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The Search Party, Reinvented

Trada aims to make broader online marketing capabilities more accessible--and affordable--to any size business

Most business owners are aware of the rudimentary keywords and tools necessary to promote their goods and services to consumers, but only search engine optimization experts fully grasp the myriad complexities that earn the maximum bang for your digital marketing buck. Now, thanks to Trada, any business can hire an army of SEO specialists--and even name its price in the bargain.

Founded in late 2008 by Niel Robertson in Boulder, Colo., Trada is a crowdsourced paid-search marketplace that lets small businesses leverage the collective acumen of more than 700 certified search experts who earn their living generating low-cost clicks and conversions. Prospective advertisers come to Trada with basic information about who they are and what they do, establishing campaign parameters such as daily budgets, prices per click and target costs per conversion. From there, Trada taps its freelance expert network, and interested parties begin creating ad groups, keywords and ads. If the search experts sell the ad below the advertiser's preset price, they keep the difference and give Trada 25 percent of their cut. "Paid search is such a big marketplace that it's hard to get value out of it," Robertson says. "The basic idea behind Trada was to create a marketplace system where advertisers spend what they want."

Upping the Ad Ante

Small businesses are spending more on online advertising this year than in 2009--and seeing better returns on their investments. A recent report from WebVisible, an online marketing firm in Irvine, Calif., breaks it down:

• The typical small-business advertiser spent 159 percent more on search advertising this year than in 2009.

• Approximately 43 percent of all clicks resulted in a web conversion in the second quarter of 2010--an improvement of nearly 40 percent year-over-year.

• Conversion activity more than doubled from 2009 for form fills, video views, printed driving directions and bookmarking.

• Attorneys, general contractors and dentists were the most popular advertiser categories.--J.A.

Twenty search experts collaborate on the average Trada campaign, which runs about 6,500 keywords and 110 ads across three search engines (Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft Bing). By comparison, the typical DIY small-business campaign incorporates about 60 kMost business owners are aware of the rudimentary keywords and tools necessary to promote their goods and services to consumers, but only search engine optimization experts fully grasp the myriad complexities that earn the maximum bang for your digital marketing buck. Now, thanks to Trada, any business can hire an army of SEO specialists--and even name its price in the bargain.

Founded in late 2008 by Niel Robertson in Boulder, Colo., Trada is a crowdsourced paid-search marketplace that lets small businesses leverage the collective acumen of more than 700 certified search experts who earn their living generating low-cost clicks and conversions. Prospective advertisers come to Trada with basic information about who they are and what they do, establishing campaign parameters such as daily budgets, prices per click and target costs per conversion. From there, Trada taps its freelance expert network, and interested parties begin creating ad groups, keywords and ads. If the search experts sell the ad below the advertiser's preset price, they keep the difference and give Trada25 percent of their cut.

"Paid search is such a big marketplace that it's hard to get value out of it," Robertson says. "The basic idea behind Trada was to create a marketplace system where advertisers spend what they want."

Twenty search experts collaborate on the average Trada campaign, which runs about 6,500 keywords and 110 ads across three search engines (Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft Bing). By comparison, the typical DIY small-business campaign incorporates about 60 keywords and spans just one search engine.

"We offer scale, delivered by people who know what they're doing--they know how much to bid on keywords and how to write an ad," Robertson says. "These are things that are not easy to learn. You should be an expert on your business, not paid search."

Google itself has taken notice of Trada: In July, Google Ventures invested $5.75 million in the startup in tandem with Foundry Group, a VC firm in Boulder, Colo. Trada has about 200 advertiser clients across multiple verticals who spend $3,000 to $50,000 per month.

Robertson envisions the Trada concept expanding across all segments of online advertising. "It's a pay-per-performance system, we don't charge anyone a fee, and we only make money if we surpass the goals our advertisers set for us," he says. "We're all in this together."

Chicago-based writer Jason Ankeny is the executive editor of Fiercemobile content, a daily electronic newsletter dedicated to mobile media, applications and marketing.

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This article was originally published in the November 2010 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: The Search Party, Reinvented.

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