Throughout my four years working as an affiliate, the question I get the most from brands I work with is “Other than continuous optimization, promoting our offers and purchasing ad placement on your site, what else can you do to drive revenue growth for our program?” I would always answer this question with the exact same answer: “Trademark Bidding Rights.”

What are Trademark Bidding Rights?

When an affiliate asks a brand for trademark bidding rights, they’re asking for permission to run a paid search campaign on the brand’s behalf. The affiliate would be bidding on the brand’s trademarked terms and/or trademark+ terms depending on the terms of agreement. Trademark bidding and trademark+ term bidding are slightly different. A “trademark term” consists of the trademark term only, ie: “BrandName”, whereas a “trademark+ term” includes the trademark PLUS another term, such as “BrandName coupon” or “BrandName Sale”. To achieve best results from a TM partnership, the brand should allow a mix of TM+ and TM bidding.

The Advantage of Granting an Affiliate TM/TM+ Bidding Rights.

When it comes to running a TM/TM+ bidding partnership through the affiliate channel, it’s purely performance-based. In other words, the brand only pays the affiliate on a per sale basis, so the affiliate is shouldering the cost of the CPC. This will then open up budget to be spent on other digital marketing efforts. Additionally, granting an affiliate with the privilege of doing PPC on a brand’s behalf can lead to negotiations for additional exposure on the affiliate’s website. This can include premium banner or text link placement, social media placements, newsletter inclusion, etc. Depending on the strategy implemented, allowing an affiliate to bid on TM and/or TM+ keywords can also help brands bump down your competition on the SERPs (depending on how cluttered the search landscape is for your branded terms).

Why TM/TM+ Bidding Partnerships Excite Affiliates.

When it comes to affiliates who rely on paid traffic (and even those who do not), TM/TM+ bidding opportunities with the right brand will excite the majority of affiliates. This is because they have the potential to earn additional commission on sales referred (depending on other factors at play such as the search volume for the brand’s trademarked terms, commission rate, AOV, and the number of affiliates bidding on the brand’s keywords).

On that note, brands should keep in mind that when approaching an affiliate with a TM/TM+ partnership opportunity, they will do their research. In other words, they must quantify the opportunity based on their own set of qualifiers. If a brand’s terms receive low search volume, opportunities to form these sorts of PPC partnerships with affiliates will be more limited. When approached by a brand with a PPC partnership opportunity, the first thing the affiliate will do is check out search volume. Creating PPC partnerships with affiliates is not necessarily a fit for every brand.

Choosing the Right TM/TM+ Affiliate.

Choose an affiliate that you have an existing relationship with to ensure transparency and honesty throughout the partnership. If no one comes to mind (and even if someone does), consult with your affiliate program manager or agency to see who they might recommend.  Schedule a call with the affiliate and learn about their experience with PPC in general. Also see if they have any case studies they can share from campaigns they’ve run with brands similar to yours.

Define Your Strategy.

Granting an affiliate TM/TM+ bidding rights does not mean that they’ll be competing with your in-house PPC team. The goal is for the affiliate to collaborate with your in-house PPC team, and come up with a strategy that will be mutually beneficial (without raising CPCs for your team).

If you’re going to allow the affiliate to bid on the same keywords as your in-house PPC team, then be sure to put bid caps in place to prevent an increase in CPCs. Additionally, if you want your in-house PPC ads to always remain in the first position, then ask the affiliate to also set up a special rule in their Google AdWords account. This will ensure that their ads never rise above the second position (affiliates DO have the ability to set up these types of position rules).

Here’s another option: Rather than bidding on the same keywords and enforcing bid caps, allocate your in-house PPC budget on trademark keywords. Have the affiliate bid on TM+ keywords only, such as “BrandName coupon”, “BrandName promo code”. In other words, you’re bidding on different sets of keywords entirely. This specific strategy is typically the most cost-effective strategy for both parties.

Regardless of your strategy, make sure to decide if you want the affiliate’s PPC campaign to direct link to your website, or go to their website first. The majority of brands require the affiliate to link to their own website.

Do’s & Don’ts When Opening TM/TM+ Bidding to Specific Affiliates.

  • Do submit a Google Authorization form to ensure Google whitelists the affiliate for your TM terms
  • Do provide a defined set of guidelines and suggested keywords to the chosen affiliate, and clearly outline any prohibited keywords or phrases
  • Do update your program terms within the network to clearly state all TM bidding is prohibited for the program unless permission has been granted
  • Do define length of partnership, provide goals, as well as expectations
  • Do make sure to give the affiliate(s) a copy of your marketing calendar, or at least 24 hours notice when launching a new promotion in order to give the affiliate more than enough time to prep PPC ads + get them approved by Google
  • Don’t give more than three affiliates bidding rights simultaneously as it becomes difficult to manage/evaluate individual results
  • Don’t let an affiliate launch a TM/TM+ campaign without first providing the affiliate with a set of guidelines or specified keywords for the campaign (even if this was discussed verbally, get it in writing)
  • Don’t go weeks without getting in touch with the affiliate, and schedule monthly status calls to discuss your PPC partnership