Media matrix / portal site selection - questions to ask

I'm putting together a report for some of my web-design clients in order to assist them in their media selection. My clients are owners of hospitality related businesses on the island of St. Maarten, Netherlands Antilles.

One of the ways to increase visits to my clients' websites is to include these in the various St. Maarten portals. I have compiled a shortlist of 15 or so possible outlets. Note: these are not the most sophisticated sites, often personal endeavours that have grown out of proportion. They do provide banner ads, enhanced listings, and sometimes a newsletter.

In order to make a reasonable comparison, I have checked their Alexa rankings and visited their ad-related pages. Now, I would like to have some more indepth info: below is a draft of my email to the portal operators.

Question: please comment on the letter below. Specifically: have I left out anything pertinent, what should I watch for, does any of you have experience/info to share on in selecting media outlets for this type of market?

I will close this question on 8/17, regardless of answers received and will award points at that time.


Dear website operator:

My web-design clients based on St. Maarten are interested in online advertising opportunities and have asked my advice in order to get the most bang for their buck.

Your website is on my media shortlist, but in order to create an optimal advertising matrix I will need the following additional information (skip what does not apply to you):

  --  Contact information (Name, Title, Address, Phone, Email)
  --  Name and URL(s) of St. Maarten-related websites owned
  --  Site statistics for each website in the past 12 months:
       - Total unique visits (not hits)
       - Total number of homepage visits
       - Total number of visits to subsections: hotels/restaurants/clubs
       - Average click-through ratio: (homepage/subsections)
  --  Rate card (include banner sizes, exclusive/non-exclusive, pricing
      schemes, discounts, commitment requirements, payment types accepted)
  --  Lead time required to start/modify a campaign
  --  Ad hosting: on/off-site / 3rd-party (please specify ad-software used)
  --  Availability of instant online reports? Yes/No (Please add description)
  --  Does your website offer sweepstakes / prize drawings?
        - If yes, provide sample / description
  --  Do you publish a newsletter?
        - If yes, provide sample of most recent issue
        - How many subscribers does it have?
        - Include advertising rates
In order to have your site be considered for inclusion, please provide the above information no later than Wednesday, August 25, 2004.


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infoCatch -

What you describe is the sort of approach that might be taken with traditional advertising media. The immediacy of the internet however allows a more sophisticated technique.  Conversion tracking is put in place on the target website and as you run your campaigns (all 15 in your case) you can see which are making your client money and which are not at any given minute. Then dropping those with a negative ROI and looking for similar sites to those that produce a positive ROI. That way you can try hundreds of different campaigns on hundreds of different sites quite quickly improving the ROI all the time.

As an aside I have to say that any professional webmaster I know receiving your questionnaire would be most unlikely to complete it.

Hope that helps.

- duz
infoCatchAuthor Commented:

Maybe I should have emphasized more the fact that what I called "portals" are not the professional database-driven sites that we've gotten used to. These are hobbyist attempts, put together mostly by island enthousiasts in their spare time. Here's a link to one of my options, please see what you think.

If I had the budget to test all 15 sites and analyze the results after a trial run, I'd probably agree with you.  In most cases, the website operators are asking for a 3-month or so commitment - not something I'd be prepared to do without having a bunch of metrics for comparison.
infoCatch -

I assumed you were discussing a PPC model sorry.  Obviously a rental commitment makes it a different ball game.  

I took a look at the site you mentioned as a potential site to advertise on and quite frankly it is not impressive. It is not really a portal it is more of a directory and not a very good one at that.  I would not mind betting that the PRESTIGIOUS LIMOUSINE SERVICE receives no clients at all as a result of being on the front page of this site but gets loads of clients for being number one in Google for a search on |Limousine Maarten|.  

I would look at a PPC model for your clients.  For example it they were a car rental company I would at the very least construct a Google Adword targeted for the search |st maarten car rental| and monitor the conversion rate.  Or build a 100 page portal yourself which looks dead easy to me because their is no competition of any quality.

- duz

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Sorry spelling s/b ....because there is no competition of any quality.
infoCatchAuthor Commented:
Duz, thank you for the excellent comments!

Also, if anyone else feels like jumping in: please do - I can add a points-only follow up question if need be.

Yes, there are quite some "Prestigious" "First Class" "Quality" "Premier" etc... outfits on this little island, who don't have the faintest idea.

About building my own portal: I have to be careful about that because I created the framework for while employed by the local hotel association in 2002/2003. Don't want to alienate a potential customer base by competing head to head with these guys, but that's an aside (local politics).

Google adwords are definitely part of my mix, especially since they allow targeting by geographic market.

Although the existing directories/portals have an amateurish look and feel, they do succeed in attracting people who are in the process of selecting St. Maarten as their destination. Additionally, because our rooms inventory is 50% timeshare, we get a lot of return visitors to the island: this goup is likely to have bookmarked the directories, or receive their newsletters.

I wish I knew more about how cruise travellers do their homework. That's a potential base of 1.4M day visitors a year... Even though they get free food and booze on the ships and won't participate in nightlife activities, it makes for a nice target for retailers and excursion operators...

infoCatch -

>I wish I knew more about how cruise travellers do their homework.

When they leave one port they start reading and talking amongst themselves about the next one.

In your case how many previous ports of call are there, St Thomas's, San Juan and a couple more may account for 1 million+ ?  Just guessing here! So you have to give them something to read as they walk up the gangplank on their way to Philipsburg.  A newsletter perhaps with the current date and the cruise ship name on it. You could do it all from your PC with a local delivery boy in each port :)

- duz
infoCatchAuthor Commented:

Thank you for your insights! I'm awarding you 500 points and an A grade.

Your last comment... A newsletter like that could be a revenue stream all by itself, the only prob is gaining access to the pier... Distribution on the access road could be a possibility, maybe I should reward myself with a trip and scout potential locations :)

infoCatch -

You could start by producing one for outbound Philipsburg passengers heading for a specific port of call. You could work out the practicalities closer to home and then role it out once you had got it going smoothly.

- duz

PS If it makes you money please send me a ticket :)

infoCatchAuthor Commented:
Then I'd still need to get in touch with retailers on Antigua or so, whose coupons on the back of the sheet would pay for distribution and printing costs. The hardest part is to make new clients (whether they're web design, marketing, or consumers) part with their hard earned cash...

Since Philipsburg is "the duty-free shopping capital of the Caribbean" (or so we'd like it to be) - it might be less of an effort to get the local merchants (known, approachable entities) on board and do a distribution pilot on the BVI or USVI.

For now, I came across and registered it. Who'd have thought this possible: 10 letters, meaningful words, and dot com in 2004? But first, I'll get my report done... If you're interested, I'll make it available online at in a few weeks or so.


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