Partner PPC – Doing It Right

Share with:

In the world of business, there are makers and sellers: companies who make products, and companies who sell them. Sometimes they’re one and the same, and other times they’re different. If you buy plastic bags for your retail store, chances are you’re not buying them from the bag manufacturer, but from a vendor who bought the bags and then resells them to you. It’s common practice, and it’s good for business.

Years ago, in another life, I sold radio and newspaper advertising for a living. We frequently dealt with co-op advertising, where a product manufacturer would agree to pay for a portion of a reseller’s ad, provided the reseller included certain elements about the manufacturer – their logo, name, slogan, etc.

Nowadays, I find myself working on similar programs for PPC. We usually call them partner programs, although they go by different names. Still, the premise is the same: working with a reseller to promote a manufacturer’s product or service.

Like with most things PPC, there is a right way to do partner PPC and a wrong way. The wrong way is for the partner to go rogue, trying to bid on manufacturer trademarks without permission. I once had a client whose resellers were doing just that – using PPC effectively to sell their products, to the point that the client lost nearly all control over them, including the prices they were charging. The resellers were using PPC for acquisition, with rock-bottom prices that undercut the manufacturer themselves. Needless to say, this was a challenging situation for all involved.

So what’s the right way to do partner PPC?

Work together.

Too often, partner PPC ends up as a classic case of the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing. Resellers decide to start bidding against manufacturers, never talking with one another – and soon, no one is getting good results from PPC.

Avoid this trap by calling a meeting with resellers and manufacturers and work out a program. Decide on the parameters first! Advertising is a business deal, so it makes sense to have a contract or at least program guidelines for participation.

Decide who gets what keywords.

Many vendors selling the same thing to the same audience means many different advertisers bidding on the same keywords. Depending on the partner program setup, you may even be sending traffic to the same display URL.

For these and other reasons, it’s crucial to decide who gets to bid on what keywords. Many partner programs work well with a “divide and conquer” strategy, where the keyword list is divided as evenly as possible across all partners. Other times, if traffic goes to partner sites, it can be possible for multiple partners to bid on the same keywords. Decide what makes sense, and stick to it. Periodically run reports to make sure duplicate keywords haven’t slipped into the mix.

Keyword coordination takes time, but it’s worth the investment in better performance for all involved.

Get trademark approvals in place ahead of time.

A huge benefit of working with a well-known manufacturer is using their name in your ad copy. But often, the manufacturer has applied for trademark protection with Google, meaning partners won’t be allowed to use the terms in ad copy. There are several workarounds for this, all involving the trademark owner giving express permission to companies to use their trademark. Get all this done before launching PPC! It’s frustrating and time-consuming to set up a campaign and get approvals, only to have all your ads declined for trademark use.

Get tracking and reporting in place.

Tracking is important no matter what kind of PPC you’re doing, but it can be especially challenging in partner situations where you’re sending traffic from multiple accounts to the same website. Make sure your analytics package can handle this, and be sure to use tracking URLs so you know whose traffic is whose!

A word of caution:  If you’re an agency managing multiple partner campaigns, be very clear about what type of reporting partners will receive. I once worked on a national program that had one manufacturer and 20 partners – and I managed all of the campaigns. The partner budgets were relatively small – but reporting time isn’t usually dependent on advertiser spend! We had to be very clear about the kinds of reports we’d provide to partners (and to the manufacturer), and how to handle requests for extra reporting. Luckily, we were able to use automated reports that didn’t take much time to create. Otherwise, you’ll find your workload increasing for every partner you take on!

With advance planning, and a true partnership attitude, partner PPC can be very lucrative for both the supplier and the partner. Have you done partner PPC? What are your favorite tips? Share in the comments!

Related Posts:


  1. I deal with Co-op PPC all the time and it is a great way for retail businesses to get some additional return on the advertising they are doing.

    One of the things I have noticed is that (depending on your industry) many manufacturers can be very….what’s the nice word…”old school” in their approach to advertising. The best advice I know is to have your reporting and tracking set up properly and have sample reports you can show potential partners how you will show that you are advertising and what they can expect. Use ad samples, etc, because many manufacturers still have not grasped advertising online and are still stuck in the mindset of shared space with others on TV commercials and newspaper advertisement.

    • Melissa Mackey says

      Very good points, Jeff. I have noticed that as well – online advertising in general is very foreign to a lot of organizations. We spend a lot of time educating clients and partner participants on how the whole thing works. It’s worth the time, though!

  2. Also…the grammar in the above comment is atrocious…I apologize in advance; it is still early here 🙂

  3. Mel awesome post! Jeff good insight as well.

    This is also something which Franchisors and Franchisees deal with regularly. Even if it isn’t in a co-op environment there can be issues. Working at Choice Hotels I had franchisees occasionally not know what they were doing with PPC (shock right?). We would see a huge drop in overall revenue to the site and find out a franchisee had been using our core display URL for a specific brand, with ridiculous bids, no geo-targeting and no real budget control set. It was a nightmare.

    There has to be clear guidelines set from the franchise or manufacturer side of things as well as consequences and enforcement of policies. It can be an awesome win/win if everybody is on the same page but actually putting the program together or getting it reigned back in can be easier said than done.

  4. As a manufacturer, we are looking into setting up our own co-op PPC program. Any suggestions on how to go about this?

    • Melissa Mackey says

      Hi Roderick,

      I recommend working with a qualified agency to help you set this up. There are a lot of nuances to partner PPC, as outlined in the post, that can be difficult to navigate if you’re not a seasoned PPC pro. Not trying to sell my own services, just making a recommendation.

      • Roderick,

        Like Melissa mentioned (I know from experience working with manufacturers and franchisors) it will take a little work to setup. You especially need to make sure that you have your terms and conditions in place, and you have a solid idea internally whether there will ever be a time as the manufacturer that you may want to run Paid Marketing against your brand(s).

        If not done right, you can find your brand severely diminished, or compromised. Also something to remember is once the cat is out of the bag it is hard to put back in. Your distributors/sellers can get addicted to the “co-op juice” 🙂

Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.