BrandVerity Releases Its Q3 Report on the State of Branded Keywords in Paid Search

Today, BrandVerity released its analysis of branded keywords in paid search covering the third quarter of this year.

If you’re new to us, the report provides brands with a benchmark of what advertisements appear on the search engines when potential customers search for their brand and how much traffic brands may be losing because of trademark bidding.

A few key findings…

Mobile has long been a growing force in the average marketer’s world. But, it is now becoming more important as the volume of mobile search increases. Our analysts found notable rises in advertising on Google Mobile.

After seeing a sizable drop in advertising on Bing last quarter, that trend continued in Q3. Essentially, in each of the past two quarters, BV analysts have noticed the drop of nearly an entire Ad per SERP on Bing.

Read the Report Today

To get the overall scoop on the paid search landscape for ten different verticals, read the full report. It’s available as a free download on our site.


The Status of Trademark Bidding as We Approach Black Friday

Black Friday is more than a sale for retailers, it’s the main event of the year. Weeks of preparation culminate in one rapid-fire sequence that can make or break annual goals. It’s no wonder that so many ecommerce teams are on lockdown this time of year.

As shoppers frenzy to compare prices and peruse wares, brands are likely to see a surge in searches for their brand terms. And with that surge can come trademark bidders. As we observed last year, trademark bidding jumped during Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

But what about this year? Will Black Friday lead to another jump in trademark bidding? To get an idea, we took some data that we’ve been collecting for upcoming editions of our report on branded keywords. Here’s what we found:

Trademark Bidding Surges in Clothing & Apparel Category


The Clothing & Apparel category has seen a steady increase in trademark bidding on Google since the beginning of September. Starting at an average of a little more than 0.2 Ads per SERP, that figure has more than doubled to a little under 0.5 Ads/SERP.

Consumer Electronics Starts with High Trademark Bidding


Whereas the Clothing & Apparel category averaged only about 0.2 Ads per SERP in September, Consumer Electronics started out at a much higher figure around 0.45. However, after setting that mark out of the gate, it has essentially plateaued since then. Our trendline shows only a moderate increase. Trademark bidding may still pick up as we approach the actual day of Black Friday, but results are surprisingly stable so far.

Online Retail Relatively Low, Flat


Similar to the Consumer Electronics category, the Online Retail category showed only a slight increase in trademark bidding on Google. However, Online Retail started out at less than 0.10 Ads per SERP—a very low rate of trademark bidding. This is consistent with the quarterly averages from our reports on branded keywords, but we had expected a higher figure given that Black Friday is nearing.

What Are You Noticing?

With Black Friday at our doorstep, how have your campaigns been affected? Have your CTRs or CPCs changed on branded keywords? Let us know in the comments below or by Tweeting to us @BrandVerity.


Who’s Winning Halloween Paid Search?

After marketers got creative with their Back to the Future tie-ins last week, another marketing-friendly holiday is approaching quickly. Boo! It’s almost Halloween already.

For the past week, we’ve been monitoring some Halloween-related keywords in paid search. Here are some points of interest that we’ve found. Read on—if you dare!

Who’s Winning on “Halloween Candy”?

When it comes to Halloween candy, See’s surprised us by showing up the most often. You don’t tend to think See’s for Halloween—at least I don’t. (And if you do, maybe your neighborhood is where the trick-or-treaters should be going!)

Outside of that, the advertisers were predominantly retailers. M&M’s also snuck in at #3.

Top Advertisers


Who’s Winning on “Halloween”?

Interestingly, it seems that advertisers are largely avoiding exact matches for “Halloween.” The term might be a bit too general. It also gets a lot of volume this time of year, so that might make it too costly considering that it might be hard to monetize.

The only advertiser that showed up with any regularity was, who promoted costumes.

Who’s Winning on Halloween Costume Keywords?

We also monitored 25 of the most trafficked keywords related to Halloween costumes. The majority of advertisers were speciality costume and Halloween shops, but we also saw several major retailers (Walmart, Target, and Amazon) get into the game.

Top Advertisers


Candy Brands Running Their Own Ads

We also did some monitoring on the branded keywords of popular candies. What we found was a fair amount of advertising from the candy brands themselves. Here are just a few examples:



Kit Kat





What’s Next for Paid Search on Yahoo?

Paid search could be in for some big changes on Yahoo. After reaching a new search deal with Microsoft in April that afforded it more autonomy, Yahoo has now announced a separate deal with Google.

Why run two separate deals with different search engines? “Flexibility” was one of the key factors that Yahoo mentioned in its announcement. Interestingly, the new agreements give Yahoo the freedom to pool paid search ads from three sources: Google, Bing, and Yahoo’s own Gemini advertising platform.

What Can We Expect from the New Yahoo?

That freedom does include one major limitation: on desktop searches at least 51% of ads must be sourced from Bing.

Yahoo can choose to divvy up the remaining 49% however it wants between Google, its own platform, and any other provider it may strike a deal with. That leaves the following potential shares of desktop advertising on Yahoo:

  • Bing: 51% or more
  • Google: up to 49%
  • Yahoo Gemini: up to 49%

For mobile advertising, that structure goes out the window. Yahoo is free to choose any distribution it wants. It could split 50/50 between Bing and Google, or go all-in on its own Gemini platform. Any combination is up for grabs.

What Geographies Do These Deals Cover?

The Yahoo-Bing agreement is described as a “global partnership.”

The Yahoo-Google deal covers North America as well as some parts of South America, Asia, and Oceania. The full list is available about halfway into the Search Engine Land article.

How Will Things Change?

With the requirement of 51% share for Bing on desktop search, Yahoo won’t completely change overnight. However, we’ve already started observing significant shifts in our quarterly report on branded keywords, so the Google deal is likely to magnify those. As always, we’ll be keeping a close eye on those trends in upcoming reports!


If You Haven’t Yet, It’s Time to Prioritize Mobile Search

Mobile has been an industry buzzword for a while now. From the “Mo” in the eye-roll-inducing “SoLoMo” to articles heralding responsive design as the holy grail of websites, mobile has regularly been the rallying call for anyone who wanted to make marketers feel behind the times.

Lots of clever marketers tapped into that anxiety in order to pitch various things—creative services, advertising opportunities, their new startup. Their message was effective. Mobile was new, and therefore pretty unknown. Your anxiety gave you some reasons to listen.

But now, mobile is beyond buzzword status. Google recently announced that globally they see more searches on mobile than on desktop. Mobile is the real deal. It may not yet present as big of a business as desktop search (due to consumer habits on various devices, fewer advertising options on mobile, and other factors), but it’s also not to be ignored.

If your brand has been de-prioritizing mobile up to this point (which has been easy to do), now’s a good time to give it some more attention. Start focusing on your strategy, building out campaigns, and monitoring the mobile search landscape. Mobile traffic growth continues to outpace desktop—so there’s no better time than now.


Volkswagen Emissions Fallout Hits Paid Search

The Volkswagen emissions scandal is probably the biggest hit that a brand has taken since BP’s Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010. The financial impact has the potential to be tremendous. Current estimates show that VW could be on the hook for $18 billion in EPA fines alone, plus legal fees and the cost of recalling 500,000 vehicles in the US.

Volkswagen has already set aside $7.4 billion for the recall. That’s a sizable sum, so we were curious to see whether it might lead to any opportunistic advertising in paid search. We’ve been monitoring for a set of VW-related terms for a little over a week, and have already been finding some interesting examples:

Law Firms Seize the Opportunity

“Class Action”


“Get Compensated”




“Sue VW”


Options for Damage Control?

Regardless of your perspective on the scandal itself, it’s clear that this has become a communications nightmare for VW. And these paid search ads only reinforce that scandal by labeling it with terms such as “fraud.”

Volkswagen has responded by placing its own ads, using the domain


What do you think of this strategy? Will it help quell some of the fallout? If you were Volkswagen, how would you approach this?


CSC Joins Forces with BrandVerity to Provide Paid Search Monitoring Service

BrandVerity and Corporation Service Company® (CSC), a provider of legal, business, and financial services, are working together in a pretty fantastic way. CSC now offers paid search monitoring to its clients through BrandVerity.

“We are thrilled to partner with CSC to provide paid search monitoring services to their customers,” said BrandVerity CEO David Naffziger. “We are excited about the opportunities it presents and look forward to a long, prosperous partnership.”

BrandVerity and CSC together support organizations as they seek to protect their brands in the digital marketplace. Our Paid Search Monitoring detects a broad spectrum of brand abuse and enables clients to enforce against it. It’s a great collaboration!  

Check out CSC’s blog post about the partnership or our complete press release for even more information.  


PPC Keyword Litigation’s Legal Landscape

BrandVerity welcomes guest blogger Eric Misterovich from Revision Legal, PLLC.

Do not try to sue a competitor that’s bidding on your trademark(s) as pay-per-click keywords. Seriously, just don’t do it. It’s tempting and we get that, but while victory may seem imminent and even justified, actual instances of plaintiffs winning such cases are exceedingly rare. And recent court rulings will make those instances all but extinct.

Trademark Law’s Dual Protection

While this may sound blasphemous to trademark owners, it is important to remember that trademark law serves to protect both trademark owners and consumers. J Thomas McCarthy, author of the most prominent legal treatise on trademark law, describes the duality as follows:

To select as paramount either protection of the trademark property or protection of consumers would be to oversimplify the dual goals of trademark law, both historical and modern. Trademark law serves to protect both consumers from deception and confusion over trade symbols and to protect the plaintiff’s infringed trademark as property. Both Congress and the Supreme Court in modern times have stressed that trademark has these two goals.

1 McCarthy on Trademarks and Unfair Competition § 2:2 (4th ed.).

While elements to trademark infringement vary by jurisdiction, the three main elements always present are:

  1. ownership of a valid trademark by plaintiff,
  2. an unauthorized use of the mark by defendant, and
  3. a likelihood of consumer confusion by defendant’s use of the mark.

When courts apply the likelihood of confusion test (the third element) during trademark infringement litigation, they are focusing much more on consumer protection than the property rights of the trademark owner. If consumers are not confused by use of the mark, courts are reluctant to hold infringers liable and give trademark owners a de facto monopoly over the mark.

Where is the Confusion?

It is the likelihood of confusion test that has all but removed keyword advertising lawsuits from a trademark owner’s toolkit. The test varies by jurisdiction as well, but the seminal case concerning online advertisers, Network Automation, Inc. v. Advanced Systems, Concepts, Inc., highlighted four main factors courts should consider in these cases, and other courts have followed suit. 638 F.3d 1137 (9th Cir. 2011). The factors are:

  1. the strength of the mark
  2. evidence of actual confusion
  3. the labeling and appearance of the advertisements, and
  4. the degree of care likely to be used by the typical purchaser.

Of these four factors, evidence of actual confusion appears to be most important to reviewing courts.

In a more recent decision, the Tenth Circuit further reduced plaintiffs’ ability to prevail in PPC lawsuits. In 1-800 Contacts, Inc. v., Inc., the Court held that in order to show a likelihood of confusion (or technically in this case “initial interest confusion”), evidence of actual confusion must be shown, and click-through rates (CTR) can serve as such evidence.

Using the evidentiary standard of consumer surveys (the standard way to show actual confusion) the Court held that any CTR below 10% on an ad connected to a specific keyword would eliminate an actionable claim. The problem with that decision is that a CTR above 10% is unheard of, so almost no trademark owner will ever be able to show actual confusion and therefore will never be able to recover in an infringement action based on a competitor bidding on its trademark.

This is all grounded in protecting the consumer. If courts do not believe that users are being confused by search results, they will not “overprotect” the trademark owner by giving it the sole right to its trademark as a search term. The 1-800 Contacts court saw no evidence that users searching “1800 contacts” and seeing in the search results would be confused into thinking was either part of 1-800 Contacts, or associated with it in some other way. Whether or not you agree, the growing case law featuring identical reasoning is making it impossible to win these cases.

How to Combat Misuse of Your Trademarks in PPC Campaigns

The most effective form of protection, from both a cost analysis and results approach, is to rely on the advertising platform’s rules regarding trademark infringement. For example, the Google Adwords Trademark Infringement Policy gives trademark owners plenty of ammunition to protect their brands.

Consistent with the explanation above, Google Adwords’ Policy does not cover bidding on trademarked terms as keywords. However, it does prohibit some uses of trademarked terms in ad text in certain situations. And this is where things can get a bit more complicated. Many questions arise:

  •   How is the trademarked term being used within the ad text?
  •   What landing page does the ad link to?
  •   Is a reseller using the trademarked term?
  •   Does that reseller have permission to do so?
  •   What countries are these ads targeting and what law applies there?

All of these factors weigh into whether Google will listen to your trademark complaint.  And as you can see, if you are not monitoring what is happening, you have no ability to even start protecting yourself.

Further, Google Adwords will not investigate the use of trademarked terms within a Display URL, even though this may form a cause of action under the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) or the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA).

This is when services such as the ones provided by BrandVerity are a good start to protecting your business. First, monitoring what is happening is the first step in knowing the extent of the problem you are facing. Second, BrandVerity’s ability to communicate with the advertising platform may provide the quickest, most cost-efficient resolution.


While keyword-based litigation is not a wise use of resources, understanding and protecting your PPC advertising remains a valuable tool in any marketing budget.

About the Author

Eric Misterovich is an attorney with Revision Legal, an intellectual property and Internet law firm. To understand more about trademark law, get a free copy of Revision Legal’s Asked and Answered: Trademark law ebook here.


Meaningful Losses: Seeing the Impact of Trademark Bidding

As we’ve been finding in our Report on Branded Keywords, the typical brand is losing thousands of visitors per month to trademark bidders.

This traffic represents real costs to brands, who would otherwise be able to turn those visits into customers and revenue. To illustrate the potential costs to brands, we’ve developed some graphics that cover a few of the industries in the study:

Online Retail




Online Education


We hope these graphics are informative! If you have any questions about them, we’d be happy to chat. Feel free to reach out to use on Twitter @BrandVerity!

If you’re interested in checking out our full report, it’s available as a free download.


London Calling…Well, Technically ALL of Europe

BrandVerity has expanded its geographical footprint by opening an office in the heart of London. We wanted to provide more in-person, customized services for our clients in Europe.

“Better serving our clients in Europe and expanding our presence in that market are important for our long-term growth at BrandVerity,” said BrandVerity CEO David Naffziger. “We are delighted to increase our investment in the region and excited about the opportunities it presents.”

Let’s face it. Enormous investments are made in the development and ongoing promotion of brands. Given their potential value, it’s now more important than ever to protect and monitor a brand online. With this in mind, BrandVerity is keen on expanding its global presence. Look for more globe trotting coming from BV staffers in the future.  

Furthermore, we are thrilled to announce that Jonathan Elkin has been named Regional General Manager. He will spearhead BrandVerity’s growth strategy for the European market, operating out of the new office. He’s a great guy. Set up a call with him and find out for yourself.  

The leadership team will be rounded out with Preston Holland, who has been with BrandVerity for quite a bit. Holland brings years of sales and customer account service experience with him. He led the establishment and launch of the new office and will continue to oversee its development.

Read the full press release here.