How SEO Metrics Impact HSN’s Merchandizing Strategy at Conductor #C3NY

Conductor C3 logoEnterprise SEO teams often fall into the trap of looking at high-level metrics and missing context, according to Hugo Guzman, Senior Manager of Online Marketing for HSN (Home Shopping Network’s eCommerce site, Speaking to SEW on the phone, Guzman gave a candid preview of his presentation entitled “Building SEO Goals & KPIs for Your Organization” ahead of Conductor’s C3 event on Thursday 19th September. His presentation will focus on how SEO teams can “manage up” to the C-suite and across departments to drive significant incremental profits.

The Top-Down Strategy

As I’m sure many can attest to, the relationship between SEOs and the CMO is still one of education and empowerment because the role search and online strategies play are second fiddle to the wider and overall concerns of the C-Suite. With concerns such as price point, customer services, brand development – and the direction of any company being as much about it’s resource allocation and staffing as it’s marketing strategy – search is justifiably an afterthought.

However, with the marketing intelligence yielded from big data SEO platforms, like Conductor, SEOs are increasingly likely to take a seat at the C-Suite table. And according to Guzman, the winning approach to SEO is to do the opposite of what you might have done as a division manager. Namely, that to focus on higher level metrics could leave you blind sided to the most profitable opportunities for your department and your internal liaisons.

“There are two ways to execute on tactical SEO methodology,” said Guzman, “you can take a top down perspective which focusses on the performance of entire categories or divisions. Or you can take a ‘bottom up strategy’ – a granular approach to improve day to day tactical efforts – which aims to be nimble around the incoming data.”

In Guzman’s experience, the top down approach can run out of mileage as there is a tendency towards a portfolio approach which focusses on known business drivers, such as high volume search terms or high volume of conversions. As a result, from a distance, all converting keywords tend to look like just one of a million converting products.

A Bottom-Up Approach

By contrast, Guzman recommends identifying what he calls, “on-the-cusp” keywords, which may not drive much traffic currently but show a consistent “propensity to sell.” These low traffic but consistently converting terms can operate in a dual capacity; both as a kind of ‘divining rod’ for greater profits or ‘a canary in the coal mine’ forecasting trouble ahead.

“Where there is a track record of conversion on low traffic terms, digging deeper into the context of the conversion reveals site architecture concerns and opportunities that you just would not have identified from a top down view,” said Guzman, “periodic issues, such as a global redirect strategy, can often bury these smaller barriers to conversion.”

Simply by fixing these small things, bigger opportunities emerge, “when you do this kind of work, from the ground up, you all of sudden uncover new keyword opportunities that fit into the market segment or category.”

HSN new dresses hubIn turn, these new search queries or, put another way, ‘keyword intelligence’ around a product category lead to a content marketing strategy which helps to squeeze more ROI from that section of the site. It can even breed new sections. Guzman told SEW that there is a direct relationship between the concept of “product assortment” for a retailer – not just total inventory in terms of stock, but also length, variety and consistency in a product line – and the search traffic and ROI an eCommerce site can expect to generate.

Managing Up

“Every day we are looking at data coming in and finding new keyword that have never before driven revenue,” continued Guzman, “and it’s important to empower the merchant teams with search data. We are constantly feeding them data in terms of search volume and revenue. We use Conductor to find terms that show for queries that show internally consistent trends to inform merchandizers about what we are not stocking and how they can use that information to improve their product line.”

For example, “in our home decor category, the phrase ‘tufted’ emerged as a frequently used keyword modifier for more generic queries in that category.” Subsequently was able to optimize around that product description. Citing another example, Guzman said, “we were able to identify that dresses were a growing traffic segment (with plenty of modifiers such as ‘A-line’ and ‘Maxis’) but we we had gaps in coverage, because we did not have enough assortment. As a result of search data and other data, the business decided to create and stock a dress shop, we now have an entire hub of dresses on HSN.”

HSN dresses hub

“We’ve really only scratched the surface of what we could be doing and we continue to do a lot to educate and empower our marketing counterparts. Conductor been a great partner in helping us integrate ROI data from our analytics solution, Coremetrics, and create automated reports that are customized around the priorities of the various stakeholders, from Home Decor and Kitchen merchants to Health & Beauty merchants.”

So next time a someone says to you, “SEO, that’s all about meta tags right?”, remember this story. With special attention payed to low volume search terms and query modifiers, SEOs concentrating on the little things can find themselves making a big difference to the rest of the company. Expect an invite to dinner from the CMO who will be wanting to know what this search thing is all about.

Learn More at Conductor C3 #C3ny

For more stories like this tune into to our coverage of Conductor C3 on Thursday, September 19, which SEW will be tweeting on the #C3ny hashtag and writing up over the next few days. We’ll be joining brands such as HSN, FedEx, Logitech, Bing and Google to discuss, “Why 2013 Will Be the Year of the SEO”.

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