For the rest of the July 2009 issue of CRM magazine, please click here.
It only took a few weeks for Josh Himwich, director of e-commerce operations at Diapers.com, to notice the huge lift in natural-search traffic. Sure, it had happened before—when the company ran a promotion or sent out an email campaign, or sometimes for reasons wholly unexplainable. Only this time, the uptick hadn’t faded.
The difference, Himwich says, was PowerReviews’ new search engine optimization (SEO) software for product reviews. Diapers.com has more than 4,000 products, ranging from baby toys to maternity wear to home-cleaning supplies, and now more than 35,000 reviews of those products are search engine–friendly. Approximately 500 products have more than 15 reviews—some have more than 200—but only the first page of 15 reviews is indexed by search engines. (Companies can customize the number of reviews displayed to search engines, but Darby Williams, PowerReviews’ vice president of product management, says the law of diminishing returns comes into play—the most-relevant reviews are typically found within the first 15.)
Product reviews hosted on a third-party site may load seamlessly for a Web visitor, but they’re separate from the product page and therefore invisible to search engines. Reviews generated on PowerReviews’ platform had been indexable through a separate SEO minisite, a basic landing page that consisted primarily of reviews and very minimal product information.
Diapers.com wasn’t thrilled with the minisite format—and perhaps with good cause: Williams says that SEO minisites often see bounce rates as high as 60 percent, compared to 32 percent on the product page of an e-commerce site. Consumers, he says, tend to bounce from minisites due to a lack of familiarity, which helps explain Diapers.com’s concern about causing unnecessary confusion. “You’re not sending [customers] to your actual site,” Himwich says.
Enter PowerReviews’ In-Line SEO, which makes reviews search engine–friendly by embedding them within the HTML code of the product page.
Without any other modifications to SEO strategy or product-detail pages, Himwich could clearly attribute improvements to In-Line SEO. After just two weeks, results far exceeded expectations: a 59 percent increase in the number of keywords driving traffic, and a 49 percent increase in overall natural-search traffic.
“That’s why reviews are important,” Himwich says. “They add a lot more keywords into the mix for those pages…. You’re adding not only to the keyword density of that product but you’re adding a long tail of keywords as well.” Reviews, written in a language that fellow customers understand, help keep content on the product pages fresh and introduce keywords with more frequency and relevance than a marketer ever could. (For more on search engine marketing, see “Search Engineering,” one of this month's features.)
The bottom line was just as rosy: In the two weeks after implementing In-Line SEO, Diapers.com saw an incredible 33 percent increase in natural-search sales compared to the prior two weeks, and the improvement has proven sustainable.
“There are a lot of things in search engine marketing that seem like they’ll be a win, but when you put in the work, [it] doesn’t change much at all,” Himwich says. Unlike the often-empty promises of various search engine tricks, implementing In-Line SEO, he says, “was just a no-brainer.”
Since turning to PowerReviews’ In-Line SEO for improving the search-engine indexing of its product reviews, Diapers.com has seen:
- a 59 percent increase in the number of keywords driving traffic;
- a 49 percent increase in natural-search traffic;
- a 33 percent increase in natural-search sales; and
- 35,000 of its reviews show up in the search-engine results.
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