Allowing affiliates to bid on trademark terms (TM+) could boost program performance - JEBCommerce

Why You NEED Affiliates Bidding on TM+

This post was updated (March 1, 2019) by Stephen Robinson and was originally written by Geoff Marshall (May 23, 2016)

When I first started in affiliate marketing back in 2005, I remember the “wild, wild, west of paid search”, more commonly referred to as “pay-per-click” or PPC back then. If I wasn’t diligent about checking search engines often, a “rogue” or non-compliant affiliate could drive thousands of dollars of revenue bidding on trademark terms without permission in a matter of days or sometimes hours.

As a result, I quickly learned how to make sure affiliates were not bidding on our client’s trade mark plus terms (TM+) like “merchant name + coupon” or “merchant name + promotion code”. At the time, on a couple of our programs were allowing TM bidding of any kind, so we needed to make sure that it wasn’t happening.

A strongly worded email with screen shots of the search engine results page (SERP) attached were typically the first line of defense. This email would demand the publisher cease and desist their paid search efforts and add our merchant name to their negative match list. If we didn’t hear back in 48 hours, they received a second email email threatening to remove them from the program.

Fast forward to today, we still treat paid search violators in the same way, but with a few exceptions. Over the last few years, we have developed best practices for managing affiliates bidding on branded terms and developed great relationships with top publishers that excel at driving visitors, and incremental revenue.

If you aren’t allowing (or even testing) Affiliates to bid on TM+, you could be missing out.

Top 5 Reasons to Allow TM+ by Affiliates:

  1. Protect your brand (keep traffic going direct to your site)
  2. Better coverage of keywords
  3. Third party validation of discounts
  4. Increased exposure on affiliate site(s)
  5. Increased conversion rate

Let’s look at these individually.

If you look at the SERP for “merchant name + coupon” and you see the merchant’s competitors or results that just don’t fit the keywords, you could definitely benefit from 1 or 2 trusted affiliate partners bidding on TM+ terms. This will help to cover your trade mark terms and squeeze your competitors from the space, as well as those other entries that aren’t relevant.

This approach allows us to work with a couple of trusted partners to bid in concert with you, without driving up your internal keyword costs, to dominate the first page for your brand. Below is a quote from, one of our trusted paid search affiliates.

“FutureClick Media has been forging strategic TM + relationships with advertisers since 2013. These types of relationships allow advertisers to obtain exposure from a trusted publisher (like ourselves) on their valuable branded terms as well as enhanced exposure on our site.  In turn, it gives the consumer a trusted third-party source for valid affiliate offers and/or coupons. It can also allow for the advertiser to focus their spend on other keywords and have a trusted affiliate participate in the space in lieu of themselves should they choose not to bid on some or all of these terms.”

Zac Duvernet – Founder & CEO

While this seems pretty obvious, it is nearly impossible that your team, whether in-house or agency managed, is bidding on every conceivable keyword. Partnering with a proven TM+ affiliate can help to gain additional exposure on long-tail keywords your team may not have the time or resources to bid on.

The beauty of this model is that affiliates are assuming the risk by spending their budgets on these terms. This strategy will help save costs internally that can be shifted to other marketing efforts. The key to success if working with a trusted partner who is responsive and understands the goals of your internal paid search efforts.

JEBCommerce has close relationships with a select few of these publishers we can work with to help drive revenue for your program.

As consumer shopping behavior changes, we are seeing more and more consumers leaving the checkout page of a merchant’s website and googling “merchant name + coupon” to try and find a promo code for additional savings.

By working with a TM+ partner, you are owning more real estate on the SERP which means your customers will rest assured knowing they are getting the best deal available on line by shopping direct through your site, for them to click through, in order to get the assurance that they are finding the best deal.

One objection we often hear from merchants is, “Why would I want to pay an affiliate for a sale that was already ongoing in my cart?” The reality is that this customer is leaving your site and having another listing pointing back to your site may be the difference between a site visit and a conversion.

The risk here is potentially losing this sale to an affiliate bidding on your TM+ terms from a competitors’ program and driving traffic and potential revenue away from your site.

The right affiliate partner can help grow incremental revenue for your brand by leveraging their expertise to bid on keywords your team may not be able to get to.

Best part is, the affiliates are spending their own money to test these keywords, transferring the risk from you to them. The only cost for you as the merchant is when the affiliate is able to drive a sale and you are paying them out a commission.

TM+ rights are highly sought after by affiliates and a right often not overlooked. In fact, affiliates are often willing to provide additional exposure on their site, home page, category, newsletters, etc. in exchange for permission to bid on your TM+ terms.

This increased exposure is often at a value of upwards of $1,000/month at no additional cost.

The impact of TM+ bidding extend to higher conversion rates since these customers are typically bottom of the funnel and they are ready to purchase. When they find are able to quickly find an offer in the search engines, it typically leads to a heightened sense of assurance of a getting a good deal.

John E. Rodriguez, Director of Business Development with says, “There are two types of online customers. There are the “shoppers” who are searching for information about the product they seek or possibly looking for the best promotion for that product regardless of the merchant offering it. Then there are the “ready to buy” consumers who are ready to make the purchase from their targeted advertiser”.

“The consumer psychology associated with these “ready to buy” consumers has long been to find the “Best of Web” coupon code at that very moment before pushing the buy button. In this scenario, having a transparent search privilege relationship with the right publisher is paramount.”

Efficiency of spend is crucial to keeping costs low and partnering with a trusted TM+ partner who has agreed not to drive up bids or outbid you is the first step towards a successful partnership.

As mentioned earlier, JEBCommerce has relationships dating back 10+ years that allow us to recommend some of the best and brightest minds in the paid search category. Our goal is to take away the pain points of paid search and create a winning formula to drive more incremental revenue for your brand.

Learn how JEBCommerce helped a major outdoor retailer develop a strategy that utilized Trademark Plus (TM Plus) to triple its performance without additional spending – proof that when approached properly, TM Plus can be an effective addition to any affiliate marketing plan.

So, hopefully you see the value of TM+ affiliates, what is next?

Transparency. Trust. Test. Make sure you have identified affiliates you can have open conversations regarding the keywords list they will be bidding on, if they aren’t willing to provide this information, probably the first strike against them.

If you can’t find a partner you trust, then testing is moot and the overall experience will be painful. Be sure to set clear guidelines around what keywords an affiliate is allowed to bid on, bid caps, etc. Keep testing until you find the right mix of sales without driving up internal costs.

If you have questions additional questions regarding bidding on TM, be sure to read the JEBCommerce Affiliate Marketing Guide to Trademark Bidding.