engines provide minimal checks on their own.

If the above three are clear, ensuring compliance with your brand keywords on search is exceptionally critical. You might be letting go of your “almost” organic users be stolen and getting them back as “inorganic” users via partners/dealers/affiliates etc., which means that people who are searching for your brand keywords need to be protected to ensure they are not being converted to inorganic users and bought back to you for commission payouts etc.

Your partners (e.g., Affiliates) can start bidding on your brand keywords and take the user back to your website, but with the UTM parameters of the affiliate attached. This means that your organic users are now inorganic, and you are paying for your users to your affiliate. Also, you will pay more to Google / Bing since now the bid rates for your brand keywords have gone up since you and your partners are competing against each other for the exact brand keywords. So everyone makes money from the advertiser. At the cost of the advertiser!

Here is an example of how this is done:

  • If you search for “Jockey” (which is a leading undergarment brand) on Google, The following Ad appears: The Ad itself seems harmless and doesn’t indicate anything amiss. Notice the use of trademarked keywords in the Ad-Title and Ad-URL.
  • If you click on this ad, it will take you to the Jockey website. Great! But let’s look deeply at the URL of the landing page: Now the story is straightforward. An affiliate (most likely, he is being paid on a CPS-based model) is running this ad. This Ad is NOT the official Jockey Ad but was placed there by an affiliate from his Adwords account.
  • The advertiser without this audit would be now suffering in 3 dimensions:
  1. An almost organic user is now converted to inorganic. The advertiser would be paying a full sale-based commission to the affiliate for this user when he purchases something (which is heavily likely since the user is of excellent quality)
  2. The advertiser would most likely compete with the affiliate on Google for the Brand keywords and increase the bid rates for itself. So effectively advertiser pays more to Google for the increased bid-rates for his brand keyword.
  3. There is a strong possibility the Ad placed is actually brand unsafe and contains invalid and misleading promises. This can further impact the end customer’s understanding of the brand and its message.

Manually tracking ads through competition analysis using search engine tools can become challenging. Also, these ads cannot be manually tracked by repeated searching of your brand keywords since your affiliates can easily remove your city from the targeting, which means that you don’t see these ads. But the rest of the world will.

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