10th May 2008

Sharing the Wealth – The Solution to Brand Bidding Groups

posted in Affiliate Marketing, Closed Groups, PPC Brand Name Bidding |

As you are aware Brand Bidding Groups (BBGs) have generally been for the familiar privileged few & favoured affiliates within some networks with the result of maximum reward with minimum effort with content affiliates suffering the stealth tax of cookie over-writing. There are a affiliates who are millionaires by doing something a monkey could do & offer little or nothing to the affiliate marketing space apart from being suited n booted & pretending to have a corporate persona as wide boys talking industry jibberish.

The solution I propose opens this all up to protect content affiliates & share the wealth where no network has suitable reason to withhold integration of the concept, unless there is possibly something to hide.

Here is the process of how it would be set up, now you must read through the WHOLE of this to understand this is quite simple & the real potential for all affiliates & the merchant.

1) An affiliate agrees to volunteer themselves!!! They look after the brand bidding group on a non-profit basis on direct to merchant paid search activity on brand terms, hybrids & obvious variations & mis-spelling. Obviously they would liaise with the merchant regarding the content of ad copy if it is necessary, though often this is best left to experienced affiliates to manage the campaign responsibly & professionally. You’ll also find volunteer affiliates will be more expansive in their use of keywords & not just exact match of brand [BRAND]

2) A separate Google, MSN Adcenter or Yahoo (YSM) account would be set up for each merchant so that the network, merchant and affiliate(s) involved have access to as well for keywords used & advertising spend. The reason for this will be more apparent a little later, so start licking your lips now.

2) What is paramount is transparency!!! The name of the affiliate(s) and the keyword database are available. Other affiliates not directly involved with the non-profit brand bidding group can also put forward suggestions of keywords to add to the mix & possibly integrated.

3) There will be no overwriting of content affiliate cookies at all!!! Content affiliates also include those who do paid search on product or generic keywords in paid search whether this is direct to merchant (i.e. permitted to use the display URL of the merchant in advertising or bringing traffic into their own site). This would require a separate network account being set up (an easy enough process), the main bit of work would require liaison between the network & some integration of code on the merchants behalf. Now at the moment we see Affiliate Window have done the honourable thing with Woolworth’ s. I don’t wish to knock it and it’s good progress, but the disadvantage of the Woolworths approach though is that it rely’s on cross referencing with a white list of keywords. The beauty of this scheme I am suggesting is that this separate link NEVER overwrites other affiliate links, but it can be overwritten in the normal manner of last referrer currently adopted. This content affiliates cookie always wins.

4) Obviously this non-profit affiliate can promote the merchant in the familiar manner as a content affiliate, on generic & product related terms in the normal way by using their affiliate links from their day to day account.

5) Now, the above is a great start within itself, but with paid search engines you can only use a certain display URL once (i.e single display URL policy). This is where some work is required on behalf of the network to earn their over-ride. Quite simply separate domains (either owned by the network or merchant) are set up for creation of landing pages or templates probably (preferably varying in design). The network would create these template / landing pages in liaison with the merchant for the brand bidding purposes, but if flexible enough these can also be utilised by normal content affiliates to integrate into their sites, thus offering multiple usage of the templates / full page sized content units.

The purpose of this is to provide more coverage in advertising listings with an increase in advertising slots incase competitors are bidding on the merchants brand & hopefully increase the transition of traffic actually going to the merchant. This needs to be only fully adopted if competitors are appearing in the space for keywords relating to the merchants brand. It’s a safeguard to counter competitor advertising or could be used in unison with the merchants own inhouse brand activity if they have one.

Now, the Non-Profit BBG can use one of their own URL’s to display the template (when bidding on brand going direct to a landing page), but there would need to absolutely zero leakage to other parts of their web site or web sites they own to make it fair i.e. to ensure other parts of their web site don’t benefit from bidding on brand. For their normal (non BBG) link then they fall into the same offerings as other affiliates.

It is important networks do work for their over-ride rather than sitting on their laurels ensuring these templates whether created by merchant or network are updated at reasonable intervals.

Now for the Deal Clincher

6) You are maybe asking what happens to the commission earned from this brand bidding. Well, we share the wealth of course, it all goes into a massive Prize Pot to share amongst other content affiliates who promote the merchant. The cost of the paid search activity (remember from a separate Google, MSN, Yahoo account) is deducted from the total commission earned via the brand bidding. These figures are released to the affiliate community for transparency.

7) The way the Jackpot Pool can be shared out is as follows. The Jackpot can be divided into 5, 10 or even 20 equal amounts. For the content affiliates promoting the merchant, 1 sale = 1 ticket where an affiliate can win no more than one prize for that specific merchant. Prize funds could anything for £20,000 to £100,000 or even more (don’t forget Millions have been made by these brand bidding groups, agencies & networks), which is a lucrative cash bonus for any content affiliate. Alernatively half the prize pool could be divided proportionally amongst their top 10 affiliates & the remainder going into the lucky dip. The frequency of these draws could be quarterly for lesser amounts of annually for a huge bonus.

  • Content affiliates will more likely be incentivised to promote the merchant. Of which some could be used to launch their own bigger or greater projects, plus of course reaping the rewards of their own hard work.
  • The merchant has a greater potential to receive an increase in incremental sales because of the generous Jackpot / Prize Pool available.
  • The network still receives their over-ride, with any increases in incremental sales, plus they would be held with higher esteem with affiliates for their transparency & dedication to sharing the wealth amongst content affiliates.
  • The wealth is shared amongst more worthy content affiliates across the industry rather than the familiar pre-chosen select few that some networks embrace.


a) Some networks may jump on the bandwagon – Using the spin of strategic groups by maybe only offering a token program here or there trying to fool un-savvy affiliates or those that see things through Rose Tinted GlASSes. A network must be committed to this fairer solution of handling BBGs.

b) Finding volunteer affiliates – This wouldn’t be too difficult as I know, including myself, there are content affiliates who would embrace this. Setting up brand bidding campaigns on the different paid search engines only takes a small amount of time & requires little managing, except for occasionally updating ad copy & ensuring ROI is obviously profitable.

c) Who will fund the PPC activity? Well this should be the network of course. Why would they object? They have to do something for their money, it’s a no brainer really, since they would still receive an over-ride whereby PPC costs are recouped anyhow, rather than the volunteer affiliate awaiting for their expense. Any network objecting to this would need their scruples testing, when this should be weighed up against the increase in incremental sales & esteem they could gain & hold amongst affiliate peers which would transcend to other programs on their network. Just think about it for a moment!

You may ask, then why doesn’t the network simply do the whole branding themselves. Well who says some don’t do this already through mates or their selected cartel of affiliates with kickbacks. At least with what I propose it’s transparent & again the wealth is shared.

This solution in my book will clearly demonstrate which networks, merchants & agencies truly have any sincerity to what is a very workable solution. What traction this idea developes into, I cannot predict, but the opportunity is there to do the right thing for content affiliates & the industry as a whole, with the ball firmly served into their court.

There you go my fellow peers. The proposed solution to brand bidding groups & sharing the wealth amongst the true content affiliates.

Any additional advantages you feel this offers please offer a comment, so that we can get this solution rolling. And any volunteers please feel welcome to put your name forward. Any merchants interested in trialling this concept can email me “moose [at] mooseontheloose.co.uk” or PM me through the forum where my handle / username is “Qui Gon Jinn

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There are currently 14 responses to “Sharing the Wealth – The Solution to Brand Bidding Groups”

Why not let us know what you think by adding your own comment! Your opinion is as valid as anyone elses, so come on... let us know what you think.

  1. 1 On April 15th, 2008, ken said:

    This is a really interesting proposition, having a collated prize pot would most definatly be an attractive incetive for networks and affiliates to take part, whilst you’ve covered the challenge of affiliates volunteering for ‘pro bono’ work on the brand I think this may prove harder, I’m not sure how many affiliates will be willing to put the time into this without too much rewards. Perhaps this is an area where a network show have a totally transparent policy, in that the network manages the PPC campaign for brand terms in house, taking no commission for these sales? I’m not too clued in about the implications of brand bidding though I fully understand that need for clarity in this area, however, surely like networks police for fraudulent affiliates to protect a merchants brand PR online, its down to the network, to ensure that brand name bids are enforced, not by affiliate and not for commission, but by the network as part of its responsibilities in representing the merchant.

  2. 2 On April 15th, 2008, Paul said:

    I think you’ll find there are a number of good guy / girl affiliates out there to be volunteers. The network still receives an over-ride like they normally do, so it will be no loss to them. As for setting up campaigns for brand bidding, it is the easiest & least time consuming thing in the world for minimum effort & maximum returns. Though you do find merchants who cannot even convert on their own brand.

  3. 3 On April 15th, 2008, ken said:

    perhaps a solution is for affiliates to contribute to a list of keywords not to be bid on by the affiliate program, this is then collated by the network, and a PPC account setup on behalf of the merchant with no commission being paid out at all?

  4. 4 On April 15th, 2008, Paul said:

    In that case then Ken, your are feeding search agencies the fodder to line their pockets & then unfortunately these maybe deduped against content affiliate sales. With neither content affiliates or networks earning commission or bonuses. You musn’t forget some of these search agencies or inhouse paid search teams don’t always think outside the box & don’t like the CPA model but rather acrue income via a % of ad spend.

  5. 5 On April 15th, 2008, Paul Wright said:

    Paul, it’s certainly an interesting and bold idea. I would love to see a merchant take you up on your suggestion as watch with interested to see how things pan out. I don’t work with or suggest BBG’s to clients myself and I guess time will tell if the latest Google TM rules will change anything in that department.

    First thing that comes to mind is for those merchants with BBG’s currently in operation. Normally they will have a strict agreement in place which require that large percentages of brand commissions be channeled back into the same affiliates generic campaign. If this is removed and commissions are now split between all affiliates would this not in turn lead to a sever drop in generic (paid search driven) sales where CPC’s can no longer be offset? Assuming that the uplift in sales from content affiliates would not match those driven by an aggressive generic search campaign.

    To be honest I’m still to hear a solid argument why brand bidding can’t be removed completely and more commission simply be paid for larger sales volumes? Sure it’ll require merchants to set up fair an appealing tiers but those affiliates who can do their sums will soon realise they can still chase volume and compete on generics if the price is right. Most importantly though it’ll only be those willing to put in the work and earn the money!

    And just to throw further confusion, what about those merchants out there that are currently deduping between search, display and affiliate channels? Their brand ads are just as lethal!

    At the moment I believe the market is crying out for a solid multi channel solution to offer weighted payments to those channels which have assisted in the sale. When that comes along then we will truly be given a valuable insight into what channel is most effective. Not just in driving incremental sales but tracking it all back life time value of the customer.


  6. 6 On April 15th, 2008, Paul said:

    Hi Paul,

    I’ll reply to in full later but it’s a misnomer that brand bidding groups offer an signficant value at all by reinvesting in the generics, from analysis we conducted on hybrid variations & misspellings these yielded less ads than those on just the brand showing reluctance for many to even go keyword the brand on exact match [BRAND] or just several brand terms on exact match. Illustrating some were not even committed to going to broadmatch with intelligent use of negative phrases. From numerous tests carried out you’ll find that their coverage is poor, where with the affiliate community contributing you are covering a greater brand keyword base on their interpretation on various brand, hybrids, variations & misspellings.

    You’ll find that by the nature of current BBGs they are reluctant to reinvest heavily in generics or make any loss on these (pure greed), a few may justify their inclusion in a BBG by doing the bare minimum to stay within the BBG, that’s if the network or agency is bothered at all.

    It’s worthwhile reading blogs & threads of affiliates who are familiar with the space & who have been involved.

    By offering this incentive to content affiliates, not only do they have the peace of mind knowing cookies are not overwritten & the generous prize pool, but it also lowers their inhibitions of promoting because a BBG previously existed, in addition to this the merchant will benefit signifcantly more with the synergy of knowledge from a broader base of content affiliates. Again from extensive experimentation, BBG’s are gernerally really lacking on the most basic of product or generic terms. This is a coorporate spin veiled as strategic groups which you have seen being churned out by several networks recently, unfortunately there are a lot of gullible parties out there who’s opinion can be swayed by colloquial use of vocabulary or several pints of beer.

    “To be honest I’m still to hear a solid argument why brand bidding can’t be removed completely and more commission simply be paid for larger sales volumes?”

    Yes that is another solution, however though a slightly different topic, tiers within themselves are fallible, especially if an affiliate marginally falls short of the next one up. The best solution is thus to have a sliding scale with incremental increases per sale. I will do a post on this explaining my analogy of how this simply works, but the beauty is each incremental sale receives an incremental increase in commission up to a maximum threshold.

    “And just to throw further confusion, what about those merchants out there that are currently deduping between search, display and affiliate channels? Their brand ads are just as lethal!”

    Again a seperate issue to tackle but I agree very important, it is disgusting that networks & merchants & agencies are not transparent to inform affiliates of these wihin the program information page, to a point that some of their other promotional methods might actually supercede any activity form affiliates.

    “At the moment I believe the market is crying out for a solid multi channel solution to offer weighted payments to those channels which have assisted in the sale. When that comes along then we will truly be given a valuable insight into what channel is most effective. Not just in driving incremental sales but tracking it all back life time value of the customer.”

    Another good point which has briefly been discussed on forum & a solution needs to be found, but if we can revolutionise brand bidding groups, then the industry would have made a step forward to looking after the interests of content affiliates & to be honest if changes are not made for the better very shortly then we shall be dropping several networks & approaching all merchants we are interested in working with within that network directly or simply dropping them too.

  7. 7 On April 16th, 2008, Google Revises Trademark Trigger Policy - Page 4 - Affiliate Marketing said:

    [...] per month in commission to “affiliates” adding zero value. Here’s an alternative suggestion : Sharing the Wealth – The Solution to Brand Bidding Groups Affiliate Marketing Blog __________________ Shane Dreamweaver Templates I ReveFeed.com I [...]

  8. 8 On April 17th, 2008, Tony said:

    Wow, what an incredibly detailed thread with some interesting ideas.

    Simple human greed will not allow any of this to ever happen, in my opinion.

  9. 9 On April 17th, 2008, Keith said:

    Tony I agree it is a very detailed article, Paul (Moose) has obviously given the matter a lot of thought and consideration.

    I can see this happening, it just needs one merchant to take the concept on board and for it to be a success, in my opinion its a win, win, win situation.

    The Merchant wins, his brand is protected on not only [brand name] but on a wide spectrum of brand related terms

    The Network wins as they will get their overide on an increase in sales

    The Affiliate wins, content affiliates and affiliates ppcing generic terms WILL NOT have cookies overwritten by Brand Bidders, and then of course there is the prize pool :)

  10. 10 On April 24th, 2008, Don’t Bother With The Sky TV Incentive !!! Unless You Have “Mug” Tattoed On Your Forehead - www.sky.com » Affiliate Marketing Blog said:

    [...] That’s why the solution I proposed is better for affiliates, and will post why some networks & agencies won’t embrace it. Read: Sharing the Wealth – The Solution to Brand Bidding Groups. [...]

  11. 11 On May 5th, 2008, D-Day - The Battle Commences - Google AdWords Trademark Policy Revision - » Affiliate Marketing Blog said:

    [...] Therefore if you are a merchant who currently has a BBG in place then I suggest you rethink & rapidly adopt alternative options like the one proposed here. “Sharing the Wealth – The Solution to Brand Bidding Groups” [...]

  12. 12 On May 7th, 2008, A4U Awards Nomination Shortlist - A Cat Amongst The Pigeons » Affiliate Marketing Blog said:

    [...] and more attractive propositions which are presentable in-front of them more notably … Sharing the Wealth – The Solution to Brand Bidding Groups … puts the wind up their [...]

  13. 13 On May 15th, 2008, ken said:

    I can’t understand why any merchant would allow any exact match brand bidding at all (apart from utter ignorance). most companies will be bidding on their brands themselves, so why let other people do the same?

    I do think your solution is way too complicated for these idiots to comprehend. im talking of course about the Merchants AND networks. The best solution in my mind would be to prevent the overwriting of cookies at all. if a cookie is set, then obviously the first affiliate did the hardest work and should be rewarded for it. It’s not a difficult task to implement, even the monkeys at tradedoubler could handle it.

  14. 14 On March 20th, 2009, Books Direct “Golden Ticket” Prize Pool Incentive - Estimated £10000 Plus » Affiliate Marketing Blog said:

    [...] little value it would add to the program, we pitched a concept to Sarah at Books Direct ….. See Here ….. Books Direct being a forward thinking merchant were receptive to the idea and so the [...]

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