Search Shows Smithsonian's Facets

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Paid search is paying off for The Smithsonian Institution as it seeks to extend its profile online.


The Washington-based organization in August posted a 38 percent year-over-year increase in total sales to $54,000 for its e-commerce site at www.smithsonianstore.com. Also, online sales attributed to paid search are up 75 percent year to date.


Smithsonian's educational group travel brand, Smithsonian Journeys, similarly is benefiting from paid search, as that tactic is driving more than half of the online queries for the service. And paid search is raising the profile of the 2 million-circulation Smithsonian Magazine for members, too.


"Our goal is to provide measurable, positive results and to help recognize that Smithsonian is more than just a museum," said George Michie, vice president of client services at Rimm-Kaufman Group, Charlottesville, VA.


"We want to introduce the public to all the ways they can interact with Smithsonian's products and services: It's a unique catalog, a great magazine and a great way to enjoy educational travel," he said.


Rimm-Kaufman began working with the Smithsonian a few years ago. It has launched paid search campaigns on major engines, optimizing bids with its proprietary technology platform and managing the program. A dedicated account manager gives the Smithsonian weekly reports that track results at the keyword level.


In addition to paid search, Rimm-Kaufman is working to boost the usability and conversion of the client's sites as well as organic search rankings. Improving usability helps the Smithsonian maximize the value of its qualified searchers to the site.


Still, devising competitive, profitable search terms is Rimm-Kaufman's biggest contribution, said Scott Rockman, senior vice president and chief operating officer of consumer marketing at Smithsonian Business Ventures.


"Without them, we never would have successfully bid on competitive terms like 'cloisonné' and 'murano,' 'educational tours' and 'guided tours,'" Rockman said.


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