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Op-Ed: Trademark bidding — Is it still an issue?

By Jenna Cyprus     Oct 31, 2014 in Business
Among the many challenges online marketers face today is trademark bidding. As recently as a few years ago, this practice represented a significant problem for businesses.
Unfortunately, the legal system hadn’t yet decided on the best course of action to take during lawsuits that result from trademark bidding. Though experts haven’t yet solved the problem, we do know more about how to neutralize it.
Even if you’re not familiar with the term “trademark bidding,” you’ve likely experienced its effects. Businesses most often notice it when they perform an online search of their brand name or URL, and a significant number of paid ads emerge above their own website.
Competitors pay to post these ads in such search results, which redirects your potential customers to their own websites. For search engines like Google and Bing, trademark bidding continues to represent an ethically “gray area.”
While they occasionally honor complaints from companies who are affected by such practices, other instances call for legal action … which has too often lead to unsatisfactory results, thus far.
Courts that have heard suits related to trademark bidding often “blow off” such cases, and left the plaintiff and defendant to pay legal costs for underwhelming results. Small businesses and firms with little liquidity can ill afford to go to war over such actions.
With that in mind, take a look at a smart alternative action for defending your company against trademark bidding.
The best way to deter trademark bidding
According to, the number-one way to discourage others from committing trademark bidding against your product is to work with a trademark attorney to bid on your own brand. This occurs in Google AdWords, a pay-per-click (PPC) provider that charges you each time a visitor clicks on your link.
This approach, which is the same one your competitors use, provides significant advantages, including:
1. High ROI. AdWords charges businesses only when an individual clicks on their sponsored links. In addition, you may set a daily budget for your advertising campaign. This allows you to control your marketing costs while increasing your visibility.
2. Audience targeting. When planning an AdWords campaign, businesses may choose where and when to target potential customers. Criteria on which you may base your advertisements include geographical region, language, time of day, and mobile users.
3. Reward for relevance. Google doesn’t depend only on how much a website has paid to be included above search results; it also analyzes the relevance of the site’s content, as well as other factors, such as audience click-through rates.
4. Measurable results. Google provides extensive data regarding AdWords campaigns, from click-through rates to impressions, conversion rates, and costs per click (CPC). This helps brands determine the efficacy of each ad and make any adjustments they choose.
Although it may not be legally possible to prevent your competitors from “stealing” your audience, setting up and utilizing your own AdWords account is the best way to counteract the effects of trademark bidding. The adage “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ’em” comes to mind.
How to leverage AdWords to the best effect
Given that the companies who bid for your preferred keywords may appear to have larger budgets than you do, building a competing campaign may seem impossible. However, as the brand that best fits the search term you’ve identified, you often begin in a stronger position than anyone attempting to hijack your traffic.
As you plan and implement trademark bidding in AdWords, maximize the effects of your campaign using strategies such as:
Creating quality content. Google combs websites for characteristics that indicate their relevance for a particular search term. As you craft your landing page, blogs, and static content, make sure to include high-quality copy that incorporates keywords contextually and at optimal rates. This will help place your ad higher on search results, even over brands that have placed higher bids for the same keywords.
Matching ad words with branding. The text of your ad should closely reflect your company’s branding language -- particularly the content on your landing page. This will not only increase your relevance scores, but will direct visitors most likely to convert to your site.
Don’t fight fire with fire. Whether retaliating against other brands that have used trademark bidding against you or using it to overstep your competitors, such practices represent a waste of marketing dollars. Besides symbolically violating the Golden Rule, it will likely result in paltry ROI when more applicable ads gain precedence over yours.
Use your Search Query Report. AdWords offers valuable data regarding the performance of each campaign. Viewing and evaluating the Search Query Report helps users to determine what has been working and where their strategies could use improvement. Brands can gain insights from these reports such as which keywords to include and exclude, as well as determine potentially valuable niche targets.
Questionable trademark bidding practices are likely to remain legal for the foreseeable future, and some companies will choose to continue them. Fortunately, with a solid grasp and use of AdWords, you can outsmart competitors and increase your search engine visibility.
Has a competitor ever used trademark bidding against you? What did you do to counteract this?
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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