Your PPC Keywords Are Not Your Own

Gerard Tollefsen - March 11, 2010

All trademark infringement discussions aside, one of the most important things a business running a pay-per click (PPC) campaign must understand is that keywords are free game for all advertisers.  Yes, Google and the other search engines have policies in place that restrict abuse of trademarked terms in ad copy, but the keyword itself is available to bid on for any advertiser willing to pay for the click.  This stance by Google was further supported by Judge Morrison C. England Jr. of the California Eastern District Court.  In a recent case ruling of Jurin v. Google Inc., Judge England states that Google “does not provide the content of the ‘Sponsored Link’ advertisements” and further clarifies that “It provides a space and a service and thereafter charges for its service.”  Basically, Google does not sell keywords.  They sell the ad space and provide a service to bid on keywords for which they charge for that ad space and service.

I make mention of this ruling because it hammers down a point that many advertisers overlook when deciding on keywords for their PPC campaigns.  Anyone can bid on keywords and many times broad, generic keywords have the most competition.  The reason for this is simple, more than one industry (or individual company) may view a keyword as important to their business.  Even when the advertisers bidding on a specific keyword are not true competitors, they are still competing for the ad space that a particular keyword drives.  This increased competition on broad terms is great for Google and other search engines, but not for the advertiser’s cost per click (CPC).

When determining the right selection of keywords to bid on, keep in mind how those keywords are interpreted by other companies or industries.  If you find that too many of your keywords have companies outside of your industry bidding on that term, it is usually a red flag that the term is too broad.  The visitors who click on your ad, triggered by that keyword search most likely will be unqualified.  In addition, you may see higher CPC’s from those broad terms that relate to more than one industry.  You will be well served in understanding the ruling that Google sells ad space and not keywords, because you can not stop other companies from bidding on a keyword simply because you feel that keyword is more relevant to your business.

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