Search Arbitrage Accounts For Largest Percentage Of Ads Competing On Brand Trademarks

Brands are often struggling with other advertisers encroaching on their trademark terms in search ads. Sometimes brand trademarks are used by “friendly” advertisers such as resellers, but a study released today from BrandVerity shows that search arbitrage accounts for the majority of branded search competition. The study analyzed how core brand terms of more than […]

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Brands are often struggling with other advertisers encroaching on their trademark terms in search ads. Sometimes brand trademarks are used by “friendly” advertisers such as resellers, but a study released today from BrandVerity shows that search arbitrage accounts for the majority of branded search competition.

The study analyzed how core brand terms of more than 250 consumer brands in 10 verticals are targeted across the major search engines. Overall, it probably won’t come as too much of a surprise that trademark usage by competing advertisers was higher on AOL, Bing and Yahoo compared to Google and Google Mobile results. The differences are striking, however, as the chart below shows.

On a given Google search for a brand name, there’s about a 1 in 3 chance that a potential customer will see an ad by another advertiser using a brand’s trademark . On Bing, Yahoo and AOL, there were at least two competing ads per SERP, with an average of three competing ads for every ad from the brands themselves.

Brand ads vs competing ads on brand terms
On Google, more ads from the brands being measured appeared than competing ads. Whereas on each of the other search engines — AOL, Bing and Yahoo — brand ads were outnumbered by competing ads on search results for their own core brand terms, which included the brand name itself, common misspellings of the brand name and URL searches for the brand.

In addition to brands filing trademark usage protection claims with Google, BrandVerity surmises that Google’s quality score acts as a gatekeeper of sorts, blocking less relevant ads from other advertisers from showing on explicit brand searches.

In industries like Clothing & Apparel and Consumer Electronics, resellers accounted for the largest number of non-brand ads. Often the brands welcome resellers promoting their products. Consumer Electronics brands and Internet & Telecom brands experienced the most trademark usage by other advertisers. Resellers factored in heavily in the Consumer Electronics industry, though Comparison Shopping Engines (CSEs) and downloads/toolbar advertisers accounted for significant competition on Bing, Yahoo and AOL.

Consumer Finance brands experienced the least competition.

Search Arbitrage Dominates In Many Verticals

As Susan Waldes’ Search Engine Land column about Ask.com this September showed, search arbitrage is alive and well. BrandVerity’s study shows that search arbitrage accounted for the largest share of non-brand ads: 24.1 percent on AOL, 22.4 percent on Bing, 11.2 percent on Google and 5.9 percent on Google Mobile.

While comparatively, Google’s percentages of search arbitrage are lower, AOL is included in Google’s search partner network. Brands that have opted into search partners, then, are likely to encounter more search arbitrage than they see on Google.com alone.

BrandVerity points out that search arbitrage is actually higher than often reported because sites identified as CSEs run ads in categories where product price comparison isn’t even available, such as home services and internet and telecom industries. Often, CSEs will display search ads on the landing pages for these ads — essentially search arbitrage. In these types of industry categories, BrandVerity bundled CSEs with Search Arbitrage.

The report features analysis of each vertical studied, which includes, Clothing & Apparel, Consumer Electronics, Consumer Finance, Education, Home Services, Hotels, Insurance, Internet & Telecom, Online Retail and Software, Web & Technology. The study is available for download here.


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About the author

Ginny Marvin
Contributor
Ginny Marvin was Third Door Media’s former Editor-in-Chief (October 2018 to December 2020), running the day-to-day editorial operations across all publications and overseeing paid media coverage. Ginny Marvin wrote about paid digital advertising and analytics news and trends for Search Engine Land, MarTech and MarTech Today. With more than 15 years of marketing experience, Ginny has held both in-house and agency management positions. She can be found on Twitter as @ginnymarvin.

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