Google’s new trademark policy – in place from the 14th September – is a big deal that changes the way paid search is bought but it’s also common sense that will ultimately result in a better experience for users.
The policy allows qualifying advertisers to not only bid on other companies’ brand trademarks (a change made on 5th May 08), but to now include the trademarked term in the ad text. Primarily it means resellers of a product, companies that sell spare parts or compatible products, and information sites like reviews and news can now include trademarked terms in ad copy. For instance, a search for ‘Dell Streak’ could result in paid search ads for the product from a range of other non-Dell sites, like online shops and review sites, without asking Dell for their permission.
All changes to Google’s trademark policy affect brands but are mainly about improving user experience and choice. When a user searches for a ‘Breville Cordless kettle’ for instance, they may be looking for reviews, opinion, comparisons etc. In fact, to be presented with alternative options is actually a good thing from a consumer perspective. A ‘real life’ example would be securing shelf space in a shop. When you go to B&Q’s drill aisle looking for Black & Decker parts, you’re also presented with a range of relevant products.
User experience is echoed in one of the caveats Google has announced, that the only ads to be considered for removal will be those that don’t adhere to the new guidelines or, if they do, those that confuse users. For instance, a site advertising a brand of mobile phone when the site you clickthrough to doesn’t actually sell it won’t be allowed. Nor would a car manufacturer be allowed to mislead users by claiming to have information on a competitor brand in order to generate traffic when in fact it has none.
Brands will potentially face competition on trademark terms previously reserved for their exclusive use in ad text but there’s plenty of reason to be optimistic. There may be increases in auction costs for brands on their own trademarked terms, but they are likely to be marginal thanks to Google’s own quality score and relevance system. This ensures the most relevant sites to the search term are up weighted in paid results, significantly reducing cost. A Nokia website will almost always be the most relevant site for that trademark for instance. Likewise, if a user is genuinely only interested in a particular brand site, they will still clickthrough – if they don’t, they probably had an alternative motive for searching in the first place.
The change is in line with European law and will be rolled out across the UK, Canada and Ireland, bringing each territory up-to-speed with the US’ year old policy. In many ways, this move shouldn’t really be a surprise for any brand using search marketing. The best place for full information is Google’s own FAQ.