Editor's Note: Where can you go for answers to all your Search Engine Marketing questions, quandaries, doubts, and dilemmas? Where else but “Ask the Search Expert,” our regular Ad Blog series featuring SEM experts from our crack Yahoo! Search Account Management team. Today, one of our ace SEM creative strategists steps up to answer a common question from a search advertiser.
Dear Search Expert:
I am the founder of the greatest website ever, aptly named GreatestWebsiteEver.com. We own the trademark. I see that one of our competitors, BestWebsiteEver.com, has used our trademark in their ad copy. We are offended! Outraged! Disgusted! Can they even do that? Does that mean we can use their trademark in our ad copy or bid on a competitor’s trademark?
First off, let’s discuss what a trademark is. A trademark is a word, phrase, logo, or symbol that distinguishes a product or service from others in the marketplace. Trademark rights are location-based and must be attained on a country-by-country basis.
Our advertiser intellectual property guidelines (a great bedtime read, I might add), make it clear that your keywords and ad content cannot “infringe or violate the intellectual property rights of others.” In other words, it ain’t cool to violate the trademark or other intellectual property rights of another advertiser’s trademark in your ad’s copy or display URL.
So what to do if you see someone who’s not playing by the rules and using your trademark inappropriately? Well, you can start by contacting the competitor and dealing with them directly. Oftentimes, calling out the infraction is enough to put a stop to it. If that doesn’t do the trick, you can alert your Yahoo! rep and we’ll take it from there. A penalty will be enforced if the advertiser repeatedly violates the policy.
Now there are certain exceptions to this rule. We allow the fair use of trademarks in ad text in certain cases, such as:
- Use of a trademark by a reseller of authentic goods or services
- Informational websites about goods or services represented by the trademark, such as product reviews
- Ordinary dictionary use of a term
- Comparative advertising, when supported by independent research
I have seen an advertiser in the past who tried to fool the system by using abnormal spacing and punctuation for the trademark (i.e. Buy App le Products). Technically, this would not violate the trademark policy. However, it greatly hurt their over quality score; their CTR dropped, while their cost per click skyrocketed. Remember, a large component of quality score is landing page relevance. That means the landing page should be relevant to the ad copy. Since my client did not sell Apple products, landing page relevance suffered and, therefore, quality score tanked.
You are allowed to bid on competitor terms, but I would suggest moving them to a different account. With landing page relevance, not only does your website need to be relevant to the ad copy, but it also needs to be relevant to the search query. As a result, bidding on competitor terms that don’t show up on your landing pages could cause your overall quality score to drop. By moving them over, you avoid having your main account drop in quality score.
Now hang on for some international nuance. In France, Ireland, Italy, Singapore, and the United Kingdom, you are not allowed to bid on competitor terms. But use of a third-party trademark may be allowed if:
- Your website provides information—product reviews, for example—about goods or services that are represented by the trademark, and your principal offering is not any product or service that competes with the goods or services represented by the trademark.
- You are clearly using the ordinary, dictionary use of a term, and your principal offering is not any product or service that competes with the goods or services represented by the trademark.
- You are a reseller whose website sells authentic goods or services that are distributed under the trademark
So there you have it. Hope this answer gives you some cool clarity, Steamy!