Google trademark policy coming to UK
A search and social marketing consulting and technology specialist is warning that the internet giants new policy will severely impact UK businesses online
Last week Google announced it would be rolling out a new trademark policy in the UK to replicate that of the US.
Matthew Whiteway, client services director at Greenlight, a specialist search and social marketing consulting and technology firm, is warning that this will have severe implications for advertisers, user experience and brand owners.
Loss of brand and cost control
According to Whiteway, not only do brand owners now risk losing sales to unauthorised sellers and counterfeiters, they will see spiralling costs in their pay per click (PPC) campaigns. In one case, a well known brand has already seen its brand cost per click (CPC) increase 104% in one day alone, as a result of the sheer number of unauthorised and counterfeit sellers now bidding and using its trademarked terms in its ad copy.
“Previously, Google had amended its trademark policy allowing any advertiser to “bid” on a company’s trademarked terms,” Whiteway explained. “While some advertisers initially saw this as an opportunity to pinch traffic from competitors, in reality, due to Quality Score implications, very few actively bid aggressively on competitor terms.
“Google’s new trademark policy goes one step further,” he continued. “It allows advertisers to actually display the trademarked keyword in their ad copy (providing they are a reseller, provider of components or for informational purposes). The rationale behind the change in policy is a little unclear. However, Google appears to be distancing itself from any form of trademark owner complaints, stating it is simply a ‘provider of space for advertisements’ and that any trademark complaints should be made directly to the advertiser.”
The new trademark policy does therefore have some serious implications, not only for the advertiser, but for the user experience too, added Whiteway. “Google prides itself on delivering the most relevant, user-friendly experience out of all the search engines in the UK and US,” he continued.
No way to distinguish authenticity
“However, a search on Google for “UGG Boots” now delivers some very confusing adverts. Many of the advertisers in the “UGG Boots” example are actually selling counterfeit goods and not genuine UGG Boots. So, does the new trademark policy continue to help give the user the best possible experience, or has the search engine result page (SERP) now just moved beyond confusing to possibly misleading?
“The impact to the advertiser/brand owner is equally as concerning. Not only do brand owners now risk losing sales to unauthorised sellers and counterfeiters, they are also likely to see spiralling costs in their PPC campaigns.”
In addition, while advertisers have had the ability to “bid” on trademarked branded terms for some time, the fact that they have historically not been allowed to display trademarked terms in ad copy has resulted in low clickthrough rates (CTRs) and low sales numbers, therefore making it an unprofitable strategy, according to the specialist. “However, with Google’s new policy, almost any advertiser can claim to be the official brand and therefore expect to see increased CTRs as well as a positive shift in the number of sales. These changes in the advertiser’s results are likely to mean more aggressive bidding on previously unprofitable trademarked terms, thus resulting in increased CPC charges for many of the brand owners.
“So, whatever the rationale for Google doing this, one thing is for sure. Google and counterfeiters will benefit from this change, but we are not sure anyone else will, least of all the brand owners themselves,” he concluded.