While parasitism in affiliate marketing frequently being synonymized only with downloadable applications that intrude with the end user’s shopping experience with a purpose of facilitating cookie setting/swap on the customer’s machine, the term should really include everyone who is extracting wealth from merchants/advertisers without assisting them in any way to produce it. Trademark poaching is one of these cases.
Trademark poachers, or trademark violators, are affiliates that either exclusively or along with other keywords bid in their paid search campaigns on merchants’ trademarks, URL(s). as well as variations and misspellings of these. The sole purpose of such activity is to divert the trademark traffic to go through affiliate links/ads first. This sets an affiliate cookie on the end user’s machine, and should the latter place a sale/lead through within the cookie life duration, the trademark bidding affiliate will earn the commission on that sale/lead.
While there can be exceptions (e.g.: merchants with unknown brands, or those whose names consist of generic terms like “calendars”, for example), it is normally in the merchant’s best interest to restrict trademark bidding, and police it. While in case with “calendars”, Calendars.com should not restrict affiliates from bidding on key-phrases involving the world “calendars”, they should by all means prohibit bidding on their URL as a keyword (as they are doing now).
Many merchants are not doing this, and as a result, paying for something that naturally belongs to them in the first place.
Earlier this year Revenue magazine wrote:
Trademark poaching is attractive because of the low barrier to entry. For just the price of a PPC ad, publishers can quickly generate handsome commissions without the usual affiliate administration overhead, and reducing the steps from click to purchase increases the likelihood of a purchase.
One PPC affiliate, who asked not to be named, says there is a “pack of about 30” PPC affiliates that closely monitor the list of new merchants at every network and “crank up campaigns on them all” in order to profit from this behavior.
This is true. It takes seconds to put together a paid search campaign, and multiple rogue affiliates are continuously taking advantage of merchant naivete (in keeping an open PPC policy) centering these campaigns on merchants’ trademarked terms and URLs only.
Review your affiliate program agreement today, and make sure you are clear on your stance regarding trademark bidding.