Search is a cornerstone of many marketing strategies, with UK brands investing more than £1bn in the medium during the second half of last year. According to the IAB, a staggering 83% of all paid-search spend goes straight to Google, giving it a lion's share of the market.
However, Google wants more, and changes to its trademark policy will no doubt boost its coffers. Previously, brands had been prevented from using trademarks they didn't own in their AdWords text. Now, Google has scrapped the rule, freeing advertisers to use trademark terms if they are reselling products, providing reviews or supplying information about the brands in question.
The move opens up the paid-search market to companies that previously had their sponsored listings censored. Of course, Google claims the policy shift will benefit consumers, and, to a certain extent, this is true. For example, a search for 'Sony Vaio', could result in paid-search ads from players unaffiliated to the brand, such as online shops and review sites, as well as those selling similar items.
While providing alternative options is a good thing for consumers, brands now face competition on trademark terms previously reserved for their exclusive use. As we reveal on page 3, experts warn this could significantly hike the cost of paid search for certain terms. Finance, travel and consumer electronics brands in particular need to make sure their agencies are on top of the situation.
Google, which has a stock market value of $200bn, insists that everything it does is aimed at providing the best user experience. Call me cynical, but I can't help thinking this latest development might be - dare I say it - financially motivated.