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To Bid or Not to Bid – The Trademark Keyword Question

Anna George

by Anna George on 4th April 2011

Microsoft announced recently a change to their trademark policy – they will no longer investigate complaints related to trademark keywords.

This change means now Microsoft adCenter are moving closer to being more in line with Google AdWords – as you may know Google has been allowing bidding on trademark terms for a while!

So what does this change mean? Well, great if you’ve got a big player in your market who you want a slice of – not so great if you are that big player!

One big thing here to note is that the trademark policy change applies to keywords you are bidding on, not the ad text you write. So you can for example bid on ‘Brand X’ as a keyword, but then cannot write “We Are Better than Brand X” or something similar in your ad copy – that is still breaking trademark policy.

Things to consider…

There are some key points within the trademark terms for both AdWords and adCenter which should be considered – some match, some don’t so be aware when importing and transferring campaigns:

  • Trademark terms in ad copy – as mentioned above, this is a big no no from both Google and Microsoft
  • Ad display URLs – Google will not consider trademark complaints against display URLs, however Microsoft will
  • Dynamic keyword insertion – if you are using keyword insertion in your ad copy then be wary of what users may see. Google will simply use the default text you have included in your keyword insertion if a trademarked term would show. Microsoft on the other hand will remove the keyword and take it offline if a trademark complaint is received
  • Complaints process – Google allows advertisers to file trademark complaints which are relevant to all ads and allow authorisation of advertisers who can use the trademarked term in their ads. Microsoft however will only allow complaints to be made on specific ads that infringe trademarks.

As with all topics concerning Trademarks this is still very much a grey area as to whether you should or shouldn’t bid on competitors trademarks. What we are covering in this post is merely the change in trademark policy from Microsoft – the debate will continue within our industry for many years!

A recent case which took place in California may make you rethink your strategy: Binder v. Disability Group

Anna George

Anna George

Anna has worked in online marketing and eCommerce for over 4 years, working both digital agency and client side. She provides insightful tips for webmasters.

1 Comment

  • Samantha Noble

    Sam 5th April 2011

    Some really good pointers here, thanks Anna. Something I would like to add and make sure people are aware of is the damage that bidding on brand terms can do to your PPC Account. The Quality Score is obviously going to be low as you are not ‘Brand X’ so you need to weigh up the benefits of gaining some extra, relatively ‘cheap’ traffic over the lifetime performance of your PPC campaigns.

    I have seen brand bidding work in some industries but failed in others so my recommendations would be:
    - Create a new campaign for brand bidding terms
    - Watch it like a hawk and don’t be afraid to switch it off if it is not working

    Reply to this comment

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