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Bidding on Brands... again with new policy change

some affiliates think they can get away with it



6:02 pm on Jan 19, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Our company sent out to the affiliates to make sure that they understand they are not allowed to bid on our brand names.

Yesterday and today, there was an affiliate who has been bidding on our brand name and outbid us. We had big drop in our sales (may or may not related to this incident.)

Affiliates. Read each Merchant's TOS before you bid on the brand terms. Don't do it just because you CAN do it. You will spend lots of money and we WON"T pay a dime to the affiliates who violated the TOS. Yes, you will not get paid for even previous earnings.

If you think it is not fair, think again. The TOS cleraly states that we don pay for affilliate who violated the TOS. Bidding on brand terms is a serious one for us.


6:24 pm on Jan 19, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I understand you're annoyed at this but wouldn't it be better to send warning emails to the offenders rather than blasting all affiliates everywhere? And not all merchants deny brand-name bidding.

I guess you're just letting off steam, but I don't think that the types of people that defy TOS' will give a flying fig at a message they read on a message board.


6:38 pm on Jan 19, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

We reminded all the affiliates of TOS on bidding brand terms. we usually send warning for minor violations. This time it is a blatant/intentional violation. I am not just steaming off here.

If Any of you are bidding on the brand terms after the Google policy change, read TOS again for each merchant. You should be happy about us not suing you.


6:39 pm on Jan 19, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

BTW, christh.
I believe it is not you. :)
So the comment above goes to the affiliate who is bidding on our brand terms.


8:16 pm on Jan 19, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I was up against this once with a product I was trying to promote. I read their TOS agreement very throughly. It stated I could not use their three word name. I did use the individual words in other keywords. I even used misspelled keywords, but never the three words like they explained in the TOS statement. EVERY keyword, misspelling, and anything that even looked like them was rejected.

I did have some sales but dropped them just because they thought they owned the Websters dictionary.


8:47 pm on Jan 19, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

In our case, our brand is well known one with only two words. There are not many misspelings associated with it. We may just warn/disregard them if it was about misspellings. They are bidding on our exact two word brand name!


8:56 pm on Jan 19, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

You are lucky to have 'affiliates' if you speak to them like that.

I certainly wouldn't entertain a business relationship with you, no danger!


9:05 pm on Jan 19, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

So why do you have affiliates if you don't want them generating sales for you? Well, actually, I guess you want them to do that, you'd just rather not pay them the commissions they've earned.

This guy broke the rules, kick him out and send him his money. To keep the money he earned before you changed the TOS is dirty and unethical and you're making yourself no better than him. You want to sue him, take him to court, crush him, teach him a lesson so every other filthy dirty affiliate out there knows you mean business . . . refresh my memory again - why do you have affiliates?


10:35 pm on Jan 19, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Oh, don't get me wrong.
We are a well known brand name in the US. I mean I work for a large corporation with one of the largest affiliate programs.

We have never failed to pay the commision to our affiliates for many years.
We may have to deduct the ill-earned commission from the affiliates and kick them out.
But why do you bid on brand terms when merchants say do not do it several times? We have sent several emails recently specifically not to do it. We even changed our welcome email to emphasize "Non Brand term bidding policy" in red.

There ARE still a few affiliates doing it.
It is because they know our brand name is popular and the conversion is REALLY good. And there is no one else bidding on them except..us. So you would think you canmake fortune after thie Google policy change if you out bid us only 10-20% of the traffic, you might be OK.

Wrong. If you bid on our brand terms knowing that it is against TOS, it is unethical.
If you bid on our brand terms without knowing it, you need to read TOS closely.

I sent out an email to our affiliate program manager about the affiliate. She will decide what to do with the affiliate. Could be just a warning...could be a kickout.


10:40 pm on Jan 19, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

BTW, we didn't change the TOS recently about the brand terms. It was there for over two years, since we started using paid search ourselves.

Qui Gon Jinn

11:02 pm on Jan 19, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

What you may want to look at is taking the top 100 phrases & mispellings containing your brand name.

Then ascertain where you appear in organic results. If you don't hit number one each time, then you will suffer potential leakage of business. A shrewd affiliate fills this void by limiting this leakage of customers, in essence protecting the brand at the forefront of search in return for commission.

It's actually surprising how many brands cannot even convert on various phrases / variations / exact match of their own brand name.

When we do this, we call it a litmus test on the brand ROI. If successful we look at more product targeted terms. If the ROI is still favourable, then we may even go more generic.

When a merchant remains blinkered to the pros & cons, we give them a wide berth & usually don't even bother exploring further. There are numerous merchants we give at least a million $ in sales each year on non brand related terms becuase they are open minded.

A compromise maybe to say, please don't bid on an exact match, but phrases and mispellings are acceptable.

Now if your epc is publically available to affiliates like on CJ, a brand name which converts should have a high EPC which looks attractive to recruiting more quality affiliates which equates to more sales. It can be a win win situation.

If your brand consists of two words, an advertiser - maybe even your competitors, using enough negative keywords can appear for your brand without actually bidding on it, because of broadmatch.

All too often the merchant clamps down on affiliates rather than competitors, then when an agency gets involved obo merchant they bid too much, so many bid values we see made by agencies are laughable. Affiliates are very good at high ROI with low CPA. The affiliate is the one taking the financial risk and it's not in their interest to flitter money when an agency gets a kick back or cut from both ends.

Otherwise, we could always get into a debate on who actually owns the brand, the consumer or the trademark holder.

[edited by: Qui_Gon_Jinn at 11:29 pm (utc) on Jan. 19, 2005]


11:04 pm on Jan 19, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Some big affiliates work with hundreds of affiliate programs. Each program has it's own unique TOS. Most change their TOS once or twice a year. It's easy to forget (or miss an email).


1:38 am on Jan 20, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I agree with both of you.

For the brand terms, we are number 1 for most of the keywords and variations naturally.

For paid search, we don't worry about the competitors. If they bid on our brand names, they will get sued and you will see the names on the major newspapers. Those big companies do not risk for small money. They could lose more than a few million dollars by doing it.

For the TOS, that's why we sent a few reminders to the affiliates. For the last two years, we barely had problems with the affiliates. They knew the rules and followed. A few month ago, we openes oiur affiliate application to smaller publishers and I believe this one is one of the new ones. If you had little problems for almost two years, that is pretty good affiliates I would say.


1:45 am on Jan 20, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

"But why do you bid on brand terms when merchants say do not do it several times? We have sent several emails recently specifically not to do it. We even changed our welcome email to emphasize "Non Brand term bidding policy" in red."

Is the "you" you are addressing on this forum? If not, then why are you here griping at us about it? I think you should deal with the person/people causing the trouble directly.


2:14 am on Jan 20, 2005 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator skibum is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

May also want to put the PPC terms (ie don't bid on brands) in the "about" section on CJ or whatever network the program runs through so they cannot be missed. An affiliate who is in hundreds of programs probably reads very little of the email the merchants send out.


4:52 am on Jan 20, 2005 (gmt 0)

I'd stay far away from any program you manage, too strict and don't seem to care that affiliates are taking large risks and their own money to make money for you. Pay the guy the money, tell him to stop, if he continues to do it then cancel his account and pay him out. Don't steal money he has risked, etc. because it violates a little term. If you are sucha huge company just cought up the few thousand, it should be nothing to you.

You think you own the world, but affiliates know better than to think there is only one merchant in each niche. He will most likely drop you if you treat him poorly.


5:49 am on Jan 20, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Yeah, I see the points from all of you.
We have the PPC term on the affiliate network site, too, but it is not also easy to find. I agree that many of the affiliates do not read the emails from merchants. (I, myself, am an affiliate for my hobby sites. So, I know what it is like to be an affiliate.)

And I am not talking about just a few thousand dollars of sales here. It is more than that. And yes, we have been warning those affiliates who violate the TOS and most of them didn't do it again. I actually do not know if we kicked anyone out for the last year. If I am an affiliate program manager, I wouldn't want to bother with those small affiliates who just want to cheat on the affiliate program.

There are so many hard working and ethical affiliates on our affiliate program. Only few of them (mostly new ones) try to make quick money by violating the TOS with/without knowing it.

Eventually it is our affiliate program manager's decision on this. She has been on the same line with me on this for the last few days. I have warned her and other people in our company that there will be a few affiliates who will bid our our brand names, because I know it will make quick moeny for them from my experience as an affiliate.

Usually our affiliates are very cooperative and we support them in many ways. I hope we can keep the relationship that way.


5:55 am on Jan 20, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

About the TOS and risks involved, ask anyone who has Adsense on their sites. They will say interesting stories about Google Adsense Team. I have Adsense on my hobby sites and read the TOS several times but am always not comfortable with their TOS even though my sites are following Adsense's TOS very well. You know what the experienced WW members say about it?

"If you don't like the TOS, leave the program"

That is the concensus there. We have paid every single penny even when the kicked out affiliates violated the TOS seriously. Google Adsense DOESN"T pay anything after they suspend the account.

I think large affiliates know the rule better and play by the rule. They do not risk just for quick money. They care about the long term relationship, which is what WE care.


6:09 am on Jan 20, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Read about the flipside:



6:19 am on Jan 20, 2005 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

I remember a CJ affiliate program about a year ago. One day I received an email about how some folks were bidding on their company name or something like that. The email was very rude and said that they were ready to go to court and sue anyone that did such a thing. Well, this shocked me, since we were not doing anything like that, but it made me not trust that company anymore. What arrogance, I was sending them business every month and they lumped me in with the 1% bad people. I removed their links and never put them back up. About two weeks later I received an email stating that many affiliates took that email in the wrong way and we shouldn't be afraid of being sued by them because we didn't do anything wrong.

I just checked and that CJ affiliate has gone from number one about a year ago, to the bottom of the list. It's hard to put the genie back in the bottle after you insult people that are risking their own money to sell your product or service. You might want to think about that before you send out some stupid email to all affiliates like that other company. I'm sure their entire IT department while feeling good about being tough on the TOS, are now looking for new jobs.

Something to think about!

Mister Bogdan

9:07 am on Jan 20, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member


You are right... I was in the same situation.. But with linkshare program..

Now I don't have single link to the linkshare and CJ on my websites...


2:38 pm on Jan 20, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member


Thanks for the link.

In fact I read the thread before. Yes, I agree that there should be an explanation before the termination. I think our affiliate program manager is more reasonable and less arrogant, :), so I think she will handle this properly when she comes back from a business trip.

MarkHutch, Thanks for the heads up.
Since I didn't send the email reminder to our affiliates and our copy writer reviews the emails, I believe the emails were nicer than I am saying here.

I guess I am just letting off steam as christh said earlier...because I am cooling down a little bit now. :)


3:20 pm on Jan 20, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Granted I do not read every affiliate email notice. (could be a full time position) I seem to remember some recent affiliate TOS emails that said something like: you couldn't use their brandname, misspellings of, etc.. anywhere on your site, in the <title>, meta tags, page url, etc...

Click Here For Mystery Merchant - even though we can't tell you who it is, we assure you it is a good place to buy stuff. come on just try it.


4:27 pm on Jan 20, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Yeah, there are a few mechants who forbid any paid/natural search activity by affiliates. We do allow our affiliates to use SEO for their own sites. It is always difficult to draw a line just for anything.

Qui Gon Jinn

11:38 pm on Jan 20, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

A merchant cannot prevent anyone from having their brand name within the copy or tags of anyones site. If they did try to impose, they would suffer commercial suicide of their program.

It was something Interflora tried to do in the UK, and is used as an example benchmark of how not to & can't do with regard to imposing restrictions on publishers - whether an affiliate or not.

To the point where you were not actually permitted to use the word Interflora in an text link or copy.


3:18 am on Jan 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Haven't been in the affiliate game too long, but did run a merchant site and I remember why I sought out affiliates... They really upped the game for me.
In the short time I have been getting into the affiliate side of it, I have been struck by the arrogance and greed of some merchants. They seem to forget totally why they started an affiliate programme in the first place. Maybe time some of them sat back and thought about it again, not get caught up in the day-to-day jetstream of little problems and get carried away.


5:02 am on Jan 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Gene....whats your brand name>


5:28 am on Jan 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator skibum is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

There are so many aff managers out there that seem to have been pulled from the accounting or some other unrelated department to fill the AM role and just don't get it. Just find the real AMs that understand the space and work with them, there are plenty great ones in all the networks.

OTOH, the claim of "risk" bidding on most brand names isn't quite accurate. If a company has a recognizable brand, the conversion rates from their own in-house PPC programs, organic listings, and affiliates who bid on the brands tends to be much higher than most generic keywords.

It doesn't seem unreasonable to at least request that affiliates keep bids on branded terms to below the official site. I always stay away from the ones that start telling you how you can and can't optimize your site, especially the ones that don't want to use their brand name in your site but then post links in the network that contain the brand.........


6:29 am on Jan 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I won't work for a merchant who wants to have everything to himself. What's a merchant doing fighting with his affiliates for sales?

You should allow your affiliate to do what they can to get sales for you. That way you can concentrate on product development and affiliate support.



9:37 am on Jan 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Its not a case of merchants wanting everything for themselves.

We have already paid for our brand name over the years and its not out of the question to ask affiliates to steer clear. If not, merchants just end up paying for their brand name all over again through commission payments.

This 45 message thread spans 2 pages: 45

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