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Dec 07, 2000
Case Study

Search Engine Keyword Buys Beat Small Business Site Banners for

SUMMARY: Learn how a bootstrapped start-up used guerilla marketing - including search engine banners and some of the smartest click landing pages we've ever seen, to get entrepreneurs to find the site, trust it and purchase services.

Founded in 1998 by attorney husband and wife team Philip and Nellie Akalp, offers $99, online, incorporation services to entrepreneurs. The Company is entirely self-funded, so the Akalps didn't have a lot of money to waste on marketing campaigns that weren't immediately profitable.

First they tested running banners on about 50 different small business-topic sites. Philip Akalp says, "Believe it or not, none of the small biz sites worked well for us." The Akalps were still dedicated to doing 100% Web-based marketing. They just needed to find a way to make it work for them.


The one tactic that was working to drive site traffic was search engine optimization. MyCorporation had some very real success from the start by optimizing for search engines with the help of Philip Akalp says, "These guys really gave us our initial push. It was just fantastic. It's a great product."

Buoyed by this success, Akalp decided to test keyword buys with a wide variety of online directories and search engines, including Excite, LookSmart, Lycos, and He chose the keywords like "incorporate" and "incorporation." If more than one position was open -- some search engines sell up to eight ads against a single popular keyword -- Akalp tried to purchase as many as possible. This wasn't always possible, as competitors were also buying slots quickly.

In order to maximize the conversation rate per click through, Akalp designed a series of landing pages, each explicitly designed for a particular keyword or term. For example, visitors who learn about the site by searching for "incorporate in california" at will see a landing page featuring the California state flag with the headline,
"California Incorporation." also spent $800 to become a member of the Better Business Bureau (you have to spend $400 to be a local member and then an additional $400 to get national membership in order to display the "BBB" logo on your Web site.) Akalp had the BBB logo placed in a prominent position on the "Order Now" button at the top of every page of the site.


Philip Akalp says, "We have found any type of keyword advertising to be extremely successful." So successful in fact that Akalp's invested in extra buttons and banners against keywords on some search engines just to lock competitors out. He says, "Whenever it's keyword based, we'll buy all the inventory."

Akalp says his highly targeted landing pages have improved conversion rates, "You don't get as much look-at-one-page-and- leave traffic when your landing page responds to exactly what it is they are looking for." The Better Business Bureau logo also makes a big difference, "The moment we put it on in June '99, I saw a 20% increase in sales and a reduction in email inquiries asking 'who are you and how do I know I'm not going to get ripped off?'" It's even more important than our relationship with eTrust, because everyone knows who BBB is.

So far more that 25,000 entrepreneurs from all 50 US states have used's services to incorporate. Site traffic ranges from 150,000-200,000 unique visitors per month, delivering 1-1.5 million pageviews.
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