August 26, 2009, 12:00 AM

National Geographic safari leads to analytics and search to boost visits

Seeking to attract more consumers to its site, National Geographic opted for web analytics and paid search optimization systems, helping increase traffic 150%.

National Geographic Society was exploring ways to get more consumers to its flagship site, After a safari looking for the best strategies and technologies, it opted for web analytics and paid search optimization systems.

National Geographic tied together its paid search campaigns using Omniture Inc.’s SearchCenter with the new analytics system using Omniture’s SiteCatalyst. It has since increased site visits by 150% and page views by 155% through better understanding of paid search traffic and subsequent online consumer behavior and then refining paid search based on the analytics data.

“Prior to using Omniture, we didn’t have the data needed to understand the value of different parts of our site to our visitors or how our keyword advertising was translating into subscriptions,” says Ted McDonald, web analytics manager at National Geographic. “Using SiteCatalyst and SearchCenter together has given us insight into our paid search spend and return on every part of our site, which has been invaluable to our business.”

The company deployed SearchCenter to optimize its paid search initiatives with the goal of realizing a specific return on ad spend. National Geographic’s primary goal from paid search was to drive subscriptions, and using SearchCenter, it discovered that 90% of the company’s keywords were losing money. As a result, the National Geographic team identified which keyword variations were ineffective and reallocated spend to the remaining profitable 10% of keywords, turning all of the company’s paid search ads profitable, it reports.

After identifying the proper keywords and appropriate match types, McDonald’s team automated much of their paid search efforts.

“With SearchCenter, we’ve optimized our ads to a point where we don’t need to change them often, which increases the productivity of the team and allows us to focus on more valuable tasks,” says McDonald. “When the profitability changes, I have dashboards set up that show the return on investment for each search campaign and I can make changes accordingly.”

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