(Read in entirety at Multichannel Merchant. Published 2008)
Let’s say your wife is an avid hunter. You decide to surprise her by tracking down a pair of specialty hunting socks to keep her feet warm. You have no idea who carries battery-powered, heated hunting socks, so you fire up Google and search for both “heated hunting socks” and “women’s heated hunting socks.”
You discover that a page from Cabelas.com is displayed for both queries in the top-three natural search listings, welcoming you to its store. Of course! You recognize the Cabela’s brand as a well-known specialty outfitter for hunting and outdoor products. Plus, your wife already receives the company’s catalogs.
You click on the listing and proceed to make your purchase. Yep, she’s gonna love her new socks. And she’s gonna love you for getting her exactly what she needed.
In a given month, a few dozen other people across the country may conduct a similar query for “heated hunting socks” on a major search engine. Meanwhile, a few dozen others search and find Cabelas.com product pages for similar “hunting socks” keyword phrases that include “merino wool,” “electric,” “warm,” “cold,” “for kids,” and even “diabetic hunting socks.”
On their own, these niche keyword markets may seem insignificant because each term or phrase may generate only a handful of visitors per month — depending on the season. But if you combine these total visits, the number of self-qualified Website visitors who reach the site for such “long tail” terms is of a market size similar to that of a Cabela’s catalog drop.
And that’s the tip of the iceberg — our research shows that for every brand search query conducted (such as “Cabela’s”), there are nearly 40 unbranded search queries (such as “hunting socks”).
Indeed, the power of natural search — also known as organic search — as an advertising channel can no longer be ignored by merchants. By engineering their Website’s tens of thousands of pages to rank highly in search listings across hundreds of thousands (or millions) of keyword phrases, merchants can leverage the size of their sites and the strength of their brands to attract self-qualified visitors and buyers. The results are rich in new-to-file customers acquired in greater quantities and more profitably than from any other channel.
We at Netconcepts focus on helping merchants capitalize on this natural search opportunity. Based on our experience, we’ve uncovered may secrets to natural search. I’ll share the three best-kept secrets here; embracing these concepts will maximize your brand reach and sales through natural search in the coming years.
These are the kinds of questions that leading search marketing managers are asking — and answering — in order to stay on top of the competition.
Also in support of this data, 50% of the 600 enhanced URLs were featured in the top-100 performing pages, out of a total site size of roughly 500,000 URLs. Following the results of the test, we implemented similar enhancements across other sections of the site.
Another common issue that plagues merchant natural search performance is the lack of searcher vocabulary present within the content or navigational links of their Websites. Implicit navigation is one area that retailers often miss out on when they consider enhancing their sites for searchers.
For example, let’s say your Website displays a “toys” heading in your left-hand navigation, followed by a list of the different kinds of toys you offer, including, “learning,” “musical” or “girls ages 5-7.” Because these navigation links are trusted by search engines to help determine what the pages are about, the pages have difficulty getting ranked for such general keywords.
This means searchers will never find your “learning toys” page by searching for that phrase. When our clients face this issue, we recommend enhancing their left-hand navigation to be more explicit; include “learning toys” or “musical toys” in the links themselves.
While cleaner URLs and explicit navigation are simple examples that make sense from a search engine perspective, even they have brand impacts that need to be weighed carefully before rolling out such a change across the site. It is important to employ a technology platform and an evaluation framework that enables you to approach experiments like these as business case tests.
How much should you budget for natural search advertising? Simple: If you spend $40 in customer acquisition cost, and your Website confidently converts 2% of visitors into customers, then you can spend roughly $0.80 per click ($40 × 2%) and still keep your CFO happy.
But we still find savvy merchants budgeting a range of $0.15 – $0.30 per click for natural search traffic, depending on traffic volume and whether the phrases are company-brand terms or unbranded terms (unbranded terms are more valuable).
While this can add up to a significant advertising cost, merchants are finding that the incremental top-line revenue alone often justifies the expense on an ROI basis, not to mention the new-to-file customers acquired. So think big.
Search continues to grow more complex and competitive with new and different opportunities emerging almost daily. Why wait for your CEO to ask you these questions?
By adopting smart metrics, an experimental attitude, coupled with an advertising platform that supports such decision-making, you can begin to properly test and measure such concepts. More important, you can properly manage the performance of your natural search channel. Without these critical tools, your brand faces the risk of being seriously left behind.
By treating natural search as an advertising channel, by applying classic direct marketing test frameworks to scalable site enhancements, and by properly budgeting for your site’s natural search advertising, you too will maximize the reach of your brand and your sales online with natural search.
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