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Search Engine Marketing Case Studies

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A special report from the Search Engine Strategies 2001 Conference, November 14-15, Dallas, TX.

As any search engine marketer will tell you, one of the best ways of learning what works in this industry is to study successful sites. And that was the focus of this fascinating session: case studies in search engine marketing.

Jamie Lowe of All-Outdoors Whitewater Rafting and SearchEngineMarketing.com opened the session with a discussion of his rafting site.

The All-Outdoors site recently won several of the 2001 Inc Web Awards, including the Best Small Business Site in America, Winner of General Excellence, First Place in Customer Service, and Second Place in ROI.

Lowe pointed out that white water rafting is a high expense, low profit market. Because white water rafting is a small industry, they have to be creative with their ad budget. So, they put money into the Web versus magazine articles.

The company had two goals for their Web site: for the site to be displayed prominently, and for them to be able to compete for the best Web experience for the user.

How did they begin to accomplish this? All of their pages are focused and optimized for specific keywords. They use HTML links and link text along with image maps. And, they spread out the work over the course of several years.

The most important keywords for the site are white water rafting and whitewater rafting (both variations). When considering keywords, Lowe researched at WordTracker as well as listened to clients. He also bought several domains with keywords in them, separated by hyphens.

One major strength the site has had, even from the beginning, is the depth of content that naturally makes up the site. To continue building valuable content, the site came up with a rather unique and interesting strategy: partnering with popular authors of related books. The company shares marketing costs with the authors for the Web sites. As an example, there's a Web site for each river that the rafting company uses, along with pertinent information about that river. The company built content around the keywords with links to various outfitters.

To prove the power of search engine marketing, the company can trace $760,000 to search engine referrals in the year 2000.

Lowe's recommendations? "Don't obsess over rankings. Concentrate on content, because it will be indexed and will have lasting results."

The next panelist was Gregory Markel, Founder of Infuse Creative, a Web design and marketing company with mainly entertainment clients.

Because search engine marketing is such a "fluid environment" with things changing all the time, Markel recommends not focusing on just one thing. For example, "Never ignore secondary keywords," he said.

Markel then discussed several of his clients' sites, beginning with Finalfantasy.com. He rated the site's difficulty factor a 10 out of 10 because of the massive competition and lack of link popularity. Plus, the site is 100% Flash.

The company created 300 pages for the site and did not use cloaking strategies. Instead, they used frames with tags. They didn't bother creating link popularity because they knew it would come later.</p> <p>After optimization, the site now has several #1 rankings. In fact, $75,000 was spent in the online marketing budget, with only 7.2% on search engine marketing. But, the search engines accounted for 25% of all online traffic.</p> <p>Markel's next example was Surgicalrenaissance.com. Again, the site is using very competitive keywords and had zero link popularity to start. Plus, the site was budget challenged. </p> <p>With this site, they also created 300 pages, didn't use cloaking, and used framesets. In the <noframes> tag, he included the equivalent of a Web page with relevant text based on the important keyword phrase.</p> <p>Markel feels that if your SEO code is strong enough, it will override link popularity. He also believes that search engine marketing is a better choice than paid listings, because paid listings are very expensive. Plus, he believes that his target audience is Internet savvy, and they pay little attention to paid listings.</p> <p>With this site, they had over 11,500 referrals from the search engines in one month.</p> <p>Like Markel, Holly Dorland with JUMP Internet Marketing feels that users are desensitized to paid listings. So, she cautions not to forget your SEO stats.</p> <p>"If you are not marketing your site or driving traffic to your site, you are not going to have an effective Net presence," said Dorland. </p> <p>Her philosophy for search engine marketing includes:</p> <p>1. Strategies to get targeted traffic to site;<br /> 2. Strategies to encourage viewer interaction and input; and,<br /> 3. Strategies to get return traffic.</p> <p>Dorland added, "Know the search engines and how they work, and know that a #1 can change."</p> <p>One of her client's, TulsaTubeBending.com, is an industrial client with a very narrow audience. They wanted a cost effective marketing avenue.</p> <p>Their goals were:</p> <p>1. Increase sales leads on the Net;<br /> 2. Obtain a larger share of the viewing audience;<br /> 3. Outposition their competition; and,<br /> 4. Increase qualified traffic.</p> <p>Her marketing strategies included:</p> <p>1. Marketing plan and research. Identified the objectives, target audience, and business. Performed keyword research, competition research, and goal research.<br /> 2. Web site optimization strategies. Worked on tags, prominence, relevancy, and frequency.<br /> 3. Navigation study.<br /> 4. Design elements.</p> <p>She registered the site with the top search engines and directories and industry specific directories.</p> <p>Dorland believes that monthly optimization is necessary to keep track of what's going on with the client. She looks at the traffic, keywords, and competition, and she re-registers pages when necessary. Then, she provides monthly and quarterly reports to her clients.</p> <p>How did her efforts pay off?</p> <ul> <li><p>After 7 months, the site boasts a 575% increase in page views;<br /> <li>203% increase in user sessions;<br /> <li>250% increase in internal page views;<br /> <li>614% increase in targeted SE keywords;<br /> <li>55% increase in conversion rate. </ul></p> <p>The company sold $100,000 in products directly attributed to Net leads in one month. </p> <p>Conclusion</p> <p>By studying the strategies of top ranking sites and experienced search engine marketers, you'll learn valuable tips that you can apply to your own site. </p> <p> Panelists:<p> <b>Jamie Lowe</b>, Internet Marketing Director, <a href="http://www.aorafting.com">All-Outdoors California Whitewater Rafting</a> and Consultant with <a href="http://www.searchenginemarketing.com">SearchEngineMarketing.com</a> <p> <b>Gregory Markel</b>, Founder and President, Online Marketing Division, <a href="http://www.infusecreative.com">Infuse Creative</a> <p> <b>Holly Dorland</b>, Director, <a href="http://www.jumpinternetmarketing.com/">JUMP Internet Marketing</a>.</p> <p> Mark your calendar and plan to attend the next Search Engine Strategies Conference! The conference will be held in Boston on March 4-5, 2002. See you there!</p> <p><a href="http://seminars.internet.com/sew/spring02/index.html">http://seminars.internet.com/sew/spring02/index.html</a></p> <p><i><b>Robin Nobles</b> is Director of Training for the Academy of Web Specialists (<a href="http://www.acws.com">http://www.acws.com</a>). Robin has taught well over a thousand students in her online and onsite search engine positioning courses during the past several years. Her latest books, Web Site Analysis and Reporting and Streetwise Maximize Web Site Traffic, can be ordered through Amazon. 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