Rental Sites Cash In on Inauguration With Search Ads

Add Andrew Pearson to the list of people happy Barack Obama won the presidency.

He might have supported Obama during the election. Maybe he didn’t [we didn’t ask]. Pearson’s elation has nothing to do with politics and a lot to do with Obamamania: He is one of the many entrepreneurs that found a way to make a buck off the inauguration spectacle.

In Pearson’s case, it’s actually about $10,000 so far. It’s cash he and a his partners at earned — above expenses — by providing a Web site where Washington, D.C. homeowners and landlords can post rooms and houses for rent during the inauguration.

Already in the business of creating sites where prospective renters can search for vacancies, Pearson is no stranger to quickie rental aggregation related to big events. Few events this year are likely to draw visitors even close in number to the upcoming inauguration.

That became apparent early on to Pearson and other smart business people who’ve been riding the coattails of the historic swearing-in, with the help of Google AdWords.

Bill Solominsky said he was one of the first rental aggregators to see a big opportunity in facilitating inauguration-related rentals. Solominsky’s company, National Event Rental, usually focuses on rental aggregation services surrounding music festivals, biker rallies and big sporting events. With about three million people expected to show up for Obama’s big day — and only about 90,000 hotel rooms available in the area — the inauguration dwarfs all other happenings in the temporary rental world.

“For the inauguration, we started our AdWords campaign right after the election,” said Solominsky. “That week, we were the only ad that showed up when you typed-in the word inauguration. We got pretty lucky there.”

Google spokeswoman Deanna Yick said Google searches for “inauguration” increased 75 percent during the last week, and are up over 75 percent from the prior inauguration in 2005. It’s a hot keyword that’s being leveraged by all kinds of AdWords users.

“Basically, we are seeing a lot of small businesses and individuals using online ad tools to capitalize on the inauguration and the fact that it’s such a huge and monumental event,” Yick said.

Pearson said he “couldn’t be happier” about the effort. “In a nutshell, it’s worked great,” he said. “As it became clear the demand for tickets to the inauguration was enormous, we really didn’t know if we’d be able to advertise it effectively enough to bring the kind of traffic we would need to the homeowners we were targeting. The answer after two months is yes. And AdWords was pretty much the core component.”

Solominsky agreed AdWords worked well for the inauguration-related effort. In other events for which his company provided temporary rental Web sites, “AdWords has not worked as well,” he said. “I’m not 100 percent happy with some of the targeting capabilities of Google.” Solominsky said he prefers using other ad networks when trying to capitalize on rental activity surrounding big sporting events.

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