August 21, 2009, 12:00 AM

You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to do SEO, an e-retailer learns

Anyone in a company can help boost natural search rankings if they’re given simple tasks, discovered e-retailer OverstockDrugstore.com. Automated technology from vendor LotusJump provides a to-do list, and the e-retailer parcels out tasks.

 

Crafting a search engine optimization strategy can be complex, but implementing a strategy often involves fairly straightforward tasks. Online retailer OverstockDrugstore.com has found that once it has a to-do list of SEO assignments it can farm them out to many people in the company to do in their spare time, even to the CEO’s executive assistant.

The key is having a list of tasks to complete, and for that OverstockDrugstore.com relies on LotusJump, a unit of Vizad Inc. that launched in September 2008. The e-retailer provides LotusJump with a list of words or phrases related to its top-selling brands, terms it wants to rank high in search engine results, and the vendor finds ways to build links back to the retailer’s pages that relate to those terms. That can include commenting on blogs, answering questions on online message boards and adding content to a variety of sites-all with links back to OverstockDrugstore.com that help boost the online drugstore site in search engine rankings.

“For example, one of our top sellers is Rogaine, so they look for content related to Rogaine where we could participate,” says Clark Winegar, director of online marketing at OverstockDrugstore.com. “They might find a blog post related to Rogaine. We’ll read it and try to add something to the conversation, and in our post include a link back to our site.” If someone asks a question about Rogaine on a site like Yahoo Answers or WikiAnswers, responding to that question might be another task LotusJump would identify.

The retailer asks anyone in the company who has some free time to take a LotusJump task, whether that’s an idle receptionist, a customer service agent between calls or the executive assistant to the CEO with some extra time on her hands. “Anybody who at any point in the day has free time we’ll create a log-in to LotusJump for them and have them complete LotusJump tasks,” Winegar says. He says employees are rewarded for the work they accomplish.

The e-retailer has submitted 268 words and phrases to LotusJump since May, and seen a dramatic improvement in natural search rankings for those terms. “Of 268 keywords, we have nine No. 1 listings in Google, 20 in the top three, 30 in the top 5 and 73 of 268 are on the first page of Google results,” Winegar says. That has boosted sales, as revenue from organic search results has increased 35% since May, Winegar says. He also says consumers viewing the retailer’s blog commentaries or answers on online question boards are clicking through to the site, leading to a 40% increase in sales from such referral sites.

Winegar says LotusJump is particularly useful to OverstockDrugstore.com because, while 40% of the e-retailer’s sales come from 5% of its keywords, 60% come from long-tail terms that may produce one or two sales a month. Without an automated service like LotusJump, it would be impossible for the retailer to identify all the opportunities for moving up in search rankings for those less-common words and phrases.

LotusJump does a good job with long tail keywords “because of its ability to discover actionable tasks on such a large scale,” says Tom McConnon, LotusJump product manager. “If one were to try to find linkbuilding opportunities for as many long tail keywords by hand, it would take hours upon hours of work, rendering the process very cost-ineffective.”

Winegar says he pays $200 per month for the LotusJump service, which he considers very reasonable. He says in just a few months SEO has moved up to become the second highest effective marketing channel for OverstockDrugstore.com, after comparison shopping engines.

LotusJump’s standard offer is $99 per month for 30 keywords and $199 for 100 keywords, with custom pricing available for different numbers of terms, McConnon says.

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