Recent changes to Google’s AdWords policy which allow third parties to bid on trademarked keywords are seeing many brands lose web traffic to competitors willing to outspend them on their own trademarked search terms.
As of late April, keywords that were restricted on Google AdWords as a result of a trademark are no longer restricted in Australia, China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, New Zealand, South Korea and Brazil.
Prior to this change, if a business purchased AdWords advertising against a trademarked term then Google would step in and remove those ads. For example, previously, if Virgin wanted to invest in advertising to browsers who searched the brand name Qantas, Qantas could request Google to take down those Virgin AdWord ads as a breach of their trademark.
But now the search giant no longer prevents advertisers from selecting a third party’s trademark as a keyword in ads targeting these regions, hypothetically enabling the Virgin website to appear above the Qantas website in search results, despite a user searching for “Qantas”.
Daylan Pearce, SEO lead at Next Digital says his clients’ traffic has already been impacted.
“We noticed that ever since this changed their traffic has dropped so we jumped on and had a look at it, and sure enough there was a lot more activity on their brand terms. Competitors are getting in there now and buying their brand terms which, in a lot of cases for these big brands, is their number one search term.”
According to Pearce, the number one result on a search page attracts about 30% to 40% of clicks. With competitors now purchasing trademarked search terms, brands which once sat at the top of the ladder organically have been bumped down to third or fourth spot, with massive repercussions for their traffic.
“Technically they are still number one for ‘organic’ but now there is more competition sitting on top of that organic term which wasn’t there previously. So what’s happening in the case of my clients is that traffic from their organic clicks has declined because more people are clicking on paid ones," he told B&T.
Google says the change is all about providing web users with more choice, and encouraging healthy competition. If you go shopping for Nike shoes, the shoe store will always display Nikes alongside New Balance, Reebok and the rest. According to Google, this is being replicated online.
“Our trademark policy is designed to provide greater choice to users via Google ads. This is similar to the way a shopper benefits when they see a variety of brands’ products on a store shelf. Even if they are looking for a particular brand of running shoe, for example, seeing many different options enables them to compare features, prices, and more to buy the best running shoe for them.
“The same idea applies on the web — people searching for one brand of product should be able to easily find information about products from similar brands to make informed decisions," the search giant said.
There is still a Quality Score with AdWords. This means if other companies bid against your trademark but it’s not as relevant and the ad is not as good as your ad, then you also pay less for that click then any competitor would.
But Pearce isn’t convinced. “It’s kind of transparent to say that. Their profits for next quarter are going to be massive because of this little tweak…This is where Google is really going to lick their lips.
“When you look at it from a brand perspective or a company perspective, it’s a brand’s bread and butter that it is number one for that brand term, so if they want to ensure that they are dominating that space they now have to spend more with Google.”