July 15, 2009, 12:00 AM

Testing helps ShoeMall.com improve its search marketing grades

Working with search marketing firm iProspect, ShoeMall.com has been testing search ad copy and landing pages, and improving its conversion rates as a result.

Sales at ShoeMall.com were up by more than 33% year over year in late 2007 when Internet director Jodi Bresina realized she needed help managing the growth of the site’s paid search campaign.

The e-commerce site was adding new brands and styles daily, as well as new features, and was bidding on more than 100,000 keywords for ads on search engine results pages. A single employee was managing not only the paid search campaign for ShoeMall.com, No. 135 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, but also the paid search efforts for eight other e-commerce sites tied to catalogs owned by parent firm Mason Companies Inc.

Recognizing it needed help, ShoeMall engaged iProspect, which was already helping ShoeMall optimize its site for better rankings in natural search results. Over the course of a year and a half, ShoeMall and iProspect have achieved several of the retailer’s goals, largely from better testing of ad campaigns.

One of the first joint initiatives was to begin testing ad copy, something the retailer hadn’t had the resources to do on its own. For instance, as consumers became more value-conscious as the economy crumbled in the fall of 2008, ShoeMall tested whether ad copy offering X% off or dollars off was more effective. Percent off was the winner.

Early in 2009, iProspect helped ShoeMall test different versions of important landing pages, such as the page for women’s shoes and for the popular shoe brand Adidas. The new version of the women’s shoes landing page enabled a consumer to narrow down searches by size, width and price. Conversions went up 1%, a significant lift on a heavily visited page.

The new Adidas page added product images and made them more prominent, and added a shoe finder that filters results by gender, size, width and price. The conversion rate went up 35%.The success of those landing pages convinced ShoeMall by spring 2009 to revamp its pages with a similar look and feel for 250 brands.

In another successful test, ShoeMall created a Deal Center landing page as the recession settled in early in 2009, designed for consumers searching on terms such as “discount shoes” or “shoes on sale.” An early version showed thumbnails of several shoes. It was tested against an enhanced version that made it easy for consumers to search by size and price points, and for specific types of shoes, such as oxfords, loafers and boots. “The new landing page improved our conversion rate by 59% over the page showing just product images,” Bresina says.

Overall, ShoeMall’s sales increased 44% from October 2008 to March 2009. The improved search marketing campaign contributed significantly to that growth, Bresina says.

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