3 CEOs with 3 Strategies for SEO Success

In the last few weeks, Search Engine WarGames has looked at how Bankrate’s CEO invested in search engine optimization to bolster revenues and profits. Then we discussed how Wayne Gattinella, WebMD’s CEO and president, values SEO as a key driver of his digital strategy.

There’s no question that Bankrate and WebMD live or die by their Internet strategy. What about more traditional companies? Does SEM make a big impact on businesses with a strong brick-and-mortar presence?

Let’s look at three companies with varying degrees of digital presence: La-Z-Boy, D&B, and UTI. Each CEO took time during recent earnings calls to discuss their digital strategies with Wall Street analysts.

President and Chief Executive Officer of La-Z-Boy, Kurt Darrow, reviewed his company’s initiatives to leverage the Internet during the F3Q08 (Qtr End 01/26/08) earnings call.

As is the case with most savvy companies, Darrow understands that SEM requires continuous improvement. He spelled out his initiatives and backed them with hard data. One measure of his success? Traffic to the site increased by double digits during the past several months. Online registrations also increased dramatically during a two-week period.

“First, we are increasing our traffic to our Web site through improved search engine optimization and paid search marketing. These actions, combined with our new marketing campaign, have increased unique visitors to our site over the last few months by more than 35 percent. Second, we are implementing tools that will encourage our customers online to provide us with their contact information enabling us to regularly send them information on La-Z-Boy products, services, and sales via e-mail.

For example, during our recent armchair quarterback national sales event we had more than 60,000 register online during the two weeks of that promotion. The third piece is to ensure the experience we provide to our consumers on the Web meets their expectations.”

Consumers are looking for more than Flash animations and pretty pictures. Online retail consumers want value. They want information on the products they’re researching.

“We are working on a strategy to leverage our site with online pricing and sales capabilities. With more and more consumers using the Internet to either look at furniture before purchase or to actually make a purchase, we are excited about the prospects of ecommerce and believe it will not only increase our visibility, but make it easier for the consumer to do business with our company.”

Other companies are turning to the Internet for key acquisitions to drive their digital strategy. For example, D&B recently purchased AllBusiness.com after the successful acquisition of Hoover’s.

The President and COO of Dun & Bradstreet, Sara Mathew, cited Hoover’s as a model acquisition during her Q4 2007 earnings call. The reason she’s bullish on the AllBusiness.com buyout has more to do with search marketing than almost any other factor.

Hoover’s has proven to be a model acquisition for us and we will apply these lessons to ensure similar positive results from AllBusiness.com, which we acquired last month. As a reminder, AllBusiness is an online media and e-commerce company that operates one of the premier business sites on the Web. It leverages a proprietary publishing platform and a broad range of content to help users run their small businesses better.

And it brings a number of exciting new capabilities to D&B, including expertise and search engine optimization as well as search engine marketing. With the combined power of AllBusiness, Hoover’s and First Research, we are confident in our ability to continue to drive strong double-digit revenue growth from our Internet segment in 2008.

The President and Chief Executive Officer of Universal Technical Institute, (UTI) Kimberly J. McWaters highlighted SEM during her recent Q1 2008 earnings call. As a business that relies on the Internet, UTI targets a young audience and measures daily unique visitors and site traffic. She stated:

In late December 2007, UTI launched a new Web site, UTI.edu, designed to relate to the critical Gen Y audience and key influencers on a more contemporary level. Early indications are optimistic, as traffic is up 104 percent versus a year ago in terms of visits during the month of January. Unique visitors are up 85 percent. This growth is attributed to a complete Web site redesign supported by a national advertising campaign promoting the URL, UTI.edu.

More important than traffic, though, is how UTI is driving visitors to their flagship site. Again, search engines play the key role. In fact, Ms. McWaters describes “natural search” as a “critical area” of her business strategy.

In the critical areas of natural search, UTI site visitation is up 800 percent versus the same period in the prior year. Given the reliance on premium price lead vendors, the success in obtaining free visitors to the site has the potential of growing into a competitive advantage for UTI. The growth in natural search visitation is attributed to the new SEO strategy employed at UTI.

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