In my opinion, trademark bidders add zero value to your Affiliate program, media buys, etc… There is one very small exception and even then it is such a small one and can cause as much damage as it can good that I never allow it. Instead I have other alternatives I use. With more and more Affiliate Managers getting smart and Merchants becoming educated on what adds value and who is ripping them off, trademark bidders are having to get more creative. Dayparting, IP blocking, etc… are no longer tricky enough because of new tools out there, but even those cannot help you all the time or they are to expensive. Some trademark bidders have given up on the SERPs and are now using display networks to bid on your trademarks and they can still easily hide their sales and make them appear to be value adding. Here are three ways that you may not have thought of to catch trademark bidders in your Affiliate Program.
1. Search arbitrage sites
The first thing you do is go to Google and type in your trademarks a few times and then different extensions like reviews, coupon, scam, etc… Now find an arbitrage site or an aggregator in the SERPs or on a parked domain and you may find urls similar to yours or advertising your site or offers. Click on them and if they point to your site, look your cookies to see if they set one. You can also watch the redirect to see if it goes through an Affiliate link and also check inside the network (depending on which network you’re in) for the click, your IP address or the referring url as a google one and which Affiliate ID the click came through. The next thing to do if it doesn’t go to your site is to click through and look for Affiliate links, coupon codes, etc… that go to your site by clicking on the links on the landing page. This is where I find a lot of trademark bidders who are using the content network not thinking I would look through it there. If they are linking directly to you, they could also be blocking your own ads from showing on it which in my opinion is hurting you even more.
There are some large Affiliates out there that have large networks of sites that they monetize on a rev share basis or act as an Affiliate Network on their own. Some of them just build links off of trademarks and keywords while others actually change out links because they have access to the code. (The ones who can change out links can do more damage because they can hurt your SEO). A few of them use adware to generate links off of other people’s sites who did not opt in because they have installed their adware onto the user’s browser (this can activate on your own site or any site that mentions your name and would have sent you the traffic anyways. To find these, look at the referring urls and then go to the site and see if there used to be a backlink, if it is coming off of a mention of your trademarks and names and there was a different link and you also want to check for a cookie stuff if you click the non Affiliate direct link since they have access to the code and possibly the browser. This is a tricky way they can hide trademark sales. Other times I have found these people giving out their links to Affiliates that have been rejected and those Affiliates bid on the content network using their IDs. Because the click volume is high from other sites, the trademark bids and adware don’t seem as obvious because they blend into a low conversion rate.
3. Check Coupon Sites
One of the easiest things to do to catch trademark bidders, especially coupon sites or other partners bidding on your trademark or url + coupons or coupon codes is to do a few searches in Google for your site + coupons and then check out the coupon sites that rank for you and run adsense. You may also want to check through the sites that run adsense and buy that term as well. When on those sites, if Google has tagged you as someone looking for your trademark + coupons and the content is about your store and coupons, you may find trademark bidders going after people in your shopping carts. This is an easy way to catch people that you have a bad feeling about but no proof. This is a common practice that many Affiliate Managers forget to look for.
Just searching Google and other search engines for trademark bidders won’t catch all of them. Instead you have to look through the content network and also have to remember some BHOs can overwrite your trademark bids, even though you actually paid to bring the person in off your own trademark. There are a lot of other ways I find trademark bidders in my clients Affiliate Programs, but I don’t want to give away every trick or it becomes even harder to find them.