Sweepstakes Drives Bankrate Newsletter Sign-Ups

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Personal finance Web portal Bankrate.com launched the "Spring Mortgage Madness" sweepstakes this month to drive traffic to the site and build its e-mail newsletter subscriber list.

The company publishes 11 newsletters on various financial subjects, including Bankrate Weekly, which features news and analysis on the credit markets, Frugal U. Newsletter, offering weekly money saving tips and Monthly Checkup, a newsletter that offers personal finance tips.

The sweepstakes, which runs through June 30, offers consumers a chance to win $50,000 for use in defraying the cost of buying a new home. Bankrate.com runs sweepstakes on a quarterly basis, and tries to peg each contest to the economic climate.

"We try to choose sweepstakes that are most appropriate for both the time of year and economic climate," said Beth Planakis, Bankrate.com's director of marketing. "Our newest Spring Mortgage Madness sweepstakes is timely because of the recent interest in mortgage rates and the housing market."

Planakis said Bankrate.com does not require people to sign up for a newsletter subscription to enter the sweepstakes. Still, the company makes it easy to sign up by offering "featured newsletters" at the bottom of its sweepstakes registration page.

"It's an effective way to generate newsletter subscriptions," Planakis said. "It is not required that you sign up for a newsletter, but a lot of people do. If we need traffic, we run a sweepstakes."

She said the company sends out about 500,000 newsletters a month. Between 30 percent and 35 percent of sweepstakes entrants sign up for a newsletter subscription.

Bankrate.com's last sweepstakes, called "Debt-Free You in 2002," also offered a grand prize of $50,000. That contest was intended to "address the burden of holiday debt."

Contestants can receive up to three extra entries a day by signing up three friends. Plus, Planakis said the company gains a lot of interest by sending out a press release to promote each sweepstakes.

Planakis said Bankrate.com spends little to promote the contests due to the viral component to the sweepstakes. She would not say what the company's advertising budget is, however.

"We don't have a need to spend a significant amount on advertising," she said. "We may use a pay-for-performance search engine. We also list in sweepstakes directories like EZ Sweeps and Sweepstakes Online."

Planakis said Bankrate.com does not spend more than "a couple thousand dollars" to promote its sweepstakes.

"Our users love debt-related sweepstakes," she noted, " and $50,000 is a number that really gets people's attention."

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