July 15, 2010, 12:46 PM

Swanson sees spike in traffic after upgrading reviews

Vitamin retailer updates reviews daily, producing more fresh content.

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Daily updates of consumer reviews have helped Swanson Health Products increase its natural search traffic by 163%, says Cathleen Wendel, the online retailer’s internet marketing supervisor for content.

Last September, the retailer, which sells vitamins and supplements, started using a technology from Bazaarvoice called SearchVoice Inline that updates reviews on product pages, putting the most recent into the highest position. Doing so provides the site with daily fresh content, which in turn makes the retailer’s site seem more current and relevant to search engines.

The technology also impresses search engines because consumers writing reviews typically use words and phrases that shoppers would use in their searches, Wendel says. In short, the content provided by consumers in their reviews often is deemed as highly relevant by search engines.

The retailer started posting reviews in 2007 but did not arrange them in a way to boost natural search results. The percentage increase in search traffic comes from comparing traffic in the first quarter of 2009 with traffic in the first quarter of 2010. Swanson also took other steps to increase its natural search traffic, including simplified URLs and updated sitemaps. The Swanson web site, swansonvitamins.com, offers more than 6,000 SKUs.

Swanson posts both positive and negative reviews. “First of all, we want honest feedback from customers,” Wendel says. “And we want to be credible.”

Still, there are limitations to what consumers can write in reviews. Shoppers, who first must create an account to write reviews, cannot make claims that the vitamins or supplements cure diseases or otherwise act as medicine. The government mandates that such claims gain approval from the Food and Drug Administration.

The next test for Swanson’s ratings and reviews effort is how well it works in social media. The retailer last week launched a service that enables consumers to post reviews on Facebook.

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