Search Engine Guide Case Study: REI Doubles Sales From Natural Search

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Recreational Equipment Inc., a multichannel retailer of outdoors gear and clothing with more than 70 retail stores and revenue of nearly $1 billion a year, recognized the importance of search engine optimization early on.


Executives understood that they could gain significant traffic to the site at www.rei.com and sales from natural search if product pages were more visible and ranked better in search engines.


REI's main natural search obstacle was the dynamic nature of the Web address structure. This kept the majority of the Web pages from getting spidered and indexed in Google and other top engines. Several other issues compounded REI.com's natural search visibility problem:


· Keywords used on the site were not always popular with searchers.


· Same page titles were sometimes used across entire sections of the site.


· Main pages lacked introductory text.


· Main headers were in graphics instead of text.


· Many pages lacked keyword focus and density.


REI enlisted Netconcepts to uncover these and other missed opportunities and to develop a plan for seizing these opportunities. This plan took the form of an extensive search engine optimization audit that included keyword research, site structure, alt tags, competitor analysis, detailed recommendations, page mockups, benchmarking and more.


As a follow-up to the audit, Netconcepts came on-site to conduct days of in-depth training on search engine optimization best practices.


Realizing that implementation of this audit involved significant work, REI then engaged us to help its internal team make the recommended changes. We began by working with REI's IT department to "rewrite" many of the site's Web addresses into a form free of stop characters, thus making them static and more friendly to the search engine spiders.


Thanks to the rewriting, REI's site is now fully indexed in Google. More importantly, the payback came in terms of sales. REI Online received more than a 200 percent gain from overall natural search sales and more than a 250 percent gain in non-branded natural search sales since the changes began.


Of course, the Web address rewriting was just one component of the search engine optimization initiative, but it was a key one. Other efforts such as optimizing title tags, converting graphical headings into text and conducting keyword research to optimize product category names also paid dividends.


For more articles from The Direct Marketer's Essential Guide to Search Engine Marketing, visit www.dmnews.com/search .


A PDF of the guide is available at: http://www.dmnews.com/pdffiles/semguide.pdf


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