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How to Prevent Affiliates Advertising on Google for Brand Terms

Rewardful Team

You and your affiliates are all on the same team. But even then, you could be running in each others’ paths.

If you're a merchant running ads on Google, you're likely bidding on your own brand terms. Chances are, your affiliates might want to do the same. Should you encourage this, or should you make sure that they specifically do not do this?

While letting affiliates bid on brand terms may seem like a quick and easy way to gain exposure for your brand, it can actually harm your business in the long run.

In this blog post, we’ll explore why affiliates bidding on brand terms is not ideal. We will also provide some strategies to prevent affiliates from advertising on Google for brand terms. 

(And since you want to provide alternatives, we will also discuss ways to help your affiliates with marketing and promotion without resorting to bidding on your branded keywords.)

What happens when affiliates bid on brand terms

Bidding on brand terms refers to the practice of affiliates buying Google Ads for your brand name or trademarked terms. 

For example, if your brand is “CopyAI”, an affiliate may buy a Google ad for the keyword “CopyAI” or “Copy.ai”. When someone searches for your brand name on Google, the affiliate's ad will appear at the top of the search results, alongside your organic listing.

While this may seem like a good way for affiliates to gain brand exposure, it can be harmful to your business. Here's why:

  1. It can cannibalize your organic traffic: when an affiliate buys a Google ad for your brand term, they are essentially competing with your organic listing for the same search query. This means that if someone clicks on the affiliate's ad instead of your organic listing, you may lose a potential customer that you could have acquired for free.
  2. It can lead to commission disputes: if a customer converts after clicking on an affiliate's Google ad for your brand term, the affiliate may be entitled to a commission. This means that you may end up paying a commission to the affiliate for a customer that you could have acquired for free. This can be especially problematic if the affiliate's ad appears above your organic listing, as customers may be more likely to click on the ad than your organic listing.
  3. It can harm your brand reputation: if an affiliate runs a low-quality ad for your brand term or if they provide a poor customer experience, this can reflect poorly on your brand. You have no control over how they use your brand’s name in an ad.
  4. Your CPC can increase: you pay for keywords according to a bidding system. That means that the more people are advertising with a certain keyword, the more expensive it gets. One affiliate might not do much harm, but if you’ve got a lot of them running ads with your brand name, you might end up bidding against your own affiliates – and thus paying more.

What does this look like in real life?

Let's say you run an online store that sells high-end watches, and one of your affiliates decides to bid on your brand name as a keyword in their Google Ads campaign. When a potential customer searches for your brand name, your affiliate's ad appears at the top of the search results, even before your own website's organic search listing.

The customer clicks on the affiliate's ad and is directed to your website, where they make a purchase. In this scenario, the affiliate would receive a commission for the sale, even though they didn't necessarily contribute to the customer's decision to buy the product.

This means that your store potentially lost out on the opportunity to capture that customer without having to pay a commission to the affiliate.

How to Prevent Affiliates from Advertising on Google for Brand Terms

You can't forbid Google Ads for affiliates completely, but you can implement rules about brand bidding. Of course, it depends on each individual case whether this is a problem, but if it is for you, it’s key to take action. 

The easiest way to do that, is to include a clause in your affiliate terms of service that explicitly prohibits affiliate advertising with your branded keywords. This can be a simple and effective way to set expectations with new affiliates, and to ensure that they understand the consequences of violating your terms.

Consider implementing these rules not just for Google, but also for platforms like Facebook, where you could be competing for the same audience.

Now, how do you check whether they are obliging? You can monitor your brand terms on Google. You can use tools like Google Ads Keyword Planner or SEMrush to monitor when your brand terms are being bid on, and to take action if necessary.

It can be a bit more difficult to stop affiliates who have already been (successfully) using your brand terms, and work with T and C’s that don't prohibit them from doing so. You can update your terms of service and give an honest explanation, but you want to avoid affiliates dropping out over this. That's why it's crucial to offer your affiliates alternatives to help with their marketing. We’ll give you some advice on that further down.

7 Other ways to support affiliates with their marketing

You don't want to take away a strong marketing tactic from your affiliates and not give anything in return. To still make sure your affiliates are helping you to get your name out there, use the tips below. 

1. Provide your affiliates with creative assets

This can help so much in raising brand awareness and brand recognition. Instead of having to rely on affiliates using their own design skills or over-used templates, give them creatives that match your brand.

For example, you could provide your affiliates with social media assets, email templates, or content marketing materials that they can use to promote your brand and products in a way that doesn't involve bidding on brand terms. 

2. Give affiliates insights into strong non-branded terms 

You can't stop affiliates from bidding on non-brand terms. Plus, given the fact that most affiliates work in a specific niche, they're probably already scoring or bidding on non-brand terms that are relevant to them (and to your business).

So, try to make the best of it. Give them insights that can help their SEA strategy, but provide examples of what to do and what to avoid to not harm each other's efforts. And in some cases, that could even be helpful to you.

For example, if you sell a SaaS affiliate tool and already rank high for generic terms like “SaaS affiliate tracking,” allowing affiliates to bid on those terms may not provide much value. However, if you are struggling to rank for those terms, having affiliates bid on them could potentially drive more traffic to their website – with your links on it. In this case, it may be beneficial for the merchant to allow affiliates to bid on non-brand terms.

3. Educate your affiliates

If your affiliates want to perform better, they should know the ins and outs of your product. So, make sure you tell them not just about your products, but also your target audience.

This will give them a better idea of what to highlight regarding value propositions and ensure their marketing makes it to the right people.

You can create product demos, case studies, and other materials, but why stop there? Host live Q and As for your affiliates, or webinars in another way that will help them to successfully showcase your product to their community.

4. Create a community for your affiliates

Let affiliates learn from each other! By creating an online community for all your affiliates, they can exchange ideas and best practices or even team up. Of course, some affiliates don't want to deal with the ‘’competition’’, but there are certainly ways to connect them without limiting each other's reach – for instance, by hosting challenges for your affiliate community.

5. Offer personalized support: 

Taking things up a notch by providing personalized support to your affiliates can help them feel more connected to your brand and motivated to promote your products. This can involve offering one-on-one support or coaching, as well as providing them with marketing materials or other resources tailored to their specific needs and audience.

6. Create co-branded content 

Give affiliates the opportunity to co-create content with you. This can be anything from e-books to webinars to blog posts. This can help them build their brand and promote your products or services at the same time, in a way that gives you some control over what's being said about you.

7. Design affiliate-specific landing pages: 

Lastly, consider creating landing pages specifically for your affiliates to use in their marketing efforts. These pages can be optimized for conversions and provide a clear call to action for their audience.

Create a custom agreement for your affiliates

Looking for a one-stop-shop SaaS affiliate tool that has everything you need to manage your affiliates, including the option for a custom agreement that includes rules on affiliate brand bidding? Rewardful offers packages that are tailored to your needs – and those of your affiliates. Check them out!

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