February 28, 2005, 12:00 AM

Top Spot

(Page 2 of 2)

"Retailers believe they`re in the power situation because they are writing the check. But truth is, it`s the affiliate, so you need to treat that affiliate as you would anyone in the power situation," Bresee says. "Treat them with kid gloves, and make sure they`re happy."

Know the reasons
Depending on their experience with individual affiliates and use of affiliate marketing overall, marketers` views are widely dispersed on the power balance between their affiliates and themselves in general, and the issue surrounding competition for

AdWord positions in particular. While marketers and service providers such as Bresee and Messer make some thought-provoking arguments for giving affiliates a freer hand in search marketing, the comments of others like Collins and Lee--and the 56% of marketers in the AffStat Report that don`t allow affiliates to bid on trademarks--show plenty of marketers believe they have reason to keep a tighter grip on how affiliates market their brands on search engines.

For marketers on the fence, Stuart Larkin, vice president of partner services at online marketing company Performics Inc., lists some points to consider. In answering the question for themselves of how to balance control of search marketing with affiliates, marketers first need to determine how sensitive they are about their own brand, and whether they are looking to search marketing for maximum exposure or a more controlled reach. That should help guide such decisions as whether they want to manage their own trademark keywords, allow affiliates to use some or all of them, or even limit the use of search marketing by affiliates entirely, according to Larkin.

Monitoring
A final set of considerations for marketers once they have those decisions lined up is how they`ll back them up. "How do you intend to monitor and police it?" says Larkin. "How do you intend to communicate your policy to affiliates, and what do you intend to do if you catch an affiliate or reseller violating your policy?"

As to the long-term effect of Google`s new policy on affiliate marketing, Larkin says it`s too soon to tell. "We`ll have to let it shake out a little longer," he says. "The only thing I have heard from marketers so far is that they`ve found the search experience on Google to be cleaner. If that`s what Google was looking for, they got it."

mary@verticalwebmedia.com

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