July 27, 2006, 12:00 AM

Bigger is Better

Technobrands` finds a search marketing strategy that fits.

There are occasions in paid search advertising when bigger is definitely better.

Take the case of Technobrands Inc., which is generating substantially higher web site traffic and sales conversions after refocusing its search engine marketing strategy and incorporating a much broader inventory of keywords and phrases.

Like many retailers, Technobrands, the direct marketing company that owns and operates FirstStreetOnline.com, used to take a narrow approach to paid search campaigns. The company paid up to $3 per bid on very specific brand names and terms that the marketing department believed would drive visitors to individual product pages.

new approach

Some web retailers build their entire pay-per-click programs around the premise that shoppers use search engines only to launch specific queries, such as finding the best price on a particular item or which nearby retailer carries a specific brand.

But after spending up to $50,000 each month on narrow paid search campaigns that generated only a few page views and a paltry conversion rate of less than 1%, Technobrands scrapped its search engine marketing program and began bidding on a much larger universe of keywords and phrases. The company also began doing a better job of aligning its search engine marketing program with its merchandising strategy of selling products that help customers solve a particular problem, such as finding an air purifier designed for a small space or a magnifying lamp for a hobby room or home office.

With just a few direct changes-and no increase in its annual paid-search budget of about $600,000-Technobrands is experiencing dramatically different results and, in the process, taking its search engine strategy in a new direction. By replacing a limited vocabulary of fewer than 500 words that focused on specific products with a broader inventory of almost 11,000 lifestyle-oriented words and phrases, Technobrands has increased its conversion rate to around 2.5% on certain category pages. Visitor traffic to FirstStreetOnline.com also has increased by 15% to about 345,000 monthly unique visitors.

The new search strategy is also having a positive effect on average tickets. First-time shoppers who used to spend just $130 are now making multiple purchases, especially in a new luxury gifts category where the average ticket is about $200. Previous campaigns used to redirect shoppers to a single product page with only limited merchandise. If a shopper didn’t like the narrow range of products presented on the page, she quickly left. But a broader inventory of keywords and phrases is helping Technobrands draw more traffic to category pages, which often feature up to 20 items, have been redesigned with bigger images and better content and have enhanced customer service tools, including a live chat box.

“We aren’t making wholesale changes to our paid search strategy,” says director of Internet marketing Daniel Yonts. “We are working smarter with the resources we have and doing a better job of analyzing the keywords we should be acquiring.”

Technobrands sells about 600 products and used to bid only on keywords for brands and items it sold on FirstStreetOnline.com such as “Kool-Down Air Cooler” and “Fridge To Go.” The company originally believed that a product-oriented paid search strategy would generate traffic and sales among its core customers: Baby Boomers shopping online and in catalogs for lifestyle products.

But after several campaigns generated anemic traffic and only a few sales, Technonbrands used its Google analytics tools to analyze metrics such as visitor sessions, page traffic and product placement. The results showed that visitors who stayed to view the merchandise and make a purchase came to FirstStreetOnline.com through a broader search query. They also preferred to shop on category pages with multiple products and brands. “We were very product-oriented in our keyword campaigns and bid on search terms that we thought would drive traffic to a specific product page,” Yonts says. “But we found out that people were more likely to stay and make a purchase on our category pages.”

Higher rankings

Technobrands’ traffic analysis revealed that shoppers were entering more general terms and questions into a Google search box and typing in queries such as “keeping cool” and “brighter reading lights.” By shifting its focus to more lifestyle-oriented words and phrases and significantly increasing its keyword vocabulary, Technobrands is able to get FirstStreetOnline’s category pages ranked significantly higher on Google and other major search engines.

Technobrands used to acquire the keywords and phrases for “Kool Down,” a brand name air humidifier and cooling product. But that specific ad campaign delivered only lackluster results. “Sometimes the keyword for a specific product wouldn’t even register until it was several thousand listings back,” Yonts says. Now by purchasing a broader assortment of words and phrases, Technobrands is achieving significantly higher page rankings and click-throughs. “We frequently purchase ‘staying cool’ and when the term is ours we are consistently listed on the first search page and usually no lower than the fourth listing,” Yonts says.

By shifting its focus from products to category-oriented keywords and phrases, Technobrands is converting more sales by identifying shoppers in different stages of the buying cycle, says Kevin Lee, co-founder and executive chairman of search engine marketing company Did-it.com. “They are casting a wider search net and finding shoppers in the buying cycle who are looking for more than just the best price on a specific item, “ Lee says. “They are finding more shoppers at the beginning and at the end of making a purchasing decision.”

To attract more search-related visitors, Technobrands is making several enhancements to FirstStreetOnline.com. The company has reconfigured the home page to feature all of the site’s main merchandising categories more prominently at the top of the page. Technobrands also is adding several categories that feature reading, nostalgia and electronic gadget products. “We have more new categories on the way,” Yonts says. “Rather than build our merchandising around specific products as we did before, we are now focusing on lifestyle-oriented categories.”

As a result of using a broader keyword inventory and redoing its home and product pages to emphasize new and existing merchandise categories, Technobrands also is getting savvier about conducting more thorough A/B testing and studying metrics such as keywords used, Internet connection speed, browser type, purchase history, and past and current browsing behavior to determine better product placement.

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