December 24, 2008, 12:00 AM

Expanding software publisher uses paid search to cut through online clutter

Smith Micro wanted to get the word out about its new products and to sell more internationally. Working with e-commerce technology provider Digital River, the software publisher dramatically increased its revenue from paid search ads this year.

Smith Micro Software Inc. wanted to get the word out about its new products and to sell more internationally. Working with e-commerce technology provider Digital River Inc., the software publisher focused on paid search as a way to reach online consumers, and increased its revenue from paid search ads by 70% this year, the company says.

Best known for its Stuffit compression program for Macintosh computers, Smith Micro has introduced a Windows version of Stuffit and also acquired a line of graphics software products about a year ago. The challenge was how to get online consumers’ attention and convince them to download the software.

“The market has changed how people use the Internet,” says Jonathan Kahn, executive vice president of business operations at Smith Micro. “There are so many billboards, stores, road signs, blinking lights. You need to drive traffic, instead of expecting people to show up at your door.”

Kahn says Digital River, which specializes in helping software publishers sell online, helped optimized Smith Micro’s paid search program, which includes bidding on 2,600 keywords. Part of the strategy included modifying the language used on the publisher’s web pages so that they spoke directly to consumers clicking on search ads. For instance, what users of Windows PCs might call laptops and notebooks a Mac user might refer to as a Macbook. “On the Mac side we use Stuffit as a generic verb for compression, but on the Windows side we use the word Zip because that’s what’s known in the Windows market,” Kahn says. “It made us change our language on our web pages.”

Digital River created dedicated microsites for specific products with limited navigation to other Smith Micro sites, aiming to focus the consumer on the product that brought him to the site, says Jim Wehmann, senior vice president of marketing at Digital River. By testing wording, layout, button size and other features, the program was able to increase revenue per visitor by 5-10%, Wehmann says. That increase meant Smith Micro could bid on more keywords that might not have been profitable at lower conversion rates.

Smith Micro also took advantage of Digital River’s ability to detect whether the person clicking on a keyword was using a Macintosh or Windows computer, and to present an appropriate landing page. Sales per click from Mac users, Smith Micro’s traditional customer base, went up 14% as a result.

Digital River also helped Smith Micro launch localized sites aimed at international consumers that take such currencies as euros, pounds and Indian rupees, Kahn says. The publisher has begun sending localized e-mail offerings in France and Germany. The effort has increased international sales from 5% of the company’s revenue to 23%, he says.

Among the strategies that have been effective, Wehmann says, is labeling a site “the official web site of Stuffit,” as many consumers are more familiar with Stuffit than with Smith Micro. “Download now” and “just released” are also terms that can move online consumers into action.

“But half of the things that work in one market won’t work in another,” Wehmann says. “That’s why you have to constantly retest.”

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