Dave Chaffey - Insights Director at ClickThrough Marketing, The Search Conversion Experts

In his second post this month, Dave explains what the next change to the Google AdWords trademark policy will mean for brand owners, and why some etailers could benefit.
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In the first of these two posts on brand searches, we discussed how important navigation brand searches are to some businesses, and how important it is to evaluate brand and non-brand search traffic separately in your Analytics package as it makes it easier to track traffic from your major non-brand keywords.

In this second post, I want to move the focus onto the September 2010 Google Adwords ad text trademark policy change for the UK and Europe. The main change is that Google will now permit the use of competitor brand terms within the creative itself – this was previously prevented for trademarked terms Google was aware of.

It’s important to review the implications of this to your paid search account performance and to be aware of how different competitors within your market react. We believe it increases the need for use of quality brand reputation management services. If you have a range of resellers of your product or service it’s particularly important to review your strategy as the number and type of paid search competitors may increase. We saw that previous changes permitting bidding on brand terms had a very different impact in different markets previously.  Although there were fears of an increased bid competition and PPC costs a relatively small bid spike occurred and most believe a similar situation will occur this time around.

Although the 2010 announcement has caused a fair stir, our view is that it’s really just an evolution in policy, you could say a “storm in a teacup”. There was arguably a more significant change in 2008 when Google permitted bidding on brand terms in these markets for the first time (reported on by Hitwise), i.e. specifying competitor brand terms as keywords to trigger ads. This was rolled out to a further 190 countries last year.  The trademark bid change in 2008 saw up to 20% increase in click costs, and although this change may give a similar effect through competition, this approach has been in the US for sometime and has not generally caused bidding wars.

Talking to our paid search account management team on the practical implications, they point out a benefit in the way Google evaluates ads through quality score; the inclusion of brand terms in creative will help improve quality scores and increase ad clickthrough rates which will bring costs down for some advertisers who couldn’t previously use brand terms within the creative.

Whatever the consequences of the recent Google Trademark policy change, it’s a timely reminder to brands of the importance of paying close attention to managing the returns from crucial navigational searches.

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About the author:

An acknowledged expert on digital marketing, Dave was recognised in 2004 by the Chartered Institute of Marketing as one of “50 marketing ‘gurus’ worldwide who have shaped the future of Marketing“. Dave is also author of five best-selling books including Internet Marketing: Strategy, Implementation and Practice; and eMarketing eXcellence.