EarthLink Traffic Builder – A Good Deal or Not?

Earthlink

EarthLink Business Solutions, a division of EarthLink, Inc. (the web hosting company), is introducing a subscription service where EarthLink Business Solutions “guarantees” the number of clicks or “visitors” to their customers’ business website.

EarthLink Business Solutions calls this new service “EarthLink Traffic Builder”. The subscription term is 12 months and “guarantees” up to 4800 clicks per year. Although EarthLink Business Solutions’ Traffic Builder starts at $66.95 per month with no setup fees, if you pay $66.95 per month (a whopping $803.40 per year), the guaranteed number of clicks to your website is only 360 clicks (about one click a day). Furthermore, the cost per click (commonly referred to as CPC) is $2.31 per click! This is not the only problem I have with this program.

EarthLink Traffic Builder

What’s important here is that before you sign up for a subscription service like this you understand what you’re really getting into–and that you might not be getting a ‘good deal’.

Once you sign up, EarthLink Business Solutions “develops and optimizes search terms, creates ad copy, and then loads it across its network of search engine giants such as Google, Yahoo and MSN. When an Internet searcher types in a keyword, the businesses’ ads show up adjacent to the search results on the page.”

What EarthLink Business Solutions doesn’t tell you is who exactly will be performing this service for you. Most likely, one of the EarthLink Business Solutions’ employees or one of the company’s subcontractors may be choosing the keywords and writing the ad copy. Are these people qualified and experienced enough to look at your business and your business needs? Will they take the time to get to know you and your business and talk to you about your ultimate goal, which will most likely be to bring more qualified customers to your website? You may be better off hiring someone who has several years’ experience doing this–someone who will not bid on keywords that you don’t care to be paying for.

According to EarthLink Business Solutions, you will “receive monthly performance email messages.” When it comes to a Search Engine Marketing program, this is unacceptable–if a business is paying for clicks to their website this should be monitored at least several times a week if not daily.

In order to get the guaranteed (advertised) number of 4,800 clicks per year, you must agree to a 12 month subscription of $759.95 per month. This totals $9119.40 per year or $1.89 per click (This is $1.89 per CLICK, not per VISITOR to your website. The same person might click on your ad once a day, costing you $1.89 every time they click).

Let’s take a further look at what you get for $9119.40 per year:

If the website attracts more than the guaranteed number of clicks, there are no charges for additional clicks. On the other hand, if an account underperforms, EarthLink Business Solutions proactively modifies the editorial content, keywords, generic and geographical search criteria, and automatically uploads changes to the search engines, guaranteeing results for each service package.

Most likely, EarthLink Business Solutions will pay the search engines a lot less than $2.31 per click. Earthlink Business Solutions will pay the search engines the same price that you could pay if you went directly to Google, Yahoo!, or MSN. This means that EarthLink Business Solutions could end up paying $.23 cents per click, they could charge you $2.31 per click, and they could be pocketing the difference. The search engines call this “search engine arbitrage” and take a dim view of it–they discourage it greatly. For more information about “search engine arbritrage”, search Google for “search arbitrage” or “search engine arbitrage”.

If your account is underperforming (they give no definition of this), EarthLink Business Solutions will “the editorial content, keywords, generic and geographical search criteria, and automatically upload changes to the search engines”. What they don’t tell you is that changing your ad copy, the keywords, and the geographical search criteria is only half the story. When it comes to Pay Per Click (PPC), the search engines take into account your site’s “landing page” (the page that someone lands on after they click your ad). The landing page, along with other factors, determines your “quality score” which determines how much you pay for each click to your website.

According to EarthLink Business Solutions’ Traffic Builder sales copy, they “guarantee that your site will get at least the number of clicks (leads) specified in your service package.” It’s very important that before you sign up for Earthlink Business Solutions’ Traffic Builder service you understand the REAL difference between a “click” and a “lead”. EarthLink Business Solutions makes it sound that a business gets a “lead” when someone clicks on their ad and comes to their website. This is misleading and completely false. As someone who has been in the search engine marketing business since 1996, I know the difference between a “lead” and a “click”. My definition of a lead is when someone (a real person and not some sort of computer bot) comes to your website and makes an inquiry about your business. This inquiry could take many different forms, including them filling out a form on your website, sending you an email, or picking up the phone and calling you. It is misleading if anyone calls a “click” a “lead”. Clicks are NOT leads.

EarthLink Business Solutions is not the only one that is contributing to the confusion that businesses have when it comes to Search Engine Marketing. If you are looking to get more qualified LEADS to your website and not just “clicks” then you should hire a professional search engine marketer who will not ‘mark up’ the cost of clicks. You should pay the search engines directly for visitors to your website, and a search engine marketing or PPC consultant should help you determine which keywords you should pay for (based on ROI of those keywords), they should constantly be “tweaking” your campaign, and they should be making recommendations in regards to the changes of your website’s landing pages. If anything less than this is done, you’re not getting a good deal.