March 28, 2008, 12:00 AM

How interns made a splash at Vintage Tub & Bath

After training its summer interns to work on its search marketing programs, Vintage Tub & Bath increased its conversion rate by 11%. The interns also made changes that increased traffic from Yahoo by 18% and lifted conversions through Yahoo 14%.

Maximizing search marketing programs takes time and effort, but staff resources may be in short supply. Vintage Tub & Bath solved that problem by trying something new and boosted its return on search to boot: it trained its interns for the job, and it’s increased its conversion rate by 11% since last summer, says Internet marketing manager Mike Deckman.

In June 2007, Vintage Tub & Bath realized it needed to revamp its search marketing program to continue to grow, and it started looking for additional search management staff. Unable to find enough suitable candidates, Deckman looked to the 10 to 15 college students working for the company as interns.

With the right training, Deckman reasoned, they could fill search marketing roles where needed. After completing an online course from the Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization, six interns were each assigned to work on a specific area of search.

The expanded search marketing workforce gave Deckman the opportunity to more closely analyze the company’s pay-per-click campaigns and identify what Vintage Tub & Bath could do to improve its return on ad spend. And the interns soon uncovered areas for improvement. For example, their analysis of the retailer’s program at Yahoo turned up overlooked opportunities for exposure. The team made changes that increased traffic from Yahoo by 18% and click-through by 7%, and lifted conversions through Yahoo by 14%.

The interns also found areas where spending could be reduced. After their analysis, Vintage Tub & Bath took steps to decrease the volume of paid referrals from Google. “We found that we were receiving a lot of useless traffic from terms that did not convert well or at all,” Deckman says. “We simply improved the quality of traffic by using more specific, long-tail terms and realized a 7% lift in conversion.”

The new search strategy yielded measurable results by the fourth quarter, Deckman says, adding, “It was an opportunity to start over. We created an entirely new structure for pay-per-click campaigns and largely used our summer interns to do it.”

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