Situation Since 2007, Bairstow Lifting Products had a 170- page, robust product catalog, but a very hard to use and confusing web site. Merge was initially engaged to make the web site as robust as the catalog.
The Challenge Bairstow had over 1,500 product SKU’s but a limited ability to maximize on the information via the web for the end user to find through search engines. The majority of traffic (over 60%) was being driven through paid search. There’s nothing inherently problematic with paid search marketing. It‘s a valid and effective way of driving qualified customers using relevant search terms to your website to buy your products. However, like all advertising the challenge is to spend less than you bring in, or more specifically less than your net profit. The problem is when you turn the advertising money spigot off, the traffic to your site equally slows to a trickle. A much more effective and long-term, sustainable search marketing strategy is to develop “organic” or earned traffic from search engines. You don’t pay Google or other search engines to show up on search results. Instead you optimize and create information-rich, user-relevant content on your site so these search engines can better understand what your site is about.
In turn search engines rank your website pages higher in search results — for free. The other upside to optimizing your website content to be more relevant for end users, is that it can significantly bring down the cost of paid search keyword bids. Google actually rewards sites that have more search-relevant content with lower bid rates and higher paid rankings. In short, optimizing content pays bigger dividends over a longer period of time. Merge developed an SEO (search engine optimization) and SEM (search engine marketing) plan that would maximize the organic exposure of the Bairstow products, while lowering the cost of paid search. In addition to the SEO, Merge created a tactical plan with lead generating calls-to-action, landing pages and enhanced product category displays. The benefit to Bairstow would be huge: essentially, Bairstow’s print catalog would be available to the entire world through the web at a fraction of the cost that it took to print the catalog every year, the cost per lead would be dramatically lowered, and there would be an increase in brand recognition and market share. A side benefit for the SEO improvements was that the information was driven from the ERP inventory management system, streamlining data entry. The inventory management database was the “master” database, and any changes that happened there would be reflected on the web site when the data was pushed to the web.
In comparing two time periods, 10 months prior to Merge implementing the strategy (July 2010 to April 2011) and the 10 months post implementation (May 2011 to February 2012), Bairstow’s online sales have seen tremendous growth. Sales resulting from organically driven traffic increased 165%, while paid search expenditures decreased 17% in the same period. Overall, Bairstow’s e-commerce sales have grown 35%, while total online sales (e-commerce sales plus sales from their “request a quote” feature) have grown over 45%. Additionally, organic search has grown 123%, and Bairstow has realized an increased and more stable average order value for sales from the web in 2011-12. The number of keywords picked up by search engines has grown by 28% and the top 50 keywords landing on the first page of the major search engines (Google, Yahoo and Bing) has grown by 34%.