Should companies allow affiliates to bid on their brand terms?
Whilst many see the use of brand bidders (affiliates that are allowed to appear on a company’s brand terms) as being antiquated and out of touch, there are many companies that do utilise them as part of their affiliate marketing programme.
It’s worth taking a look at the benefits and potential issues:
- Brand bidders can raise your brand’s profile if you don’t have the budget or resource to manage an efficient PPC programme
- Brand bidders will support the generation of revenue for your company
- If you do currently have significant competition in the search space on your brand terms, allowing brand bidders to appear will mean you are more likely to convert the sale than lose them to your competitors
- Allowing affiliates to appear on your brand terms could result in the cannibalisation of your own activity
- Having affiliates appear on your brand terms could result in the CPC of your own search activity increasing
- Allowing brand bidders to appear on your brand terms can open you up to other affiliates appearing on your terms, so it’s important to note that if you are to allow this type of activity you clearly state it in your affiliate programme terms and conditions
Are brand bidders right for you?
Before you decide, ask yourself some simple questions…
- Does your brand suffer from a significant number of competitors appearing on your terms?
- Do you struggle to remain visible on core terms for your products and services?
- Do you have an active PPC strategy, or do you rely solely on SEO?
- Are you struggling to build your brand awareness?
- Are you unable to maintain an effective PPC strategy?
In the situation below, you can see that whilst Bodum appear in position 1 within the organic search results for their brand term “Bodum”, they only appear in position 4 within the PPC listings, and have various other companies appearing ahead of them. Furthermore, the advert in position 4 links through to the tea section of the Bodum website and not through to their homepage. In this example Bodum would benefit from either optimising their own PPC activity to maintain their visibility on their brand terms or alternatively look to utilise affiliates to protect their brand on their behalf.
Here you can see that Churchill Insurance has a brand bidder in position 2 (highlighted in red). You can also see that they have several other direct insurers and aggregators bidding on their brand terms. In this example, the benefit of having a brand bidder in place is that they can help protect Churchill Insurance from their competitors. By taking up position 1 and 2 (by way of a brand bidder) they are taking over more of the real estate on Google. In this situation, Churchill would rather lose traffic to an affiliate than to lose them altogether to a competitor brand.
The increase in vouchercode sites has resulted in some companies allowing vouchercode sites to appear on brand plus voucher terms in addition to their own PPC activity – see the Argos example below:
This is a situation that constantly divides opinion. On the one hand, why would a brand be encouraging consumers to go via a third party site, with a higher CPA, rather than purchasing directly? On the other hand, if consumers are looking for a brand in conjunction with a vouchercode offer, then by not appearing you could easily lose that customer to a competitor.
For example, when looking for the search term ‘Debenhams vouchercode’ Debenhams have no visibility on this brand related term – the natural listings are dominated by vouchercode sites, and in the PPC space only their indirect competitor TM Lewin is appearing on the term.
So, it seems that allowing affiliates to bid on your brand terms can be a viable strategy. However, if you are thinking of potentially working with brand bidders, there are a few important measures you should ensure you put in place:
- It is important to have a clear objective for the activity (such as brand protection)
- It is essential to ensure you have full visibility of the search space (impact on PPC, SEO & brand campaigns) and have a holistic view of performance to ensure that you are gaining incremental benefit from brand bidders and not simply cannibalising your existing activity
- Ensure that you have good working relationships with your brand bidders and that they provide you with the visibility of their activity you require
- Continually test the combination of activity (creative, position tests, number of brand bidders etc.) to optimise activity
- Ensure that your stance on this is clearly indicated in your Terms & Conditions
- Utilise tools to monitor this space to identify if any rogue affiliates are appearing on your terms
In the past I have worked with a closed brand group and seen the benefit that this activity can have for a brand. Through working with key affiliates and ensuring an environment of continual testing and complete visibility it is possible to make this activity work for you. However, you need to ensure that you have these open relationships in place, and that you share insight across all activity to realise the true benefit.