Whether or not to bid on brand terms isn’t a global “yes” or “no” – the right answer for your affiliate marketing channel is going to depend on a series of conditions, determining brand bidding best practices.
Allowing affiliates to bid on Trademark terms can help protect your brand, increase coverage for keywords, and increase conversion rate.
By carefully selecting a group of your best affiliate partners, you can use this powerful affiliate marketing strategy to boost incremental sales.
In this article, we map out the 5 best affiliate brand bidding practices:
- Bidding Strategy
- Identifying Affiliate Partners
- Setting the Rules
- Ad Monitoring
- Measuring Success
Define a Bidding Strategy
Defining your media strategy will help when setting Trademark Bidding rules, there are a few questions to ask yourself while defining a bidding strategy.
Are you currently running ads through your own paid search channel?
If so, be sure you’re clear on the strategy and goals of this channel before expanding with new partners. Laying a clear picture of your brands ad space and clearly communicating that to the partner will only help in creating a successful, sustainable partnership for both parties.
Do you want to brand bid alongside partners?
This is going to depend on your overall paid search strategy. As a brand, do you want to be present on “trademark + discount” search term results? Do you have the budget for those types of spots or would you rather conserve that budget for space in other pages?
Again, knowing your channel goals and capabilities are going to set the tone for this step.
Do you want to use partners to offset PPC ad spend?
This is a major benefit of partnering with an affiliate to run TM+ campaigns. By reserving the budget on “trademark + discount” terms, you can lean more heavily into more expensive (valuable) search terms that will help elevate your brand and reach customers at the top of the sales funnel.
What about offering incentives like co-op ad money?
A true sign of partnership, this is a valuable question worth considering. Would you rather your brand not appear in “trademark + discount” search terms? Or maybe you’ve found an affiliate partner that specialized in paid search advertising and has a better chance of success running your ads for you rather than your own internal team. There are definitely affiliates out there that match this profile and providing supplemental budget to help them run ads is a true sign of trust between teams.
Identify Affiliate Partners
The type of traffic in question is going to determine which affiliates to work with. If you’re looking for affiliates to solely run traffic for “trademark + discount” search terms, it makes sense to partner with a discount or coupon affiliate site because these websites are built to drive conversions from the brand store page. Many times you can partner with these affiliates to host custom offers in an effort to drive up Average Order Value or push a specific SKU.
If you’re looking for supplemental paid search help to bid on longer tail, more top of funnel keywords, you may want to partner with a quality content or review site that offers custom content and reviews on your brand and products. There’s a good chance these search terms are more expensive, but it has the potential to reach a broader audience and hit top of funnel traffic as they begin their search.
“The best piece of advice I could give to a brand looking to partner in the TM+ space is to go with someone who you have a proven and trusted relationship with. That way you know they’ve already seen success promoting your brand, they’ll always do right by your brand name, and you’ll be able to get a hold of them if anything needs to change.”– Morgan Mittie, Senior Affiliate Manager
After you’ve decided what type of affiliate to work with, settle on someone who you’ve already been working with and who you have a good relationship with.
A lot of TM+ partnerships come down to “Scouts Honor” (I’ll agree to give you rights if you promise to give me placement in a monthly newsletter, etc).
IOs are rarely signed around for these partnerships, especially when trying to move quickly, so it’s important that both parties can trust each other that each will hold up their end of the bargain.
Trademark Bidding Rules
How you set and communicate TM+ rules to participating affiliates comes down to your current strategy regarding paid search.
If you, as a brand, want to remain active in the TM+ space while partnering with affiliates, you need to make it clear that a) the brand must always be first in search results and should never be outbid by partners, and b) partners should stick to whichever specific TM+ search terms you’re okay with. You don’t want them competing against you to drive up higher-value keywords.
TM Bidding Rules should include:
- Allowed and prohibited keywords. Be specific and/or define classes of keywords.
- Allowed and prohibited ad copy. You can refer to an external policy document that changes from time to time in order to give yourself flexibility with wording and offers.
- Allowed promotions and products. Any specific promotions or products TM+ partners shouldn’t be promoting need to be communicated.
- Page rank. If you are bidding alongside partners, you will need to define page rank rules. Examples include: never above you, or your brand is always first on keywords x, y and z.
- Legal Agreement. Meet with your legal team and put the plan into writing. You will need a well-defined legal agreement that specifically explains the rules of the engagement, notice procedures and enforcement (i.e., you lose your payout, or are kicked out of the program). This will help cover you if you ever need to end the relationship quickly.
Whenever you partner with an affiliate, part of your brand bidding best practices should include keeping a close eye on the overall search space and how the addition of that partner might affect SERP’s and CPC’s.
There are many solutions out there but a couple of our favorite include SEMRush and BrandVerity.
This tool is valuable for all the things it provides in addition to search space monitoring.
Users can inspect websites, individual landing pages, and competitor site traffic in addition to monitoring CPCs and tracking search result positions.
Knowing which pages of your affiliates or competitors are driving the most traffic can be invaluable when coming up with a TM+ plan.
A MUST have tool in the affiliate space. BrandVerity syncs with your affiliate network to not only monitor the overall search space, but also specifies which affiliates might be jumping into the space and which ones you have an existing relationship with.
This is extremely helpful in catching potential TM+ violators who are bidding on your brand terms without permission. You can flag their ads and report them to Google, Bing, etc. all from within the BrandVerity platform.
The manner in which you will enforce your policies should be neatly detailed in your legal agreement.
Remember affiliate marketing is primarily driven by a positive working relationship with affiliates. Be kind, provide fair notices and clear consequences.
Always act swiftly in reprimanding any TM+ violators (or if your existing partners ever over-step in their bidding). Any “uninvited guests” in the TM+ space will only make things more expensive and less valuable for you and your participating TM+ partners that are playing by the rules.
Success can be measured a number of ways depending on what your goals were to begin with. A few ways to consider success:
- Did your internal paid search spend either decrease or get reallocated to more valuable search terms for your brand?
- Did the participating affiliate(s) increase in overall performance due to the traffic increase?
- Did the placements the affiliates provided in exchange for TM+ rights result in positive ROI for your brand?
- Did all parties uphold their end of the bargain and give this opportunity their best effort?
Affiliate Marketing Brand Bidding Takeaways
To recap, affiliate brand bidding best practices include the following points:
- Define a brand strategy
- Identify the right affiliate partners
- Establish Trademark bidding rules
- Monitor the ad space
- Enforce compliance
- Measure success
If you would like to learn more about affiliate marketing optimization tactics and how to use them to grow your affiliate program, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will set up a call to discuss strategy.