SEM for Real Estate vs boston.com

A client of ours decided to invest in a tile ad on boston.com. For those of you who don’t know, Boston.com is the website of the Boston Globe, which is, in my opinion, the best newspaper in Boston. Every once in a while, a member of the sales team at boston.com or nytimes.com or some local newspaper calls one of our clients directly and convinces them to commit to a banner, tower, or tile ad on their website. Usually, it’s in the real estate section, which, of course, sounds like a good idea.  It’s an easy expenditure to explain and to get your boss to approve. If you’re the boss and you’re reading this post, DON’T APPROVE THIS EXPENDITURE.

boston.com real estate page

Now, if you haven’t heard, the Boston Globe is under the threat of being shut down. The paper is owned by the NY Times company and they’re loosing money. So, the management over at the NY Times is threatening to only offer the online version of the paper if the Globe can’t cut expenses. The unions are fighting back and it’s getting ugly. If you read the globe, it’s a page 1 story just about every day.

Now, our clients get called by folks selling ad space on their sites all the time. We’re used to this happening and we often advise our clients against buying banner and tower ads alltogether. Every once in a while, they do it anyway and we have new evidence to show folks why it’s a bad idea.

Here’s an image of the page. On the right, you’ll see, outlined in red the placement of the ad that our clients decided to pay for. How much? They paid $1200/month to be on this page. Now this is the main real estate page on the site boston.com/realestate. It would stand to reason that this is the best page to be on for our clients.

The results
This ad brought a little less than 100 visitors to our client’s website during the month of April.  You only need a middle school education to know that they’re paying about $12 per click. If you’re familiar with CPC prices, you know this is extremely high.

For those of you who are not PPC or SEM experts. Here’s some more information. We are managing an SEM campaign for this client. We’re using Google AdWords and the client is paying for Google search traffic at $0.75 per click. That’s the average CPC (Cost per click) of the PPC campaign for the month of April. So, this means that our client is paying 16 times more for each visitor they get from boston.com than they are for visitors from Google who clicked on their paid placement.

SEM is by far more cost efficient than tile placement. This is pretty much always true. We’ve been preaching this for years. SEO can make your campaign even more cost effective, but the numbers, when you’re dealing with SEO, aren’t quite as concrete and quantifiable. Besides, this is the most recent direct comparable data that we have to show you. We literally pulled it down today.

In case you’re wondering, we used good ole Google Analytics to gather this data. It’s pretty clear that paying for advertising space in the real estate section of a newspaper’s website, unless it’s PPC, is a bad marketing investment. We see it time and again.

If anyone at the Globe wants to rebut these facts, I’m happy to talk.

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