What is Brand Bidding and Negative Match

January 20, 2010 Steve

Welcome back to the first of the posts for 2010 on Affiiliate Doctors.

Apologies for the lack of updates recently, however, we are now back in the driving seat and on track to deliver some more answers to those burning questions and headaches you’ve been having.  To softly kick those booze drained brain cells back into gear for the New Year, Brenda wrote in having completed an online course and setting up her first blog.  Unbeknownst to Brenda, she found herself doing something that started to trigger emails from an Affiliate Network about “Brand Bidding”:

“I’m a newbie to affiliate marketing, but I’ve done a 6-hour course on the net (hopefully legit) and I did a first blog.  Not good, but I thought I’d just put the theory into practice a bit early on in the course.

It was for a car insurance company.  I did put the name of the car insurance company and the group name in the text of the blog.  Also, I put in a banner for them.

I’ve now had an email from the company I’m being paid by saying that there will be a zero tolerance policy for anyone caught brand bidding.  What does this mean?  Also, they say members of their programme are not permitted to bid on (name of co.), insurance brand keywords, phrases or brand mispellings.

It then said please ‘negatively’ match on (name of company) and all variations.  Also, it said using their display URL is banned.

I don’t know what all this means in relation to a blog.

Please help.”

Here’s what the docs had to say …


Hi Brenda

‘Brand bidding’ is a bit of affiliate jargon and it refers to when an affiliate purchases clicks from a search engine like Google for keywords based around the site/company’s name.  The reason that this is frowned upon is that a lot of users perform searches on Google as a ‘navigational search’, that is to say rather than bookmarking or remembering the URL they simply type it into Google and click the first result.  As such users which have already been successfully marketed to by other mediums (newsletters, display, offline etc.) can then be cookied by an affiliate’s paid ad and they then get a commission for doing very little.

This can add considerably to a merchant’s bottom line costs and also tends to negatively affect the performance of other affiliates on their program, and so it’s banned on a lot of programs.  Some merchants also ask affiliates to add a ‘negative match’ for their brand keywords to their paid search campaigns.  This simply means that you can list the merchant’s brand term in your account and no queries with it in will have your ads shown.  This is done as there are various matching types for keywords in paid search, some show up just for a very specific query, but some will be broader and so can show up on keywords that you haven’t explicitly bidded on and thus could contain the merchant’s brand term.

If you are only using a blog for natural traffic and not buying paid traffic (which seems to be the case from your question) then you have nothing to worry about!  If in doubt speak to the network and they can help you out.


Hi Brenda.

Thanks for submitting your enquiry to the Doctors, and I hope the following will help you understand what the communication you have received from the merchant means.

Firstly I will explain what the merchant means from the email you have got:

This email means that they don’t want people to place Pay Per Click (PPC) ads on the name of their company on any of the search engines through paid search.  When they said any variations of the brand name, they mean you can’t bid on any terms that relate to their company name.

As an example, I will use the car insurance company Norwich Union or Aviva as it is now known:

You can’t bid on any terms that include the name Norwich Union or Aviva in any way, so if you were to bid on these terms your sales would be rejected.  So you couldn’t also bid on terms like “Norwich Union Car Insurance” as this would still be a variation, or “Norich Union” as this would be classed as a miss spell.

‘Negatively’ match on (name of company)

This means that you would have to add the name of that company as a negative match on any PPC activity.  So if you were bidding on car insurance, you would need to negative match the name of the company, so for the example you would need to add both “Norwich union” and “Aviva” as negative matches.

Using their display URL is banned

This means that if you are doing a PPC campaign you must not use the merchant URL on any PPC adverts you place in search engines, so you would have to use your own URL and landing page to direct your traffic to, and then the customer would come to your site and then go onto the merchant site.  So again, using “Norwich Union” and “Aviva” as an example, you would not be able to use http://www.aviva.co.uk/ as your display URL on your PPC ad.

From reading your question, I don’t think to be honest that any of the above affects you as you are talking about your own blog on which you are simply advertising the merchant and are not directing traffic via PPC to the company in question, so these terms don’t relate to you as you are not using PPC to generate traffic to your site.

I hope this is useful, if you have any questions please feel free to contact us.


Brand bidding is a term used in regard to pay per click (PPC) marketing such as Google adwords, Yahoo or MSN paid search.  It has nothing to do with organic search listings, so unless you are buying traffic from any search engines you have nothing to worry about.

If you do start paying for traffic, all it means is that you cannot bid for your adverts to appear on the terms the merchant says they don’t want you to or they will not pay you commission earned and may kick you off their program entirely.

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Filed under: Blogging, Clinic, Pay Per Click

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One Response to “What is Brand Bidding and Negative Match”

  1. Great post guys.

    Brenda, to add a negative keyword you can simple put -keyword in your keyword list. So to negative Aviva you would just put


    or you can simply add the keyword to the negative keyword section at the bottom of the adgroup’s keyword section.


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