Brand Protection! Squatters, Affiliates & PPC: #SMX Recap II

Posted in SMX West

Welcome back to our recap coverage of SMX West 2015! The booths were huge and conference rooms were jam-packed with marketing pros eager to both absorb and share information. The Challenges of Paid Search for Brands session was best described as a roundtable. (However, moderator Matt Van Wagner, President at Find Me Faster, quipped about how only the rectangular table would fit on the stage). The panelists were interesting and even brilliant, including professionals from REI, IBM and more. David Austin, Director of Online Marketing at Salesforce.com, Katie Cammilleri, Comparison Shopping Program Manager at REI, Christi Olson, Director of SEM at PointIt, and John Zoglin, Practice Lead of Digital Marketing Services at IBM, led the roundtable discussion on day one of the conference. The mix of business types and goals provided a fascinating variety of answers to the question of the hour: How do you manage your brand online?

Protecting your brand online
Safeguarding a brand in the digital space is an important concept. Marketers need to protect search results and work to push out others squatting on their mark. In other cases, some brands may allow affiliates to use the brand so tracking is the challenge. Keeping it all straight is a balancing act for many companies, especially when “defending” means tracking a case-by-case roster of which parties are authorized to use the brand.

When others are using your brand with permission, how do you stand out?

  • Making a strong presence using traditional SEM best practices can drive up the prices for others using the brand.
  • Drive engagement, CTR, good landing pages, etc. to push for good quality scores and keep your brand at the top of the page.

If your company is in a situation where others may use the brand, your best bet is to beat them at the game. Use best practice PPC strategies to win rank and maintain top position. Optimize your ads, regulate your flow of search terms and make a strong effort to win your brand terms.

Taking advantage of AdWords’ impression share metric will help you understand how much of the brand search inventory your ads are taking. Average position will show you how competitive you are. To see who else is competing for space, try the auction insights report.

Resellers have the additional challenge of competing with the sold brands if they develop their own search marketing campaigns. Such partnerships can be mutually beneficial in situations where a manufacturer directs traffic back towards the reseller. The brand ends up owning more of the search results and drives traffic to the reseller. In other situations, both companies have legitimate claim to the brand and direct traffic to their own respective page. In these cases, run strong and successful PPC campaigns to achieve top results.

How do you fight back against those who bid on your term without permission?

  • It’s gotten more difficult. State laws and platforms are important factors.
  • A polite letter may put a halt to it.
  • Cease and desist letters are a strong option if the polite route doesn’t pan out.

The panelists agreed that, in most instances, going through the platform and/or sending a polite letter was effective. Most of the major brands represented on stage had rarely, if ever, been forced to send a cease and desist letter.

Let’s wrap it up!
The panelists agreed on a particular must-have: to effectively manage a brand, a clear and decisive plan must be in place. Step one is to understand the challenges and opportunities. The rest of the puzzle involves creating clear responses and actions for these scenarios. Every brand will experience different situations, but planning ahead is key. Anticipate situations your brand will face and get ahead of the curve with a smart plan of action. A strong PPC presence will keep your brand in a stronger position in competitive search results when you share a brand with other advertisers.