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  1. #1
    ABW Ambassador Rehan's Avatar
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    The prevalence of trademark poaching
    Does anyone want to take a guess at what percentage of the Shareasale Top 100 PowerRank programs have affiliates bidding on their brand name or their domain name on Google and sending traffic directly to the merchant? This technique is what has been termed as "trademark poaching" in other threads; read those threads to learn how trademark poaching negatively affects merchants and affiliates.

    So did you guess 10 percent? 20 percent? or maybe 30%?

    The answer is 78 percent.

    18 of the 100 merchants have their own ads appear for both their brand and domain -- kudos to all of you. 4 of the 100 merchants have no ads that appear. And the rest (78 out of 100) have an affiliate's ad appearing for their brand name or domain name! Most of the affiliates are running the ads through SAS, but some are going through CJ or other networks.

    I'm not picking on SAS, by the way... SAS is my favorite network. I didn't put this thread in the Shareasale forum because its focus is not on SAS. I just happened to check SAS first because the PowerRank list made it easy to find the "top" programs on the network. I've done a similar check for a small number of merchants on Linkshare, and the results weren't really all that different. My main observation has been that trademark poaching is an issue more often for smaller merchants than for the larger ones that usually have either an inhouse SEM or outsourced PPC management by an agency.

    I do want to check more of the merchants on the other networks, though. Do CJ and Linkshare have something equivalent to the SAS Top 100 PowerRank?

  2. #2
    ABW Ambassador 2busy's Avatar
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    Remember, it's not poaching if the merchant is too dumb to prohibit it. Then its just a Tollbooth.

  3. #3
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    Not sure about Linkshare, but CJ you can display merchants by number of bars or epc or other metrics. I don't think they have a powerrank type feature that blends metrics.
    Deborah Carney
    TeamLoxly.com BookGoodies.com ABCsPlus.com

  4. #4
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    ghoti, while an interesting survey, there are varying definitions of trademark "poaching". Trademark bidding and poaching are 2 different things.

    Poaching is doing something that is not allowed. As pointed out in many other threads, there are some merchants that allow bidding and others that allow only bidding to an affiliate site landing page. I guess a better term for what you are talking about is "sniping".

    There are arguments for and against trademark bidding and it is certainly not a black and white area. However trademark bidding that is against a merchant TOS is black and white.
    Deborah Carney
    TeamLoxly.com BookGoodies.com ABCsPlus.com

  5. #5
    Kung Fu Master Eathan's Avatar
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    I did a similar check to ghoti's a while back, also checking each merchant's TOS. I only checked 50, but from what I saw, prohibitions to TM bidding made little difference as to whether the merchant's domains were being bid on by affiliates.
    Eathan Mertz

    Black Cat Mining - Gold Prospecting & Rockhounding Equipment

  6. #6
    ABW Ambassador Rehan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by loxly
    I guess a better term for what you are talking about is "sniping".
    Sure, I'll buy that. Feel free to edit the thread title.

    As an affiliate, it doesn't really matter to me whether the merchant allows or prohibits trademark bidding...it would affect me in the same way regardless of the rule. If more affiliates are aware of how common trademark poaching and sniping is, it may help tighten up those programs that allow this low-value activity.

    Thanks for the pointer to the CJ Network Earnings figure, BTW. I've already started putting a list of merchants together based on that list, and should have some numbers for CJ later today.

  7. #7
    Resident Genius and Staunch Capitalist Leader's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ghoti
    18 of the 100 merchants have their own ads appear for both their brand and domain -- kudos to all of you. 4 of the 100 merchants have no ads that appear
    I'm curious why you think it's kudo-worthy for a merchant to bother bidding on their brand and domain, rather than having no ads appear at all. Don't they already have the #1 free listing for those?

  8. #8
    Kung Fu Master Eathan's Avatar
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    In theory, Google only allows one ad per landing page, so affiliates are blocked from bidding if a merchant is already bidding.
    Eathan Mertz

    Black Cat Mining - Gold Prospecting & Rockhounding Equipment

  9. #9
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    >>>I'm curious why you think it's kudo-worthy for a merchant to bother bidding on their brand and domain, rather than having no ads appear at all. Don't they already have the #1 free listing for those?

    A study has shown that both organic and PPC on the page does add more to the user experience.

    It was a study conducted by a major bamk.

  10. #10
    ABW Ambassador Rehan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Leader
    I'm curious why you think it's kudo-worthy for a merchant to bother bidding on their brand and domain, rather than having no ads appear at all. Don't they already have the #1 free listing for those?
    Because it's better than having a competitor appear in the top search ad. And for many merchants, adding a paid search ad increases the overall CTR to their site. YMMV, of course. There was a discussion about it here.

    From my experience, brand owners tend to pay very little (as little as $0.01 per click) for ads to their own site. So it's worth spending that little bit to get the added benefit.

  11. #11
    Resident Genius and Staunch Capitalist Leader's Avatar
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    I see. Thanks.

  12. #12
    Speechless OTProf's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by loxly
    Trademark bidding and poaching are 2 different things.
    Thank you for clarifying that!!

    Yeesh, these are completely different issues that continue to get mushed together. Poaching is violating TOS via TM bidding that is prohibited, type-in domain variations/errors (.cm for Cameroon...), etc.

    Trademark bidding (and/or Trademark + Something) is a neutral term in and of itself as it may be allowed by some merchants. The merits (and demerits) of this have been debated ad nauseam in mucho threads!!

  13. #13
    ABW Ambassador Rehan's Avatar
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    Of the CJ merchants with the 100 highest Network Earnings values:

    8 merchants with no ads
    55 merchants running their own ads (inhouse or outsourced agency)
    37 merchants with affiliates sniping their brand or domain

    You can't really compare these numbers to the ones I posted above for Shareasale because many of these merchants are large well-known brands that outsource their PPC campaigns to agencies like Doubleclick or aQuantive. (I'll later do another 100 from the middle of the pack, which may better reflect the smaller merchants on CJ.)

    The most important point here is that this is an issue for affiliates and merchants of even the more popular brands.

  14. #14
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    "37 merchants with affiliates sniping their brand or domain"

    How many of those are actual violations. With all the numbers you're posting it's not poaching or sniping unless it's actually against the merchant's terms. And then you have public terms that most merchants have up, not all. Then there are also terms they get into with some affiliates that you wouldn't know about.

  15. #15
    ABW Veteran Mr. Sal's Avatar
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    So did you guess 10 percent? 20 percent? or maybe 30%?

    The answer is 78 percent.
    I notice you're in Canada, so I wonder if the seach results you got would be different from a search in the US.



    Note: Yersterday I read on another post of someone that posted some search results from India for something else, so that's why I say here that I noticed you're in Canada.

  16. #16
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    I am at a loss for understanding what point you are trying to make ghoti.

  17. #17
    ABW Ambassador Rehan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Trust
    "37 merchants with affiliates sniping their brand or domain"

    How many of those are actual violations. With all the numbers you're posting it's not poaching or sniping unless it's actually against the merchant's terms.
    Of the 100 CJ merchants:
    - 0 explicitly allow direct-to-merchant trademark bidding
    - 4 do not explicitly prohibit direct-to-merchant trademark bidding (3 of those do not have "keyword link" activated, so maybe it's implicitly not allowed)
    - 96 explicitly prohibit direct-to-merchant trademark bidding (because of either direct linking restrictions or trademark keywords restrictions or display URL restrictions, etc.)

    It is poaching, for the most part.

    The nice thing about CJ is that the keyword guidelines are easy to find and they're very clear. The CJ merchants understand the issue. Maybe Shareasale needs to do more to educate their merchants about trademark bidding and encourage them to include keyword guidelines in their Terms of Agreement.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Sal
    I notice you're in Canada, so I wonder if the seach results you got would be different from a search in the US.
    I'm checking the ads people in the US would see, so that's not an issue.

  18. #18
    Kung Fu Master Eathan's Avatar
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    Trust mentions the back door deal question, where the TOS say no, but the merchant makes a special case for a favorite affiliate or some such. I know it happens, but I've always wondered why it's tolerated.

    If a merchant says they don't allow BHOs, it's a positive reason to join. If they then turn around and cut a back door deal allowing a favorite affiliate to promote via a toolbar, they'd be widely criticized. Some affiliates look at policies against TM or domain bidding the same way, but back door deals are almost a non-issue.
    Eathan Mertz

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  19. #19
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    "I know it happens, but I've always wondered why it's tolerated."

    Why it's tolerated? First we're not talking about BHO's. Second because like we've discussed to death, we're all individual businesses that can make our own deals. If you don't like that, find another business.

  20. #20
    ABW Veteran Mr. Sal's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eathan
    Trust mentions the back door deal question, where the TOS say no, but the merchant makes a special case for a favorite affiliate or some such. I know it happens, but I've always wondered why it's tolerated.

    If a merchant says they don't allow BHOs, it's a positive reason to join. If they then turn around and cut a back door deal allowing a favorite affiliate to promote via a toolbar, they'd be widely criticized. Some affiliates look at policies against TM or domain bidding the same way, but back door deals are almost a non-issue.
    Because:

    knowledge is Power.
    And Money Talks.




    So those with knowledge and money,
    can get away with many that,
    the regular affiliates can't.

  21. #21
    Kung Fu Master Eathan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Trust
    Why it's tolerated? First we're not talking about BHO's. Second because like we've discussed to death, we're all individual businesses that can make our own deals. If you don't like that, find another business.
    Yes, I wonder why breaking the terms of the agreement they made with the rest of their affiliates is tolerated? They can make any deal they want, but if the merchant has an agreement in place with all of their other affiliates that says they don't allow TM bidding by affiliates, they're breaking that agreement by making that deal.
    Eathan Mertz

    Black Cat Mining - Gold Prospecting & Rockhounding Equipment

  22. #22
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    Eathan - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capitalism

    Your post is one of the more ridiculous ones. Affiliates can make their own deals. Reread that over and over again until you understand it. You have the public deal but can always work your own. How do you not get this as long as you've been doing this? That's how business in this country works. A merchant can handle their program anyway they want. It's their business. And based on that, you can decide on whether you want to work with them or not. It's called choice.

    And why do some merchants only want to work with some select affiliates? You could go back and reread the numerous times we've talked about it but let me drop some while I'm here. Maybe they've built up a good relationship with the affiliate. Maybe they actually produce. Maybe they can actually reach the affiliate. All kinds of reasons. We have plenty of affiliates here that won't even read their email, some can't keep valid email address on file, don't even take the time to build up relationships, don't drive sales etc. You expect them to get the same treatment? Be real.

    And one more. Like I've posted before, there is a merchant that I'm one of the few allowed to bid on their TM and in their case it actually makes sense. Why me? Because I produced for them for over a year at the time. Had pages that ranked well and delivered sales. Was doing PPC on the products they sold. They had no problem contacting me. They were actually pushing me to bid on their TM. Wanted my Google ID # to do so and that was that.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eathan
    Yes, I wonder why breaking the terms of the agreement they made with the rest of their affiliates is tolerated? They can make any deal they want, but if the merchant has an agreement in place with all of their other affiliates that says they don't allow TM bidding by affiliates, they're breaking that agreement by making that deal.
    Merchants make deals with companies to run their ppc ads all the time, outsourcing ppc is commonplace. And whether it is right or wrong, much of the ppc advertising done by merchants contains tracking codes that overwrite prior affiliate cookies (not any merchants that I currently represent). The theory is the the merchant doesn't want to pay both for ppc and for an affiliate commission. Shortcut that to paying via the affiliate program for someone to do your ppc for you.

    There are a lot business models around ppc that include commission based models.
    Deborah Carney
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  24. #24
    ABW Ambassador Joshua's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ghoti
    Of the CJ merchants with the 100 highest Network Earnings values:

    8 merchants with no ads
    55 merchants running their own ads (inhouse or outsourced agency)
    37 merchants with affiliates sniping their brand or domain

    <snip>

    The most important point here is that this is an issue for affiliates and merchants of even the more popular brands.
    It's up to the merchant (or CJ, if they manage the program) to police this. Any time I catch an affiliate breaking policy like that (especially so blatantly), I kindly send the affiliate an email explaining the violation, and then I go ahead and reverse their commissions... If the violation is particularly egregious (with the affiliate only showing their ad after a certain time, in only certain regions, copying our ad text verbatim, etc.), I might just "take a week or two" to "notice" the issue before contacting the affiliate and reversing commissions. Moral of the story? Play with fire, and it might take a few weeks, but you'll get burned.

    With the top merchants being poached, I often see affiliate links changed, so it's more than possible that a new affiliate comes up after an old one comes down. It could always mean free sales for the merchant

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by Joshua
    It's up to the merchant (or CJ, if they manage the program) to police this. Any time I catch an affiliate breaking policy like that (especially so blatantly), I kindly send the affiliate an email explaining the violation, and then I go ahead and reverse their commissions... If the violation is particularly egregious (with the affiliate only showing their ad after a certain time, in only certain regions, copying our ad text verbatim, etc.), I might just "take a week or two" to "notice" the issue before contacting the affiliate and reversing commissions. Moral of the story? Play with fire, and it might take a few weeks, but you'll get burned.

    With the top merchants being poached, I often see affiliate links changed, so it's more than possible that a new affiliate comes up after an old one comes down. It could always mean free sales for the merchant
    Am I the only one that thinks these unprofessional & vindictive OPMs/Affiliate Managers are getting out of control??

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