Archive for October, 2007
by Lisa Wehr
Published October 17, 2007 in iMedia Connection
A newly released Oneupweb study of retailers reveals some startling facts about the power of optimizing for search.
Quick, who’s the largest online retailer of shoes? Nike? Footlocker? Payless? Timberland? Not even close. The winner is Zappos.com, an eight-year-old company that, until recently, had little or no brand recognition. In 2006, Zappos.com sold more than the online sales of all the well-known brands listed above, combined.
Recently, Oneupweb looked at the top 100 online retailers, including some of the world’s most recognizable brands, to see how well they optimized their websites. What we found surprised even us.
Many of the world’s leading brands ignore SEO and maintain poorly optimized websites. In fact, 60 percent of the leading online retailers had little or no optimization on their websites. As the success of Zappos.com and other savvy internet marketers illustrates, extraordinary customer service combined with sound SEO can help a company overcome the obvious competitive advantage of branding alone.
Nike just didn’t
Nike and brand marketing are synonymous. So, we were surprised to discover little or no sign of optimization on the company website. Someone searching for “athletic shoes” will not find Nike.com in the first three pages of Google results. In fact, the site barely shows up on page one of Google for the branded search term “Nike Athletic Shoes.”
Nike has an online visibility strategy. The company supplements its well-known branding efforts with paid online advertising for important keywords. Research indicates PPC campaigns are much more effective when combined with natural search. They aren’t in Nike’s case, leading us to speculate about how much more effective Nike’s online and offline marketing efforts could be if they were integrated into a well-executed SEO program.
Size doesn’t matter online
The beautiful thing about online retail is the way the medium levels the playing field. Huge warehouses and 500 worldwide locations mean nothing. Visitors don’t have to drive to a brick-and-mortar location; they are driven online to the retailer’s website. Retailers need only attract enough interested visitors to their sites and provide an excellent shopping experience after their guests arrive.
Searchers look for brands they know. However, Oneupweb’s recent research showed repeated examples of a well-optimized, savvy marketer successfully competing with a better known brand. Well-optimized websites position the challenger higher on non-branded keyword searches. The higher the position on search engines, the more traffic, conversions and sales.
Online, web-only jeweler Blue Nile outsells its much larger and more-well known competitor, Tiffany & Company. The Tiffany brand has been around 170 years; Blue Nile, eight years. Both sites are optimized, although the clear edge goes to Blue Nile when it comes to the degree of optimization and overall online customer service experience.
Well-optimized for a changing landscape
Our study did not include the use of new media as a criterion for the degree of optimization on a website. Nevertheless, we found that top online retailers who have well-optimized websites are 60 percent more likely to have corporate blogs or podcasts. This reflects a growing sensitivity to Google’s new Universal Search model specifically, and the growing popularity and viral power of blogs and podcasts overall.
Amazon.com, the leading online retailer for all three studies Oneupweb has conducted since 2003, uses blogs and podcasts in addition to many other sound SEO and SEM practices. Furthermore, the company constantly solicits user feedback and reviews to generate loyalty, links and social support for its products and services. The results speak for themselves.
Consider the opportunities
Our study should be good news to most online retailers. For those who do optimize well, it means an existing competitive edge that will allow them to compete successfully with some larger, more established brands.
And for those large brands that do not optimize well, there is a great opportunity for growth in the best or worst of years. Either way, there is much work to be done; work that can result in greater traffic and revenue.
“The Internet is a fad, it is going to be like CB radios.”
- Blake C., circa 1997
That was 10 years ago. And, I’m happy to say, it couldn’t be further from the truth. The internet has so integrated itself into the way we communicate and access information, that few among us could imagine a day (or even a few hours) without it.
But despite this reality — which any rational person will concede is true — there are still business people who behave as if Blake C.’s quote above is true. And few industries have been slower to adapt than the automotive retail business.
We see many dealerships in our day-to-day dealings that, although they’re dabbling in various internet tactics, don’t seem to be taking it seriously. We here at Dealer Impact believe that what we’re seeing now is only beginning of how these new technologies will change the way people buy (and sell) cars. And as with any business dealing, first mover advantage is key — so why dabble? Get organized, get aggressive and revel in the awesome car-selling power of this new technology that was once labeled a “fad.”
Marketing Strategist/Creative Consultant
As dealership marketing becomes more and more digital (admit it, it’s happening), most dealerships are also moving away from mass marketing to more targeted efforts. And as they do this, the importance of good, clean data is becoming increasingly important.
So much of the value of digital marketing is tied to the value of the database that underlies the effort. Whether it’s an email campaign, an online service special or the inventory on your website, the marketing effort is only as good as the database that drives it.
Step #1 to powerful digital marketing: keep your data clean and up to date. Do that and you’re halfway home.
Marketing Strategist/Creative Consultant
Faster, faster, faster. And more efficient. It seems to be the driving force behind Western Culture. As our lives become more cluttered and we’re bombarded with more and more demands on our time, we’re increasingly insistent that our information be delivered to us in small, digestible chunks. CNN delivers all the day’s news in 15 minutes, RSS feeds deliver just the info we want right to our computer or mobile phone and the family meal has been replaced by the nuke-it-and-run approach.
Is this a sad commentary on the state of our culture? Maybe. Is it reality? For sure.
So as marketers, what do we do about it? Well, we should adapt. We begin by understanding that we’re rarely, if ever, going to get more than 30 seconds from a prospect. So we don’t try to tell a 3-minute story. Instead, we should try to tell more 30 second stories. We combat quantity of content with frequency of content — and that’s how we win.
Marketing Strategist/Creative Consultant
Over the last few years dealerships have started to wake up to the fact that the Internet is here to stay, however many are lost on how to address it. So they are hiring so called “Internet Managers” who claim to be Internet Professionals. Don’t get me wrong, there are tons of very qualified people who bring a great wealth of knowledge, but there are also many Internet Managers that have been dealership hopping.
The average life span of an Internet Manager is less than 6 months. Why is that? Typically, what happens is a dealership hires a new manager, the new manager comes in and assesses their website and suggests changes to fit their work flow method. They may have a favorite website provider or a way of doing business that they are comfortable with. The question is, if it worked why aren’t they at the same dealership? Anyway, the dealership follows his/her suggestions and hopes for the best. The dealership waits for results and if they do not happen they decide to make a change in personnel and the vicious cycle starts all over again with a new ISM and a new website.
This constitutes the majority of dealerships in the US today and what confuses me is why dealerships don’t focus on the real issue, which is driving traffic (marketing) and following up. Instead of spending months adding functions to a website, tweaking content, and adding bells and whistles, why not focus on campaigns, search engine marketing, search engine optimization, and marketing their website, thus driving traffic. Shouldn’t this be the primary goal? Then all the managers have to worry about is making sure their people follow up promptly.
So next time a dealership interviews for the Internet Manger they might want to ask them what their game plan is and they better hear ‘drive traffic’ and defining ‘work flow process’, otherwise you just hired a website manager that will spend their days focusing on features vs. results. You can have the best website in the world, but if there is no traffic coming to it then what good is it?
Dealer Impact Systems
Whether you’re creating a new car dealership website or maintaining an existing one, the chances are great that you’re doing so with the intention of your website being your ultimate marketing tool. You want it to be found by potential customers, who will peruse your “virtual dealership,” find what they are looking for, and eventually purchase a car from you.
But do you know how a website “gets found” by potential customers? Sure, you have your web address in your off-line advertising, but is that how the majority of people will find you?
Nope. Chances are, they will find you through a search engine like Google. If you show up on the first two pages, that is.
So how does that happen? How do you get Google to find your website, much less make your site “appear” on the first couple pages?
Well, it can be complicated, and no two search engines or websites are exactly the same. That’s why people like Dealer Impact Search Marketing exist: their full-time job is to be search engine experts, and to propel your site to the top of the rankings.
But there is one simple thing you can do to give your site a HUGE advantage: include content. Lots of content. Content on every, single page—including the home page.
Why content? Because Google doesn’t see, Google reads. The words on your page (and in tags like the alternate text for images) are what Google actually analyzes to figure out who you are and what you do. If your homepage (remember, your homepage is the most important page to have content on) states clearly that you are a Des Moines Car Dealer, you are increasing your chances that Google will rank you for “Des Moines Car Dealer.”
So, all those pictures of Fords you have on your homepage? Google doesn’t know they’re Fords. You have to tell Google they are Fords, just like you have to tell Google you’re in Des Moines. And not Des Moines, Washington, but Des Moines, Iowa.
Seem simple? It can be– it just takes a little bit of background into what Google really does, and how you can “optimize” your site according to Google’s strengths and weaknesses.
Of course, there’s much more to it than content. But it’s a great rule of thumb to have content on every page of your site, really outlining what that page is all about. It’s a step in the right direction for the do-it-yourself search engine marketer.
But if you notice your rankings falling, or your competition seems to have an edge, don’t be afraid to call in the pros that optimize web pages for a living. After all, the farther down you are in the rankings, the less of an opportunity you have to find that next big customer.
Dealer Impact Search Marketing
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