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Web Marketing

In an effort to boost online revenue, I began researching internet advertising by reading about Google AdWords and the Yahoo Ambassador program. Both the Yahoo and Google ad systems are surprisingly sophisticated but Google's is particularly sophisticated. Eventually, I took and passed the certification exams for both systems and began experimenting with internet advertising. Web traffic from MSN searches was so low that I didn't spend much time using the MSN ad system.

I experimented with a variety of ad formats supported by the search engines and high traffic sites such as the local newspaper but text ads displayed as part of search results quickly proved to work the best.

Pricing for text ads is spot based. You set a maximum price you are willing to pay and depending on demand at that particular moment, the search engine may or may not display your ad.

For highly competitive keywords, per-click pricing can get expensive. This is in large part because resellers take advantage of Google's API by bidding up the per click prices quite high. What they then do is redirect click traffic to one of several customers. While a single click may cost the reseller $30. The reseller might have 6 clients paying them $20 each to increase web traffic. To the reseller, each $30 click represents $120 in revenue.

Since we weren't a reseller, I focused on advertising for less competitive and therefore less expensive per-click niche products. By analyzing server logs and carefully tracking lead origins, I was able to make a pretty good assessment as to ad effectiveness. For instance, sometimes I might notice in a server log that search text matched ad text, a relatively high number of ads were being clicked but the visitors left without going deeper into the site. That told me something about the ad text and/or landing page caused visitors to click the ad but the landing page content was not what they were seeking. Typically changing the ad text to make it more focused on the content of the landing page would solve this problem. Click-fraud, always a concern proved to be a surprising non-issue with the text ads.

By comparing ad costs versus loan income and carefully monitoring lead origins, reports could be generated that were much more accurate than is typically possible with traditional advertising. The ad cost for three niche products was running no more than $2,000 per month while gross income from these ads was averaging about $20,000 per month. An added benefit was that in the case of Google, as an AdWords professional, Google made available a link to wherever I wanted. I created a single page on the site with a single outbound link I could direct. The single link from Google tp that page resulted in one bar of Google page rank which I then directed via the single outbound link to wherever in the site needed the boost. The boost in page rank dramatically cut ad cost through increased visibility to native searches.

One formidable challenge in all this is was that each mortgage product can have unique requirements but mortgages backed by major quasi-governmental entities such as Fannie Mae have much in common. For a loan officer, learning Fannie Mae requirements seemed more profitable than learning requirements for niche products whose lenders had widely differing requirements. Furthermore, most if not all of the loan officers had never even fielded an inquiry for such loans in their entire career. Therefore, loan officers were highly reluctant to bother familiarizing themselves with the niche products. The actual loan processors also did not like having to process loans for whose requirements they did not understand either.

That other niche products were available that we weren't even attempting to exploit was frustrating as the volume of traditional government backed loans dried up. Still failing to recognize that the market for conventional mortgages was rapidly going south, loan officers and processors resisted learning requirements for the niche products and complained about advertising for niche products rather than conventional mortgages backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Once the conventional mortgage market went into freefall, niche markets suffered too. However, had more effort been placed during good times on developing and exploiting the niches, when the broader market turned south, combined income from all products may have been enough to keep more loan officers afloat as the non-governmental niches totalled over 30 percent of the Florida market.

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