According to internet research company Hitwise, moneysavingexpert Martin Lewis has become our most magnetic celebrity. More wanted than Britney Spears and more bankable than his namesake Leona, Lewis was the most searched for personality during the last quarter of 2008.
Lewis modestly blogs that his success is down to the recession and not relentless self promotion.
How does he do it? It helps that his site is extremely well optimised for search and uses subject headings that match what people are searching for. Inbound links from the gold star BBC and dozens of platinum newspapers help promote his website in organic search results.
He retains celebrity PR Murray Harkin and his wall to wall media appearances pay off because he has an online strategy that capitalises on his PR. This is something many companies fall down on. When he promotes a particular product in the media, he might use paid search in conjunction as he did recently when recommending a current account from Alliance & Leicester. Alongside promoting it as the best bank account on radio and TV, Lewis ran a paid search campaign on keywords ‘Alliance Leicester cashback’ and monetised click throughs by signing up with A&L’s affiliate programme.
How much he has made from the credit crunch remains a mystery and his recent decision to hide his earnings by changing his company’s status from limited to unlimited is a controversial one. As a consumer champion, he has been dedicated to exposing other companies’ profits. According to Companies House, he is sole director of the unlimited company that owns his website. For those waiting for his 2007-08 accounts, my guess is he will not file these even though his company was limited for the majority of that period. Companies House is unlikely to see sufficient public interest by taking him to court to force him to publish. In the abscence of fact, Lewis gives plenty of figures from which to work out how much he might be earning. His weekly email for example goes to over 3 million subscribers and generally has between 5 and 10 affiliate links. If each affiliate link earns a conservative ?10.00 and he achieves a lowly 2% conversion rate, his email could earn him over ?15 million annually. In 2005, he told the the Guardian newspaper his website was worth ?30 – ?40 million when it had 1 million monthly visitors. Today it has over 8 million visitors a month.
Where he might have trouble is not with Companies House but with the OFT. The only source of income he has from his website is from affiliate links which are generally referred to as advertisements. His media appearances depend on him being independent of commercial influence and he maintains despite earning as an affiliate, his website is free of ads. Under the OFT’s Consumer Protection Regulations, of the 31 commercial practices that are banned outright, number 11 is ‘using editorial content in the media to promote a product where a trader has paid for the promotion without making that clear in the content or by images or sounds clearly identifiable by the consumer (advertorial).’
This is a guest post from Sam Clemens