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Newsletter #1 - Internet marketing basics

Newsletter #2 - Local and National marketing

Newsletter #3 - Locals and Directories

Newsletter #4 - Media buying

Newsletter #2 - Internet Marketing - Paid advertising

Internet marketing - Paid Advertising

The writer, an expert in developing client server and web based financial systems, designed numerous systems and provided usability and marketing related site traffic analysis including data mining for some of the most heavily visited sites including 3COM, Wall Street Journal,,

Table of Contents

  1. Local vs. National marketing/advertising on the web
  2. Targeting local market directly - cons and pros
  3. Targeting national market - cons and pros
  4. Portals
  5. Types of portal billing and their influence on marketing channels

Clearly the target audience depends on the site you advertise on. Intuitively it should be clear which sites are national and which regional: is clearly a national site because visitors to that site come from physical locations in all 50 states. Why? Because the contents of such site are of interest to the national audience! Same can be said about all topical sites like sites about French wines, Chinese cooking or sports (even ice hockey!).

On the other hand sites with the contents dedicated to the NH North restaurants or Atlanta GA rentals are mainly interesting to the locals (and those who intend to move to the area).

Banners (clickable images of various sizes of your site on other sites) placed on a national site will bring you (hopefully) visitors spread across all of the states (with a ratio reflecting different states population and residents Internet habits). Banners placed on a Atlanta GA site will bring you visitors from Atlanta GA metro area.

That much is clear but with two notable exceptions: targeted geographic advertisements on search engines like google or yahoo and placing business ads in national yellow pages sites with breakdown by type of business and state.

Yellow pages sites are clear.
Search engine is the only other way to target geographic area on the internet with the precision of say city or state.

Suppose you want to target auto insurance and workers comp in the atlanta area

How would you do it?
You go to search engine like Google and buy ads for search phrases like 'auto insurance atlanta' or 'workers comp atlanta' Only people searching the Web for that are presumably auto owners in Atlanta area seeking auto insurance or business owners in the same area seeking workers comp insurance (second phrase maybe not the best example because also people seeking knowledge about workers comp may click your ad and you will be charged for that click!).

We move now for a closer look at the local advertisement channels and will address their pluses and minuses

From the previous section we can see the possible ways to target local audience:
--Placing banners at local content sites (regional, municipal, local sports)
--Banner exchange with local merchants with web presence
--Yellow pages
--Search engines ad campaigns for search phrases including local area names like (auto insurance atlanta)
--paying for your agency web site promotion

Now we will address cons and pros of each of those channels

2.1 Placing banners at local content sites

Pros: Targets precisely the audience you need
Cons: A lot of time spent dealing with their owners/operators because to get enough traffic you need a lot of them!
Probably will not agree for a pay per success or true lead only for click Most of those sites are technological not very advanced and cannot keep track of clicks or not very good at it so they will try to overcharge or take inflexible negotiating position - in short hard to deal with.

2.2 Banner exchange with local merchants

Pros: Same as above, targets precisely the audience you need
Cons: Very limited traffic few qualifying merchants

2.3 Yellow pages

Pros: Again the right audience, presumably good conversion from clicks to leads because people look up businesses (as opposed clicking on your banner spontaneously on a general purpose site) for a reason.
Cons: Fairly expensive. It boils down to: it either cost effective or it is not Hopefully your web site statistics allow you to make that decision (our web sites do have advanced free stats with your base site - just could not help mentioning that :)

2.4 Search engines ad campaigns for search phrases including local area names

Pros: Good tools to manage campaigns as precise as you want - just define a search phrase in response to which your ad will imprint on the right margin.
Presumably good conversion clicks to leads - again if people search for "auto insurance atlanta" most of them must be in need of it.
Cons: A lot of competition with other advertisers with deeper pockets like insweb or progressive or geico because of competition for ad space on the margin can get expensive

2.5 paying for your agency web site promotion

Pros: The best result is second or third search engine result page for really obscure search phrases that nobody uses
In our view is not justified.
Cons: Expensive, no significant results

Now we will take a closer look at national advertisement

As we explained above you cannot do it with your agency site. Clearly national interest site will not place your banner because it takes expensive real estate on the site but only people from your state (the widest) might click on it. It makes more cense for them to put an ad of site that will generate "click-worthy" interest from visitors across the whole geographic specter.

Solution: portal like and the likes of it.
A portal like that have many agents enrolled so it can route quote requests for visitors from any state. Now it makes economic cense to advertise on national interest sites.

Major methods of advertisement for a portal: --partner sites --affiliate networks --web site promotion --search engine ads with search phrases including medium to large states with multiple distinct metro areas for example "auto insurance texas" or "auto insurance california"

3.1 Partner sites

Similar to local partner sites. You go to each site and agree to the conditions (pricing the most important) under which they will place your banner on their site. Pros: Wide variety of topical sites so you can choose which ones will bring visitors most likely to buy insurance Cons: Have to deal with each partner site separately

3.2 Afiliate networks and partner sites

Affiliate network is basically a bunch of sites with an ad agency representing them. Potential merchants enroll at that agency's site after reviewing pricing etc etc Pros: Do not have to deal with each partner site separately Wide variety of topical sites so you can choose which ones will bring visitors most likely to buy insurance Wide variety of pricing/billing options Cons: Some overhead because of that agency's markup

3.3 web site promotion

Clearly as a portal for say hundred agents you have a much better budget for that. The problem is that sites like that of direct writing carriers or insweb likes have even bigger budget! And if it is not on the first page in my view it is not worth doing. Pros: If you can get it on the first page in any of the major search engines even for 10% of used search phrases it will definitely bring traffic. Cons: Competition against portals and carriers with huge budgets makes it unreasonably expensive

3.4 search engine ads

As we explained in the Local section you can geographically tailor your search engine ads campaign with search phrases including geographic locations like names of states and/or cities Internet users (like people in general) differ in their demand on seeing their agent in person or at least on agent being in some sort of vicinity. Some are agreeable in conducting the purchase over the phone and paying the premium by check so as long as an agent has license of selling in a state he/she will have no problem converting a lead to purchase. Customers like that when searching for say "auto insurance CA" and seeing an ad for an agency web site will not think twice as to which part of their state that agency is actually located. Other people do feel more comfortable if the agent that handles their insurance is located at least in the same metro area. We will not speculate here what is the ratio of those categories of prospects as far as the purchase of insurance is concerned. Only personal (per state) experience will tell an agent what is better for search phrases on state level: Advertise directly their web site and risk many people leaving because they are far geographically from that agency (like upstate NY visitors from Queens based agency) OR advertise thru portal and share some leads if agent enrollment is very dense and most zips are crowded. What are the pluses and minuses of using portals like or our portal, Pros: Access to affiliate networks, partners and other national marketing channels we described Our portal also doubles as a sort of directory of insurance agents (see Find an agent on the right) Saves time on managing a large number of search engines campaigns Centralized marketing expertise helps find lines of business that are underpriced in pay-per-click cense while placing ads on search engines Cons: Slight overhead (in our case since we are a pure software development firm a very small overhead as you can judge by prices on our web sites).

Types of portal billing and their influence on marketing channels

There are two types of billing: pay per lead and pay per click (we will not address pay per success as extremely limiting) How likes do it: Visitor is directed to quote forms After filling in and submitting the message shows on the screen that they should expect an agent to contact them and a phone of that agent is also printed on the screen. This is a typical pay-per-lead billing. Pros: Very precise (in cases the data is junk agents can report and the lead is not counted); Requires very limited trust between agents and a portal Cons: What happens if a prospect is unsure while filling in one of the data entry forms? There is no phone where to call because if a portal like that were to give agent's phone people are likely sometimes call and deal directly with agent. It is not even a matter of agent's ethics sometime people touch basics and consent to be contacted at a later date and time. Also portal like that does not act as a directory allowing visitors just to find an agent by zip code. Redirect to an agent's site would be a click not a full lead

How does the pay-per-click model works?

The best if you will look at Visitors comes to a portal site Suppose they just want to find an agent by zip code They enter their zip code on the right, click on arrow and are redirected to an agency site closest to that zip and in the same state That counts as a click. Now suppose they do decide to fill in one of the quotes. After selecting one of the forms in Get Free Quote (or inside business modules) the are redirected to the page with zip code After they fill in the zip code they are redirected to the first screen of the selected LOB form. An agent is assigned during that redirect after they fill in the zip code text box Look at the right upper part of the form. There is a phone there of the assigned agent! That redirect after zip code screen also counts as a click. What are the advantages of the pay-per-click model? Clearly it is much more versatile. It is well known in the Web marketing business (from the server log analysis) that each screen causes visitor attrition. The reasons vary: some people are hesitant of say giving their SSN on the Auto Insurance Driver screen (even if it is clearly marked NON-mandatory) some do not know VIN (which is usually non-mandatory as well) some are unsure about coverages and not confident enough to use Help... The reasons vary but the outcome is not: only part of those that start filling in the forms finish it. That is why it is crucial to give access to agent's phone during that process even if it means a different billing model. Our system is based on pay-per-click model because we believe that with our low overhead we can allow for more trust between our portal and enrolled agents especially since many of those agents (we can say it now) will be our web site customers. We will limit the number of enrolled agents to about one hundred fifty and in a couple of months will analyze the statistics and decide how to proceed next enrollment- and pricing-wise.

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