PDS Effect nets publisher $500,000 in 6 months

by | Oct 19, 2017 | Actionable SEO Tips

SEO Expert Wanted: Blank check for an expert to pioneer SEO as a channel for established direct response business.”

Promo Driven SearchIt was the opening line in a job description I posted back in 2004… for the first Search Engine Optimization (SEO) expert to join my team.

In 2004, SEO was voodoo magic… few believed it existed but the handful of people that professed to know it could cast some mighty profitable spells.  Imagine my surprise when over drinks, my wife’s colleague started talking about a website he built selling electronics supplies and that the traffic was entirely driven by SEO.  I hired JP on the spot.

It was the wild west at the time, both in terms of what we could get away with to trick the algorithms and the lack of any competition in our space.

JP managed to net $500,000 in his first 6 months just by capitalizing on the PDS Effect.

What is the Promo Driven Search (PDS) Effect?

Everyone is familiar with the PDS Effect, but you may not know it by that name.

Ever launch an email or direct mail promo and see a huge spike in traffic on your website that is not due to direct traffic to the promo?  Have you ever had a breakout campaign on the GDN or Facebook that resulted in a lot of organic referrals to your site for a specific phrase used in the promotion?

The answer is, without a doubt, yes you have… I’m not sure why I even asked.  This is the phenomena I like to call, Promo Driven Search (PDS).

In short, John Doe reads a direct mail piece or an online promo, watches a VSL, or in some way engages with your brand.  He then asks himself the question, “this is interesting, but…”

  • “… I want to find out more”
  • “… let’s find out what others are saying”
  • “… can I really trust these people”

In fact, he doesn’t ask himself. He asks Google.

These questions result in Google search queries. You name a buying objection and I guarantee there is an organic referral to your site based on that buying objection.

This isn’t specific to our business.  I’ve walked out of my fair share of car dealerships and electronic stores to do my research and find a better product and price elsewhere.  But in the info marketing business, we aren’t a commodity… you can’t price shop an investment newsletter.  As Bill Bonner says, “No one ever wakes up in the morning and says, Honey… we ran out of newsletters.”  The information age has made it harder for the salesperson by creating multiple entry points into the sales funnel. As info marketers, at least we don’t have to compete on price.

Throughout the years, I’ve done some relatively unscientific sampling to monitor the scale to which Promo Driven Search affects us.  I’ve done this by looking at organic referrals in a 48-hour window after an email drop.  Referrals generated by specific keyword phrases related to the headline, editor or product name were counted as Promo Driven Search referrals.  In 2004, I was able to see that 0.5% of my internal file would search for more information and up to 5% on an external mailing would search.  Makes sense. The deeper the relationship you have with a brand, the less likely you will question a buying decision related to that brand.

But, as I mentioned earlier, the information age has changed the game dramatically, in favor of the consumer.  My last measurement of the PDS Effect was in 2012.  At that time, I saw 5% of my internal file and 25% on an external file!  I know for a fact this was also drastically understated.

What happened in between 2004 & 2012?

Social media.  Consumers like social proof, we like to get recommendations from our friends and family. This is a metric I could never monitor.

PDS Effect – Chump Change or Business Builder?

Some of you are reading this and having an ‘aha’ moment… others are questioning whether the work that goes into monetizing the PDS Effect is even worth it.  I’ll address the ‘How’ shortly… but first some proof that this is an absolute business builder… and not just spare change left on the table at the end of a meal.

I previously mentioned my employee, JP, who used the PDS Effect to net $500,000 for one info marketing business in just 6 months.  But let’s look outside the Agora network.

In 1980, before the internet was even a thing, Mark Hulbert started a publication called, The Hulbert Financial Digest.  This publication rated investment newsletters on a variety of factors, essentially the Consumer Reports of investment newsletters.  The Digest served a unique purpose in the growing world of financial info marketing. But what Mark Hulbert probably didn’t realize at the time, is that he would rank number 1 in a Google search for virtually every investment newsletter in existence with the advent of the internet.

In more recent history, 2007 specifically, a gentleman by the name of Travis Johnson started a little website called Stock Gumshoe. Every financial info marketer knows this website.

We’ve all seen our promotions dissected by Travis, we’ve all seen our ‘secret’ packages made much less secret.

From the website: “Travis Johnson is an individual investor who founded Stock Gumshoe in 2007 as a way to air his dissections of overhyped marketing pitches… and to share the “secret” stocks that stock newsletters hype to get your attention and your subscription dollars. His thinking? If you already know what the “secret” stock is, you can make a much more reasonable and thoughtful decision about whether or not to commit to an expensive newsletter subscription.”

Personally, I find Stock Gumshoe a great resource for the consumer… one that forces those in the financial newsletter industry to focus a bit more on editorial, track record and customer experience.  His methodology is also genius.  Whether he intended to or not, he ranks in the top 3 search results in Google for virtually every editor name, publication name or promo headline.  I haven’t spoken with Travis in many years, but I know the site has afforded him a comfortable lifestyle.

There you have it… three examples of businesses built on the backs of your marketing spend.  Your marketing dollars were diverted into searches that other people captured and monetized.

Now I hear you all saying ‘aha!’

How to Capitalize on Promo Driven Search 

If we go back to the scale of the problem, remember that a bare minimum of 25% of your traffic on external promotions is looking for more information before buying.  Translated into dollars, $2,500 of every $10,000 spent on traffic is headed off into the interwebs… and you no longer control the experience.  Some may come back to buy… but the conversion rate will certainly be lower than what you could expect on the 75% of people that stayed on the initial promotion.

How do we lessen the hemorrhaging?  Well, give them what they want of course… more information.

Our war chest is filled with tools to pull prospects back into the sales funnel:

  1. Remarketing
  2. Custom Audiences
  3. Paid search ads

But my favorite, and what I feel is the most effective for turning that prospect curiosity into a customer, is…

The microsite.

The term nicely describes the finished product… it’s a small website.  So small, in fact, it only takes about 8 hours to build.

Here are my key components for pulling prospects back into the funnel using microsites:

  1. We all research product names during the product development process, but for Promo Driven Search to be the most effective, that product name should be as unique as you can possibly make it. For example, it’s much easier to rank for The Quantum Loop Trader than it would be for The Forex Trader (names made up).
  2. The same holds true for editor names. While we can’t hire editors based on the uniqueness of their names, it does come into play with Promo Driven Search.  You may want to consider a pen name for an editor named John Smith.  You’ll never rank for that name… but you might for Jed Smithson (names also made up).
  3. Once the names have been determined, register domains that correspond closely to the product and editor names. For example: QuantumLoopTrader.com and www.JedSmithson.com.  While the specificity of the domain name doesn’t matter for ranking purposes, it will stand out when you have a prospect looking at the search results.
  4. Now have your tech team set up the domains with two VERY basic WordPress sites.

Each site will have the following pages, but the content will need to vary slightly to avoid duplicate content penalties from Google.

  1. Biography page for the editor. As I mentioned, you’ll need two versions, one for each site. This is easily done with a text version of the bio and a video version. I’d suggest hosting the video version on the editor website. Seeing and hearing the editor will help develop the trust we’re looking for to complete the sale.
  2. Testimonials. There’s no better way to make someone feel comfortable about a buying decision than validation from current subscribers.
  3. Contact information. A physical address and phone number will go a long way to showing a prospect that you are indeed a real company.
  4. The Promo. Your promo drove the prospect to search for more information, and it’s the promo you’ll use to pull the prospect back into the funnel. Again, I would recommend two different versions, one for each site. This is easily accomplished using the VSL on one site and the html version on the other.
  5. Linking. Link to each of the microsites from the homepage of another website that already has an established reputation with Google.

Now you can sit back and watch the magic happen.  Microsites are relatively evergreen with the exception of the promotion in rotation at the time.  That page will need to be swapped out as your promotions change.

Parting Thoughts

I’ve spoken at conferences across the globe on the PDS Effect… and I end each presentation with the same closing statement.  Go to Google and search for the following three things for each and every product in your business:

  1. Editor Name
  2. Product Name
  3. Headline, or secret metaphor within a headline.

If you aren’t dominating the top 5 positions on Google, there’s a problem.  One that can be easily fixed.

To make it even easier for you, AIM has a crack team of SEO experts ready and able to build these microsites for you.  Let us help you make money in your sleep, contact me today .

All the best,

Brian York
Managing Director, AIM