Search Engine and Affialite marketingThe truth is no trademark owner can control the search results of most search engines such as Google, Yahoo or Bing. You might find slight variations to the exact trademark rules by search engine or country, however as a common trait the previous assertion holds true. For example with Google you might be able to restrict the usage of your trademark inside the verbiage of a paid ad. However you can’t restrict anyone from appearing under your trademark in both organic search results or paid ads. Many trademark owners fail to recognize this reality. Try it now. Goto www.google.com and perform a dozen searches on trademarks that come to your mind. Chances are you will see many ads and search results that are not owned by the TM holder.
In short, you do NOT control search results of any kind on search engines.

As a TM owner where does this leave you? For one you want to try to control the most you can in the results that appear under terms containing your trademarks. For organic search results you need to hire the expertise to make sure your site appears first. This should not be very difficult but will require some degree of expertise. Concerning the paid ads the same applies. Keep in mind 62% of the internet search engine users are not aware of the difference between paid ads and organic results. That’s right. For most internet users, paid and organic results are the same! For paid ads it is a lot easier (to be first) since you can simply purchase the placement. The issue is that in both cases you will probably only be able to place “one result” amongst the 10 organic search results on the first page, and the possible 10+ ads in the paid placement slots. These remaining slots (90%+) are now available for anyone to grab.

What are you to do?

Some do nothing and are constantly subject to the risks of losing customers or visitors. Just like in real life, location matters. In the internet world, clearing the space around you matters. One of the simplest way to reach this goal is to have an affiliate program. This will probably ensure that over time most organic search results will be either you, or one of your affiliates. To address the paid ads issue you might want to permit full TM or some form of TM bidding (I covered some of these variations in Is it Trademark Bidding!). Like with all issues concerning sales, marketing and the internet, you have to measure the results and fine tune your approach to maximize your profits and minimize your risks. Don’t forget to avoid taking huge chances all at once since this could result in a situation where determining successes or failures will be a guessing game. As always when dealing with other people, be kind and respectful of their realities and business models (it’s always easier to burn a bridge then to build one). Make small changes, evaluate the results and get going at it!