Tuesday, February 07, 2006

A Pay per Click Success Story

NationalPayDayExpress.com got so many leads through our pay per click and search engine optimization program that they had to ask us to stop!

I am not kidding. The program was so successful at start that they ad to ask us to turn it down for 2 months because they ran out of money to loan out!

How we did it:
They first came to us to help with Internet marketing to the Canadian market for their online payday loan business. After reviewing their site, we recommended they build out a lot more content based around the words we targeted. We told them that a pay per click campaign would get quick short term results and provide valuable research for a long term search engine optimization strategy. The high natural search rankings from the search engine optimization program would provide a better value over the long term.

We came up with a shortlist of keyword phrases and then queried the multiple search phrase databases we use to expand the list and come up with all of the possible variations. The databases we use contain about 300 million of the last search phrases on the Internet and are an invaluable tool for keyword research. We expanded the list to a large number of alternative phrases and then weeded out the ones that would be searched by ones that would probably not be the target market.

The Pay Per Click Campaign:
We created a pay per click campaign based on 768 keyword phrases. We wrote about 50 ads which are specific to the keyword phrases so they convert better, and made multiple versions that we could run a/b tests on them to optimize for the highest converting copy. We set this up in Google (targeted only to Canada), Yahoo (using geographically targeted phrases) and Kanoodle (targeted only to Canada).

We then instrumented the site with our 3rd party bid automation and conversion tracking software. This allows us to automatically raise and lower bids on all the phrases until we find the sweet spot between traffic and cost.

We worked with the client to determine the desired acquisition cost for loan applications so we could set the bidding rules and targets. Because competition was fierce, we also discussed lifetime customer value, so we could consider setting the acquisition cost targets higher if needed to get the customers in, considering that many would come back over and over again.

We now generate weekly reports on all of the costs and conversions so we can see the ROI for each phrase in each engine.

DayParting:
In our regular review sessions with the client we noticed together that the conversions from loan applications to funded loans was following some patterns on time of day and day of week. After discussing the possible reasons for this we came up with an action plan to turn up the advertising during the highest converting times, and stop it during low converting times. This would not be possible without automation software because it requires changing the bids on the 768 more than 20 times per week.

The results? Less money for higher conversions – essentially we get all of the loans for a fraction of the original cost. Competitors will wonder how we can out-bid them and still make money. It’s because we are only bidding on the highest converting terms during the highest converting times per day – and we don’t waste money on the rest.

Search Engine Optimization
First we created about 20 new pages of content on their web site based around the keyword research we did. We weighted heavily the top performing and highest traffic keywords that we found in the pay per click campaigns. The content and code was optimized, and of course we optimized the architecture and internal linking within the site.

We then instrumented the site with WebTrends 7.5 Professional (web analytics software) so we can track the conversions on the natural search vs. paid search and see what cities and provinces the traffic is coming from. In future this will allow us to work with the site design to find out where visitors are having trouble so we can improve the content and the conversion.

Finally, we set up our search marketing dashboard, so we can see the search rankings for all of the phrases in all of the search engines, monitor page rank, spider activity, and more – so we can fine tune our search engine optimization. We give nationalpaydayexpress online access to all of our tools so they can review our work, see the results, and call and ask lots of questions. (which they do!)

It’s still a little early to tell just how good the results are on the SEO campaign, because the new content has only been online for about 6 weeks. However they have gone from zero top ranks to 91 ranks in the first two pages, 47 on the first page and 12 cherished number one spots across the 17 search engines we are reporting on weekly. Rankings are going up fast, and when the directory links kick in, we should be sitting pretty.

I expect that the search engine optimization will drive more traffic than the pay per click very shortly.

Outcome:
We are restarting the pay per click campaign now that some of the loans are maturing.
It sure is nice to have happy customers!

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