Google Adwords announces major change to trademark policy in sponsored search

By Occupancy Marketing | August 5th, 2010

On Wednesday 4th August, Google announced an important change to its policy on trademark usage in paid search advertising in the UK, Ireland and Canada. The change already applies to Google US search.

The change in policy, which will take effect from the 14th September 2010, will allow advertisers to use trademarked brand names in the text description of ads if they legitimately claim to be a reseller of the goods or services in question. This is a move away from Google’s current policy in the UK to block explicit trademark usage in the text of ads should the trademark’s owner object.

So what does this move of the goal posts mean for Hotels and OTA web sites?

Unsurprisingly, Online Travel Agent web sites (OTAs) benefit from this change at the expense of Hotels. OTAs that will now be able to use trademarked Hotel names in the text of their ads in Google for all Hotels that they sell. This will improve the performance of OTA paid search campaigns in Google, driving more visitor traffic to their sites from branded ads and creating more revenue via commission bookings.

Hotels on the other hand will no longer be able to enforce trademark blocks via Google on the usage from OTA’s of brand names in paid search ads. This means less control over the use of the brand and more potential risk for losing visitor traffic and revenue via commission to OTA sites.

So what can Hotels do following this new development?

The first action for Hotels is to identify all the advertisers in Google that are using trademarks in ad text but are not authorised to sell availability on the Hotel. An advertiser that is doing this would presumably not qualify as a reseller so it is not permitted to use the trademark brand name in the text of ads; it will however be interesting to see how Google responds to these advertiser complaints.

Brand Paid Search

Another important consideration is for a Hotel to consider introducing a brand paid search marketing with Google AdWords. Occupancy Marketing, an Internet Marketing specialist to the Hospitality sector, recommends that Hotels look to run brand paid search campaigns – specifically with the aim of out bidding OTA web sites on their own brand name. Bookings are always more profitable when they come direct through the web site than through OTA channels.

The main benefits of brand paid search is the relative low commission costs (‘cost-per-click’) and the high levels of return on investment. Occupancy Marketing recently calculated the cost of a client’s brand paid search campaign to be the equivalent to a 2.5% commission on the revenue generated from the campaign. In comparison to a usual 20%+ commission typical on OTA bookings, this is an investment worth making for Hotels.

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