MeZine.com Inc. provides its customers-typically small to midsize b-to-b companies-with do-it-yourself Web site building tools and hosting. The Vancouver, B.C.-based company, founded in 1999, used viral marketing as its first advertising medium.
Three years ago, the company's executives realized they should advertise where potential customers were looking for hosting services: on search engines. MeZine.com's first foray into the medium was with Google; the company purchased tens of thousands of words, which cost $.05 to get started, said Gordy Bal, MeZine.com's director of business development.
"We were Google's biggest customer back then," he said. "They sent us a blanket for Christmas that year. But we soon realized, as prices started to rise, that we needed to be more specific. We were getting plenty of hits but no ROI because they weren't qualified hits."
Bal and his team started narrowing their scope, buying words that described what they do, the types of services they offer and why people might come to their site. They also started moving away from loosely related single words, which often cost more, to longer, detailed phrases, Bal said. "Instead of, `Web site,' it's `build a Web site' or `get your own online store,' " he said.
MeZine.com's marketing team did its own research, but it also turned to some of the free tools available on the Web, such as Overture's inventory tool, which provides statistics on the most commonly searched words and phrases, as well as Google's own AdWords Keyword Selection tool.
In addition, Bal re-evaluated MeZine.com's competitive response. The company loosely competes with companies that offer Web site templates, so Bal said his team was buying words associated with those businesses. MeZine.com was spending a significant amount of money chasing that segment but wasn't seeing a return, he said.
"You can't use high-traffic words unless that's exactly what you do. Sometimes you can spend a lot of unnecessary money bidding on keywords you know drive traffic but not the kind that converts," he said.
Although Bal won't give specific figures, he said that SEM is so successful for his company, MeZine.com allocates 75% of its marketing spend to search engines. The remaining 25% goes to display ads and affiliate programs, he said.
Today, Bal and his marketing team have weekly meetings to decide how much they should be spending each day and what the cost per acquisition should be. Over the last eight months, Bal's team has done less word and phrase analysis because the company finally hit its goal of achieving $80 cost per acquisition (CPA).
"Our customers pay $20 per month for our service, and if they stay with us for four months, we've made our money back," Bal said. "They generally stay with us much longer than that."
MeZine.com is also targeting specific cities and regions, he said, as well as specific verticals, such as real estate.
"We get a huge conversion [about 33%] because you're hitting the right hot button," Bal said. "And if you tailor your landing page, you make it even more relevant."