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  1. #1
    Affiliate Manager Decorative Ceiling Tiles's Avatar
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    Affiliates Bidding on my Trademark?
    Today I had a phone call from a client who I know for some time and way before I have started an affiliate program. She was ready to buy and later on she did.

    It was 1000.00 sale and I see also that an affiliate made send me a sale.

    Looking at affiliates website I don't see anything that would suggest he has a link to mine web.

    OK, Looking at the last link before the sale and see that he is paying PPC using my main keywords, and the actual name of my domain. Any browser after typing those keywords will show my website at the very top.

    So, my question is, is this ok or is he just getting a free ride on my trademark?

  2. #2
    http and a telephoto
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    If you don't prohibit trademark bidding in your Affiliate Terms of Service and via the Shareasale PPC rules tool, then affiliates don't know that it isn't ok to bid on it. Affiliates are spending money on bidding on your site so it is debatable (lots of threads here pro and con) on if they are getting a "free ride".
    Deborah Carney
    TeamLoxly.com BookGoodies.com ABCsPlus.com

  3. #3
    The Seal of Aproval rematt's Avatar
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    Perhaps it's time to review your own PPC campaign (or lack of). A search for your name brings up several (better known) competitors that are also bidding on your trademarks. If you're not going for the top spots it's better to have one of your affiliates occupying them as opposed to Lowes or Home Depot.

    -rematt
    "I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant." - Richard Nixon

  4. #4
    Affiliate Manager Decorative Ceiling Tiles's Avatar
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    I guess it is kind of hard to tell but I think that in this case they might just be going for ppl that are looking for my site since it is the name of my domain and since they are paying for the very top spot just for that one key phrase.

    I have set the rules against that already.

  5. #5
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    If they are breaking your Terms of Service then you have the right to enforce them. However you might want to take rematt's advice first. If your competitors are bidding on your name, you might want to let affiliates do it to get those spots.
    Deborah Carney
    TeamLoxly.com BookGoodies.com ABCsPlus.com

  6. #6
    Moderator MichaelColey's Avatar
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    Another consideration is that your site name is a very descriptive keyword-rich phrase. Odds are, most people searching for "decorative ceiling tiles" have never heard of you, but are just searching for decorative ceiling tiles.
    Michael Coley
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  7. #7
    The Seal of Aproval rematt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MichaelColey View Post
    Another consideration is that your site name is a very descriptive keyword-rich phrase.
    ...and generic.

    Just noted your UPDATED terms:

    Updated Merchant provided Terms of Agreement will become effective on 06/15/2010:

    As of today 6/8/2010 I will not tolerate any PPC for keywords decorative ceiling tiles, faux tin ceiling tiles, tin ceiling tiles.
    You may want to consult with an OPM before putting these PPC guidelines into effect. As it appears that you have no PPC presence yourself it would probably be a good idea to let your affiliates compete for these keywords.

    Restricting trademark bidding can be good if you have a known brand. In your case, your brand is a set of very generic keywords. Restricting their use and restricting the use of just about every keyword that a searcher would use to find you just opens the door for your competitors to take the top spots.

    So again, when a potential customer searches for "Decorative Ceiling Tiles", would you rather they see Lowes at the top of the page or one of your affiliates? Granted, with these restrictions in place you won't have to worry about affiliates "getting a free ride" on your trademark. You'll never see a lot of that traffic.

    -rematt
    "I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant." - Richard Nixon

  8. #8
    Affiliate Manager Decorative Ceiling Tiles's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rematt View Post
    ...and generic.

    Just noted your UPDATED terms:

    You may want to consult with an OPM before putting these PPC guidelines into effect. As it appears that you have no PPC presence yourself it would probably be a good idea to let your affiliates compete for these keywords.

    Restricting trademark bidding can be good if you have a known brand. In your case, your brand is a set of very generic keywords. Restricting their use and restricting the use of just about every keyword that a searcher would use to find you just opens the door for your competitors to take the top spots.

    So again, when a potential customer searches for "Decorative Ceiling Tiles", would you rather they see Lowes at the top of the page or one of your affiliates? Granted, with these restrictions in place you won't have to worry about affiliates "getting a free ride" on your trademark. You'll never see a lot of that traffic.

    -rematt
    I guess there are pros and cons. What I am getting at is that if someone (ready to buy from me, because they know me) who is going to type my website name into the search bar will instead of the browser will see my website name jumping up at the top of the sponsored link will click there feels like lost money to me.

    On the other hand you are right, if that would be their first time to look for something like that then yes that would be usefull.

    I ave no problem with PPC, just not on my domain name key phrase exactly as it appears in the domain name. If they want to change the order to ceiling tiles decorative or any other key words I have no problem.

    I think I should specify that in the terms.

  9. #9
    Affiliate Manager Decorative Ceiling Tiles's Avatar
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    I think I should let them bid on all the word the more I think about it. You are right, I should not need to restrict that since my domain name is so generic and keyword rich. Thanks for your help.

  10. #10
    Analytics Dude Kevin's Avatar
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    This might be a scenario where placing a rule that an affiliate must have "decorativeceilingtiles.com" (note the .com) as a negative phrase match would be a good thing, as opposed to having those three very important key phrases as forbidden.
    Kevin Webster
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  11. #11
    Affiliate Manager Decorative Ceiling Tiles's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin View Post
    This might be a scenario where placing a rule that an affiliate must have "decorativeceilingtiles.com" (note the .com) as a negative phrase match would be a good thing, as opposed to having those three very important key phrases as forbidden.
    I see, that is very interesting, did not know this was an option. But, can day have that as a shown url?

  12. #12
    Analytics Dude Kevin's Avatar
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    mmmm. Having just searched your domain (didn't realize at first you were a .Net), I would leave it wide open for the time being. Your competitors are all over the PPC space. And currently (at least for my IP address), there are no ads showing above your Organic listing on a "true" domain search.

    Just monitor how frequently you are paying commissions on Trademark/brand bids. If it gets out of control, do something about it.

    Otherwise, rest easy knowing you are keeping your competition out of the way.
    Kevin Webster
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  13. #13
    Defender of Truth, Justice and the Affiliate Way
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    Some very good input from others here.

    A couple of other things that stand out for me in this particular incident.

    Whether or not the buyer knew you personally and eventually made a purchase from you, they obviously were looking around if there was a click from a PPC ad. They didn't go directly to your site by typing in your URL into the browser. They went to a SE at some point in their buying decison-making process. Just another perspective of the events to consider.

    While it's hard sometimes not to rush out and make a TOS policy change when a particular incident happens, often times it's best to get feedback prior to making the changes. I believe there's some kind of timeframe by SAS in how frequently TOS can be updated. IMO, this is a good thing. TOS should be well thought out as it is the legally binding agreement between the merchant and affiliate.

    As it stands now (from what Rematt copied), you have TOS that restrict affiliates from bidding on very generic key words, not all of them even related to your "trademark" (in quotes because I doubt it's an actual trademark even though it's your domain name). Indeed, you didn't even list it as decorativeceilingtiles (no spaces between the words) which indicates your concern is bidding on your domain name. Restricting bidding on generic terms is usually not viewed very well by affiliates. Even those affiliates who don't do PPC may view this as a generally affiliate unfriendly policy by a merchant. Now it seems you've changed your mind (which is not a bad thing) on a policy that has not even taken effect yet. That kind of policy shifting is not such a good thing. The moral being....get the feedback prior to major policy changes.

  14. #14
    Affiliate Manager Decorative Ceiling Tiles's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin View Post
    mmmm. Having just searched your domain (didn't realize at first you were a .Net), I would leave it wide open for the time being. Your competitors are all over the PPC space. And currently (at least for my IP address), there are no ads showing above your Organic listing on a "true" domain search.

    Just monitor how frequently you are paying commissions on Trademark/brand bids. If it gets out of control, do something about it.

    Otherwise, rest easy knowing you are keeping your competition out of the way.
    Yes, coming to realize that their always will be pros and cons. So, I guess time will tell.

    Thanks for your reply

  15. #15
    Affiliate Manager Decorative Ceiling Tiles's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kellie aka Ms. B View Post
    Some very good input from others here.

    A couple of other things that stand out for me in this particular incident.

    Whether or not the buyer knew you personally and eventually made a purchase from you, they obviously were looking around if there was a click from a PPC ad. They didn't go directly to your site by typing in your URL into the browser. They went to a SE at some point in their buying decison-making process. Just another perspective of the events to consider.

    While it's hard sometimes not to rush out and make a TOS policy change when a particular incident happens, often times it's best to get feedback prior to making the changes. I believe there's some kind of timeframe by SAS in how frequently TOS can be updated. IMO, this is a good thing. TOS should be well thought out as it is the legally binding agreement between the merchant and affiliate.

    As it stands now (from what Rematt copied), you have TOS that restrict affiliates from bidding on very generic key words, not all of them even related to your "trademark" (in quotes because I doubt it's an actual trademark even though it's your domain name). Indeed, you didn't even list it as decorativeceilingtiles (no spaces between the words) which indicates your concern is bidding on your domain name. Restricting bidding on generic terms is usually not viewed very well by affiliates. Even those affiliates who don't do PPC may view this as a generally affiliate unfriendly policy by a merchant. Now it seems you've changed your mind (which is not a bad thing) on a policy that has not even taken effect yet. That kind of policy shifting is not such a good thing. The moral being....get the feedback prior to major policy changes.
    You are right, I have rushed it.

    Good thing is that it will be valid for only one week and in the mean time I am gathering information on something that I have not thought about before this happened.

    Great point, thanks for your input.

  16. #16
    The Seal of Aproval rematt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Decorative Ceiling Tiles View Post
    I think I should let them bid on all the word the more I think about it. You are right, I should not need to restrict that since my domain name is so generic and keyword rich. Thanks for your help.
    Good move. I currently spend about 2K/month on PPC and NEVER bid on trademarked terms. Mainly because I seldom have a single merchant in a space and because it's just too cumbersome keeping track of who allows their trademarks to be used and who doesn't. Occasionally a merchant may decide that they also don't want affiliates to bid on generic non-trademarked terms. My only response to that to date has been to stop promoting the merchant. Why? Today I probably spend as much time managing the 20K plus keywords in my PPC campaigns as I do creating and adding content to my sites. Besides the fact that I use those same keywords to promote other merchants in their space, anything that a merchant does that adds to my PPC administration just isn't going to be viewed favorably.

    You have a great keyword rich name that should (and apparently does) benefit you in organic search. Unfortunately, because you have a great keyword rich name, affiliates are going to bid on your trademarked terms. Just think how difficult it would be to promote a florist without using the word "flower". The fact of the matter is that some were probably bidding those same terms before they joined your program.

    -rematt
    "I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant." - Richard Nixon

  17. #17
    Affiliate Manager Decorative Ceiling Tiles's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rematt View Post
    Good move. I currently spend about 2K/month on PPC and NEVER bid on trademarked terms. Mainly because I seldom have a single merchant in a space and because it's just too cumbersome keeping track of who allows their trademarks to be used and who doesn't. Occasionally a merchant may decide that they also don't want affiliates to bid on generic non-trademarked terms. My only response to that to date has been to stop promoting the merchant. Why? Today I probably spend as much time managing the 20K plus keywords in my PPC campaigns as I do creating and adding content to my sites. Besides the fact that I use those same keywords to promote other merchants in their space, anything that a merchant does that adds to my PPC administration just isn't going to be viewed favorably.

    You have a great keyword rich name that should (and apparently does) benefit you in organic search. Unfortunately, because you have a great keyword rich name, affiliates are going to bid on your trademarked terms. Just think how difficult it would be to promote a florist without using the word "flower". The fact of the matter is that some were probably bidding those same terms before they joined your program.

    -rematt
    That is a lot of Keywords to manage and you are right, why bother with someone who makes it hard when you can find some others that make it easy.

    Well, I am really glad to have started this thread and to get advise from you and all the others.

    Thank you so much all!!!

  18. #18
    Moderator MichaelColey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kellie aka Ms. B View Post
    not all of them even related to your "trademark" (in quotes because I doubt it's an actual trademark even though it's your domain name).
    Great point. Searching USPTO.gov, I don't think he even applied for a trademark. It would be tough to get one on that generic (thanks rematt - that's the word I was looking for) of a name.

    This thread certainly demonstrates how some really awful PPC rules can get created. I'm glad that the OP is remaining open-minded, and I am confident that he'll end up with a good policy.

    It also demonstrates that there isn't a one size fits all policy. I normally would encourage merchants to prohibit bidding on their company name, but when their company name is generic and they don't have any brand recognition, I don't think that's a good policy.
    Michael Coley
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  19. #19
    Affiliate Manager Decorative Ceiling Tiles's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MichaelColey View Post
    Great point. Searching USPTO.gov, I don't think he even applied for a trademark. It would be tough to get one on that generic (thanks rematt - that's the word I was looking for) of a name.

    This thread certainly demonstrates how some really awful PPC rules can get created. I'm glad that the OP is remaining open-minded, and I am confident that he'll end up with a good policy.

    It also demonstrates that there isn't a one size fits all policy. I normally would encourage merchants to prohibit bidding on their company name, but when their company name is generic and they don't have any brand recognition, I don't think that's a good policy.
    You are right, I have no trademark.

    Absolutely right about a bad policy created impulsively with lack of knowledge.

    Thank to Abestweb.com I have been directed the right way which is logical as well.

  20. #20
    Affiliate Manager Decorative Ceiling Tiles's Avatar
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    The Policy has been changed now. I will read and discuss before any rushed moves.

    Thanks for you all your help everyone.

  21. #21
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    I would still keep an eye on the search results, though. I have found various affiliates bidding on our branded terms and disguising their ad to look like ours (even geo-targetting around us and/or doing it in the middle of the night expecting to not get caught). Make sure none of your affiliates are trying these tactics.

  22. #22
    The Seal of Aproval rematt's Avatar
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    Jono, you have a very recognizable name and trademark What we are discussing here are very generic terms used as a company name. There is nothing that can be trademarked in a name like "Decorative Ceiling Tiles" either individually or collectively.

    In addition, branding is only beneficial when someone actually recognizes your brand. Hammacher has been around for quite some time with a very recognizable brand. If you were an unknown or a start-up, it really wouldn't matter. In fact, in that case affiliates could be utilized to help you build your brand.

    -rematt
    "I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant." - Richard Nixon

  23. #23
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    rematt - I completely understand the difference. My main point is that while he should allow the affiliates to bid on something so generic, affiliates still need to monitored so that they are not trying to pass themselves off as him through ad text and display URLs.

  24. #24
    The slot machine that IS paid! Billy Kay's Avatar
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    What I am getting at is that if someone (ready to buy from me, because they know me) who is going to type my website name into the search bar will instead of the browser will see my website name jumping up at the top of the sponsored link will click there feels like lost money to me.
    If they clicked an aff link, they don't know you as well as you think (or they would have bookmarked you)

    Sometimes when I get an affiliate sale and go to enter the customer's name in my accounting software, it says "Customer already exists"

    So I click, and sure enough, this customer bought something 2 years ago.

    Apparently, I didn't do a good enough job of retaining the customer. I have no qualms whatsoever with crediting - and thanking - the affiliate for bringing back this customer.

    All My Best,
    Billy Kay

  25. #25
    OPM and Moderator Chuck Hamrick's Avatar
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    I just caught an affiliate with Brand Verity that came up with ID's from GAN & SAS. The program is only in CJ but as I track through BV I see dozens of ID's from several networks. They are using redirects to hide it and it points to Coupon Journal which I have kicked out of many programs.

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