May 1, 2012, 1:11 PM

Helmet City revs up natural search results

Half of the retailer’s 10% hike in sales comes from natural search, it says.

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Business is good at Helmet City, a web-only retailer of head safety gear for motorcycles, bicycles, snowmobiles and race cars. And with annual e-commerce sales of about $5 million, up 10% from a year ago, natural or organic search has emerged as a primary source of traffic and sales, accounting for half of its recent revenue growth, says CEO and owner John Uyeyama.

“We sell on Amazon.com and on comparison shopping engines, and every channel is important,” he says. “But organic search was really big for us last year. It’s much bigger than selling on Amazon or comparison shopping engines; it’s the vehicle for driving traffic and revenue for us.” Amazon is No. 1 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide.

Helmet City also gets good traffic volume through paid search campaigns, though the rate of increase has been flat, Uyeyama says.

But natural search over the past year has produced improved results as measured by several metrics:

● 59% increase in average monthly revenue;

● 74% increase in average monthly traffic;

● 30% increase in new visitors;

● 74% increase in the number of web pages receiving traffic;

● 31% increase in the number of keywords driving traffic to the site.

Helmet City started to realize improvements in natural search performance in the spring of 2011, when it began working with Altruik, a provider of search engine optimization services. “The traffic and revenue improvements have been consistent” since then, Uyeyama says.

Among the changes Altruik made, he says, is modifying pages that contain duplicative content, which can appear as redundant and irrelevant to search engine spiders and, therefore, not be counted as content that improves a web site’s ranking in natural search results.

One common example of duplicative content occurs when web sites allow shoppers to search and navigate for products by multiple facets, such as by color and size. This can result in several web page addresses, or URLs, for each facet of color, size or fabric, and which direct visitors to the same content, such as the same large blue cotton sweater. “That results in many URLs for a spider to crawl, even though the pages are the same,” says Eric Gertler, CEO of Altruik. While that makes it easier for shoppers to find what they want, it can cause automated search engine spiders to reject such content as redundant, he adds. “It’s great for a site user trying to sort through the different content, but for search engine crawlers it trips them up,” he says.

Altruik addresses such problems by adding or modifying data tags on particular web pages that identify the pages as sources of relevant content, but directs search engine spiders not to crawl additional pages with duplicate content, he adds.

The improved optimization of web pages has also complemented the redesigned pages that Helmet City launched last fall on the Miva Merchant e-commerce platform, Uyeyama says. Altruik ensured, for example, that the redesigned site’s new or modified product pages were designed with the right page tags to be properly crawled by search engine spiders. “We can put up new product pages and see right away that they appear high up in natural search rankings,” Uyeyama says.

Helmet City and Altruik have also taken such steps as optimizing longer keywords specific to the retailer’s products, a practice that has led to higher conversion rates, Uyeyama says. For example, an Internet search for “motorcycle helmet” might convert at a rate of about 0.7%. But the retailer can achieve conversion rates in the range of 1.5-2% by optimizing for a more specific phrase that includes a brand, model number and color, such as “Scorpion EXO Matte Black,” Uyeyama says.

“We have a 30% higher number of keywords that are now driving traffic to our site,” he adds. “That’s a big bonus.”

Tim Kilroy, Wayfair’s director, business development, will explain how retailers can boost their search engine rankings in a session titled “Not last year's SEO: New rules to raise rankings” at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition 2012  in Chicago in June.

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