Affiliate/Reseller Search Governance: Managing Overlap to Maximize Performance

CHALLENGE

Brands that sell through partners quite often compete with their resellers/affiliates in paid search.  This competition and leap-frog bidding can raise paid search cost-per-clicks (CPCs).  Additionally, competing with commission-based partners like Amazon.com in paid search can inflate overall cost-per-acquisition (CPAs).  For instance, Amazon could be generating sales through your paid search brand keywords (and then charging you a commission for those sales) in instances where you could have driven the sale yourself (thus avoiding paying commissions).

To illustrate this challenge, consider the below screenshot.  The “iPhone” search query shows three ads: one from Apple itself, and two from Apple’s partners (T-Mobile and Sprint).  To avoid incurring unnecessary costs, Apple should be coordinating its search program with its partners:

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SOLUTION

To maximize overall performance and keep CPCs and CPAs down, Performics integrates your search and affiliate/reseller programs through a strategy that we call “governance.”  Governance is a system of organizing partners and prioritizing goals for maximum gain.  Benefits include:

  • Ability for multiple brand lines/resellers/affiliates to jointly, but efficiently, bid on overlap keywords
  • Control media costs
  • Enhance user experience
  • Optimize and increase real estate on search results pages
  • Leverage synergies of complimenting campaigns
  • Integrate management and reporting

We take a three-step approach to designing an affiliate/reseller search governance program for our clients:

1. Develop Rules

Your affiliate/reseller governance program will be controlled by rules, which vary by brand.  Performics develops keyword, bid and copy rules through testing.  One common rule is that affiliates/resellers cannot bid above your brand on brand keywords.  Brands often leverage this rule if:

  • They want the first chance to drive the click and sale/lead, avoiding paying commission to a reseller/affiliate
  • They’re trying to drive searchers in-store with coupons or offers
  • They’re using paid search to send searchers to a social channel like Facebook

However, there are instances where it makes sense to allow reseller/affiliates to outbid you on brand keywords.  Brands often allow this if:

  • Their landing pages aren’t optimized to capture or convert keyword demand
  • They have better margins through a channel partner
  • They know the affiliate/reseller is more likely to drive the sale/lead.  For instance, searchers who query “[your brand] coupons” are often looking for coupon sites.  Thus, you may allow an affiliate coupon site to bid above you for those keywords.   Searchers would land where they wanted; and the coupon site—not you—would pay for the clicks:

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2. Coordinate Partners

Once we develop rules, we’ll coordinate bid strategies with affiliates/resellers to prevent leap-frog bidding and CPC inflation.  This includes providing clear bid rules to affiliates/resellers.  We’ll also provide copy guidelines (e.g. whether affiliates/resellers are allowed to include—in their ad copy— promotional offers available on your site or distributed via other channels).

Coordination also focuses on leveraging channel partners to dominate the search page.  Because you can only serve one paid search ad per domain, competitors have room to show on the search engine results page for your brand queries.  But search domination strategies overpower conquestors by organizing your channel partners or affiliates to bid on your brand name in conjunction, thus pushing conquestors down.

3. Track Partners & Enforce Rules

Lastly, you must enforce your rules.  This requires brand monitoring tools—like Performics’ Benchtools (screenshot below)—that identify when others are bidding on your trademarks or using your marks in ad copy and URLs.  Your brand monitoring tool should integrate with workflow automation technology to alert your agency team when a rule violator is identified.  If an affiliate/reseller is violating your rules, you could remove them from your program (many brands employ a “three strikes” policy for affiliates).  If the affiliate/reseller is violating the search engine’s rules, your agency team can contact the search engine to remove the listing.

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Complicated challenges like affiliate/reseller search governance require sophisticated solutions.  Performics has the technology, processes and experience to help manage search overlap and drive performance at the lowest allowable cost.  Contact Performics today to bring these strategies to your paid search, affiliate and reseller programs.

Performics provides Outsourced Program Management.