Paid Search and Tricky Issues

After lunch, we’re back in the very cold paid search track and again, Jeffrey Rohrs from Exact Target is our moderator. This session’s speakers are Bob Carilli from, Mona Elesseily from Page Zero Media, and Michael Sack from Idearc Media Corp. They’ll be discussing the challenges of dealing with trademarks, duplicate content, match types and getting fast support, just to name a few. Hopefully we’ll get some good advice to make paid search just a little less complicated. Jeff mentions that we’re going to be hearing from audience members too. If they have expertise in an issue, they can chime in.

Mona Elesseily will be speaking first. She’s covering three issues in her presentation: TM policy overview, TM and affiliate policy in specific engines, and customer service and tactical recommendations.

Trademark issues are tricky because PPC keywords are often trademarks. There are a lot of grey areas. Rescuecom v. Google was a huge win for the search engines in September 2006. But there are just as many if not more cases that hold that trademark use in ad buying is infringement.

Mona reads an anecdote that mirrors, in a search engine’s view, what happens when a user goes searching. The trademarks are guideposts, not the be all and end all of search. When you’re shopping for jeans, you might intend to buy one brand of jeans but end up buying another.

Google’s trademark policy:

  • Will remove from ad copy but won’t disable keywords.
  • Trademark terms are a consideration in the Quality Score

Google Affiliate Policy:

  • Can point to parent company or create own age
  • Only displays on ad per search query for advertisers sharing the same top level domain
  • Quality Score is still a consideration.

Yahoo and MSN: block competitive keyword buys

Yahoo: Block all competitor URLs or Company Names regardless of trademarks and doesn’t allow bidding on trademarks.

Yahoo Affiliate:
Must have a distinct URL
Must clearly indicate their affilitate relationship on the landing page.

MSN: Doesn’t allow advertising in keywords or ad copy that constitutes TM infringement. This is the toughest policy in search

Affiliate: One per URL but affiliate and parent can show up on the same page occasionally. Mona thinks it needs worth.

Customer Service:

In general, help is there for you, you just need to know how to push. Keep in mind that sometimes it is in the search engine employee’s best interest to help you. Form a relationship with CSRs. If you aren’t getting the answers you need, hang up and call back to talk to someone else. It’s person by person.

For Yahoo and MSN: It’s worth testing the trademarked terms to see if they appear on a block or not. Most are but some aren’t.

Do you get better service at high service tiers? Maybe, maybe not. If you get an awesome rep at the higher levels, then yes. If not, then no. But not all the awesome people are at the highest levels.

Jeffrey asks how many people are having trouble with competitors bidding on their terms? (A lot.) And how many are bidding on competitors? (About the same amount.) And how many are both? (There is, as you can imagine, a very large overlap.)

Bob Carilli is up next. Discusses’s customers. Largely female.

Ways that Paid Search is tricky:

  • Trademark issues
  • Campaign organization
  • So called anomalies
  • Working with APIs
  • Internal awareness
  • Partner relations
  • Ads gone wild

Trademark issues – Cease and desist letters come in, they do research on the claim, explain broad match to the company (we’re not really buying your keyword). Third party ads cause problems too, through contextual advertising. Getting permission from various people is getting harder. Have been using tactics like misspelled trademarks, which causes the owner to contact them and get them to give permission to use the trademark as a keyword.

Campaign organization – deals with millions of keywords. Need to juggle quality dynamics, minimum bids, duplicate keywords, constant reorganization. He feels like it’s getting harder and harder to get answers from the engines. Reorganization can lead to keywords becoming duplicated and then campaigns get shut down.

So called anomalies – Penalties, Changing Rules, Misinformation — hard to get straight answers even at a higher level of service

Working with APIs – Incomplete Documentation — Google is constantly updating (every two months) and the questions aren’t answered, the docs are complete, account execs can’t give you answers. Hopefully Yahoo will be better.

Internal Awareness – Correcting the idea that paid search is like flipping the switch. Educating the other people in internal teams to understand how search works. Getting everyone to pull on the same end of the rope.

Partner Relations – working with partners can be tricky. You need to keep them in the loop without spending all your time holding their hands. It’s important to build a relationship and manage expectations.

Ads Gone Wild – Policing Keywords so that embarrassing and inaccurate ads (roadkill on ebay, etc). Design a review process that keeps those things from happening.

Michael Sack is jetlagged. He quotes a Chinese proverb “those who say it can’t be done shouldn’t stand in the way of those who do.” He doesn’t believe that search is tricky.

Today he’s discussing match types: Exact, Phrase, Broad. Different engines have different labels. Google as Expanded match, Yahoo has Advanced match. You need to learn what each phrase means for yourself, don’t count on your rep to understand it. Often they won’t. You also need to learn to expect different behaviors and different results.

Why use Match Types?

  • To capture the “tail” of search term
  • To discover new keywords
  • If you don’t have time to manage your campaign

That last bullet was originally “if you’re lazy”. Match types can be a quick fix.

How does Google matching work:

  • Exact Match – [sheet music] -returns- Sheet music
  • Phrase – “Sheet Music” -returns- Popular sheet music, Free sheet music
  • Broad Match (really is Expanded) – Sheet Music -returns- Print music, Song book

Broad match can hurt you, because it’s possible to show up for something that isn’t relevant. Monitor it closely. This can also cause

Michael says you do need to use broad match, but be strategic. Increase your reach but you must use Negatives in order to define reach. Watch your traffic though, you don’t want to accidentally kill your traffic. Use the Google Keywords Suggestion tool to identify negatives. There is no quick fix. He says take your time, do it right. Preach on, brother.

Create new Ad Groups to lower CPCs, save your history somewhere else. What’s going on now is important.

Michael’s process: Starts with Broad Terms, filters through KST, adds in broad Term Negatives, watches carefully and continues to refine negatives: Exact term negatives and phrase terms.

Look out for really Expanded Matches. They can’t count them in your list because the words aren’t there. Make sure that you are paying a lot of attention to the results.

Yahoo Matching: Has standard match: red sneaker (includes plurals) but Advanced Match is on by default. Shut it off first. If you leave it on, make sure you’re using excluded (negative) keywords.

You can’t set separate bids for Standard and Advanced. You get 50 account level and 50 Ad Group level exclusions. With the advent of the Quality Score, the higher quality ad will show.

MSN matching is the same as Google except: Negatives are a keyword level, they have negative limits, they don’t have expanded match yet but they reserve the right to implement it.

All engines: With expanded match, create thematic ad groups, use keywords from ad group in ad copy.

Don’t use expanded for single word keywords (cars, shoes, etc). They won’t return good results.

Things to beg the engines for:


  • Classic broad matching
  • Automated plurals (optional)
  • Rules based negative keywords


  • Turn off plurals (optional)


  • Ad group levels
  • Remove 1 byte limitations on negative keywords

Q&A Highlights:

If you have matches on your negative keywords, then document it and go to your account rep.
About equal numbers of people feel that Quality Scores help their campaigns as feel hurts their campaigns.
How do you block competitors from bidding on trademarks but allow franchisees to run local ads? Michael thinks that the parent company needs to control the whole online presence but if not, you can get an exception; you just need to work with your account rep.
If you’re sick of bidding on competitor trademarks because your competitors are bidding on yours, open a dialogue. Sometimes, you can cause a ceasefire. Failing that, hire an intern and have them click on the ad all day long. (Don’t really do this, please. Please.)
Know which terms are your leader terms. Just because it doesn’t convert doesn’t mean it isn’t leading to a conversion down the line.
Panelist wishlist: More clarity in quality based bidding. More definitive policy in terms of trademark and match typing.

Susan Esparza is former managing editor at Bruce Clay Inc., and has written extensively for clients and internal publications. Along with Bruce Clay, she is co-author of the first edition of Search Engine Optimization All-in-One Desk Reference For Dummies.

See Susan's author page for links to connect on social media.

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