In May 2009, Google updated its AdWords policy for trademarked terms. Since then, I've picked up on a lot of residual confusion about what is and isn't okay to do with a trademarked term in Google paid search. The debate over trademarked terms has recently been rekindled by the holiday season as competition on trademarked terms drives up bid prices .
HubSpot has even been a victim of trademark abuse (and officially filed a complaint in Google). While it certainly wouldn't hurt to read Google's full policy on its own terms , here's the layman's version of what's okay and not okay to do.
What's Okay To Do:
- Buy a trademarked word as a keyword. This is legal in practically all countries ; France is a notable exception.
- Use a trademarked word in your ad text if by doing so you are "helping" the trademark owner.
Here's a good example: if you're a local auto dealer, it would be okay to use the word "Ford" in your ad to advertise that you sell Ford products. If you sell, resell, or offer unbiased information on a trademarked word you're buying, then it's absolutely fine to use that word in the text of your ad. All those scenarios help the Google searcher find what they're looking for.
What's NOT Okay To Do:
- You can't use someone else's trademarked word in your ad text if you're pretending to be them, claiming you're better than them, or otherwise trying to capture some of the search traffic that's looking for them.
For example, if you're Honda, it's not okay to run an ad that says "We have better prices than Ford!" If someone is using your trademarked term in an ad in this way, you can file a complaint with Google here .
The reason this policy is in place boils down to the fact that Google is in the business of serving up good search results. If a searcher is looking for a trademarked term, Google wants to get them to reach the good or service as quickly as possible, something that is impossible to do when your search results are cluttered up with competing messages from companies trying to poach traffic.
Why Does Google Allow Us To Buy Trademarked Terms At All?
If you are able to convince searchers to click on your ad instead of the trademark owner in four short lines of text without referencing the trademarked word, Google assumes that you are a search result worthy of being available to the searcher.
In closing, a tip: I've found that bidding on a competitor's trademarked terms isn't the best use of PPC spend. Users who are looking for a trademarked word usually know exactly what they're looking for and aren't likely to engage with your ad at all - it will just be noise to them.
Beyond that, Google will charge you more for trademarked words since you won't be able to use them in your ad text and thus will have a lower Quality Score. Google knows you aren't your competitor, so it's going to charge you more to dilute the integrity of their search results. In the end, you're left paying more money for low-quality traffic.
Have you ever had anyone use your trademarked term in a PPC ad? Alternatively, have you ever had great success buying a competitor's term on PPC?
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