A while back I wrote about how Google REFUSES to stop showing ads for search terms that we clearly have trademarked such as “bluehost” and “hostmonster” etc. It is a frustrating experience to say the least. This is how it works (within the crazy machinations of Google) – You fill out a trademark complaint with google and list the search terms that violate your trademarks. After about 8 weeks (If you are VERY lucky) and your trademarked terms really are trademarked, etc they will grant you a reprieve that blocks advertisers from using Google adwords with your trademarked terms in the text. At first this seems like it will help, but let me show you exactly why its a waste of time.
Lets say a potential customer types “web hosting” into google. I want our site to show if we can, and I especially want our affiliates sites to show. We want our affiliates to make the most money they can! This holds true for all kinds of hosting terms such as “php hosting, frontpage hosting, best web hosting” and so forth. What I want to protect from are the cherry picker affiliates that buy up our trademarked terms such as “Bluehost, hostmosnter, blue host, host monster, blue hosting” etc. When these search terms are typed in on google any adwords advertisements are blocked (BUT ONLY IF THEY HAVE THE WORD “BLUEHOST” or “HOSTMONSTER” in the text of the ad itself. They can still buy ads based on our trademarked keyword of “bluehost” as long as they don’t use the offending “term” in the text of the ad itself.
So with the first half of the battle won with Googles help anyone that has “bluehost” and “hostmonster” in the text of their ad is blocked. However, all that did is make everyone creative in their ad text using “Host – monster” , “blue web hosting”, and other “similiar terms” to get around our block. The next step to protecting our brand was to contact all the main affiliates with a list of “trademarked” terms that were currently violating and explain our policies regarding this. There were only about 20 main affiliates that were doing this on a consistent and wide spread basis. Most of these were large affiliates that I knew and have dealt with personally. All but one agreed to immediately stop buying keywords based on our trademarked terms, and within a week the final holdout affiliate group had also come around and agreed to remove the terms.
Ah, all was good right? WRONG! Within 24 hours an entire new group of affiliates had purchased every available ad spot for our trademarked terms. What to do, what to do. Now with all our main affiliate relationships taken care of the first round, this next group of “violators” were affiliates that received very few signups and preyed mostly on these type of “brand recognition” signups. Since buying these keywords are important to us, and we don’t pay affiliates for buying up our own domain name and brands to promote our services we simply disable and informed the new list of violators that we don’t pay the affiliates that don’t follow this rule now. With over 30,000 affiliates for Bluehost this rule now affects less than 20 of them, yet new affiliates try this method out everyday. They won’t get paid for the signups, but I guess they can keep trying.
The reason I write about this is two fold. First, Google could make this MUCH easier on us, but they never will. Why not? Because it makes them a pile of money to allow others to trample our trademark and advertise for terms that are clearly 100% related to our business. That is why it is so important to have someone regulate this other than the search engines themselves. You can’t put Cookie Monster in charge of protecting the cookie jar. The temptation is too great (Even for him!).
The second reason I write about this is to say that even after all the rubbish we have to go through to “protect” these keywords it is worth it. We save over $30,000 a month in bogus affiliate fees that we would have normally been paying out to affiliates. We LOVE our affiliates and want them to make money, but bring us NEW business. Don’t take our brand and charge us for signups that are already ours based on our trademarked search terms.
Matt Heaton / President Bluehost.com