Search investment pays off for Habeas

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Last fall, Chris Brubaker was hired as e-mail reputation service provider Habeas Inc.'s director of marketing communications. He quickly realized he had his work cut out for him. Although Habeas had an e-mail marketing program in place, its list wasn't large enough to generate many leads. In addition, the company's search engine strategy was lacking. The company didn't place high enough in organic searches, and its paid search was too disjointed to produce real results.

"We had one landing page for 1,000 keyword placements. When I looked at the organic side of things, I saw we were doing poorly because our site was image-heavy," he said. "All the navigation was with images. It was an old-fashioned layout, and the search engines couldn't navigate because they didn't know what was underneath the navigation."

Brubaker made the decision right away to hire an outside firm, he said, because search engine marketing is so labor-intensive. In addition, he knew an SEM firm would know what search engines were looking for.

He kicked off his research phase by consulting several online buying guides including one by online research firm MarketingSherpa. From there he was able to create a group of 60 prospective SEM firms, which he quickly winnowed down to five. Once he had his finalists, he went online to hear what real users were saying about them.

"I went to Google Groups and asked to see if anyone had any experience with the firms we were interested in," he said. "I talked to a lot of people who had read Enquiro's research reports and used them to do their own search work. I figured if someone could take their reports and get results, imagine what they might be able to do if we asked them to work with us."

Finally, Brubaker asked for and received an Enquiro customer reference, whom he interviewed over the telephone.

After hearing positive feedback about Enquiro, Brubaker was convinced. He hired the Kelowna, B.C.-based company for a $7,500 per month flat fee (which does not, he said, include Google and Overture fees). So far, it's money well spent, he said.

Enquiro started the engagement by interviewing Brubaker and his team and asking them about the company's main objectives in a 30-page discovery document. "It asked us about our target audience, its psychographics and demographics. What industries we were going after. What their average spend with us is, how much revenue we get per sale," he said. "They were really making a huge effort to understand our business."

Enquiro also asked Habeas for a list of the 1,000 keywords the company had bid on in the past. Based on Brubaker's answers, Enquiro came up with a list of 500 words worth bidding on, and gave him direction about landing pages.

"They told us, `Here's what should be on your landing page. Here are the meta tags you should use. Use this keyword at least five times on a page, but not more than seven,' " he said.

Today, although Habeas only bids on half the number of keywords it did six months ago, it is seeing a huge increase in qualified leads. The organic search optimization-while still a work in progress-is also netting more leads.

Only six weeks after hiring Enquiro, Habeas was on pace to hit 9,000 leads per year. The most impressive fact: Cost per conversion was down, to $15 to $17 per lead from $40.

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