SEM Doubles Levenger's Search-Led Sales

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For Levenger, a retailer of fine writing tools and home office luxury goods, search engine marketing has shifted from a luxury to a necessity. Through a partnership with search marketing firm 360i, search engine marketing has become one of its most important customer acquisition vehicles.

Levenger mails more than 20 million catalogs annually to households throughout the United States and Canada, and it maintains four bricks-and-mortar stores and a Levenger Web site.

While online sales had been steadily rising, Levenger sought to use SEM to accelerate sales growth. For Levenger, a company with two decades of experience with direct marketing, SEM was particularly appealing. The tracking, analytics and targeting that were possible with search marketing could further the company's knowledge of its customers.

Levenger established a number of goals with 360i for natural and paid search, targeting both search engines and shopping engines.

First, increase relevant traffic to the site. Second, capture new audience via catalog sign-ups. Third, improve revenue through online sales. Fourth, deliver integrated reporting for more robust analytics. Finally, expand search traffic while maintaining a steady return on investment.

To commence its integrated natural and paid search program, 360i conducted a thorough competitive and industry analysis. It then developed an extensive keyword list across multiple relevant categories, dividing the list among brand and non-brand phrases. Then the firm helped Levenger shorten URLs, improve internal navigation and add relevant content to subcategory pages.

The campaign strategy included targeted category placements such as product showcases, featured product listings, sponsored product links, deals and special promotions. The creative, especially during the holidays, included seasonal promotions such as gift card with purchase and callouts to special product sales.

Promotions used precise calls to action in the creative messaging for high relevance and narrow targeting. The promotions were continually tested and refined, leading to higher clickthrough rates and conversions for the paid search campaign.

Over the course of the first year of the campaign, the return on investment goals far surpassed Levenger's expectations, including a 120 percent increase in search sales in 2005.

There are a number of reasons, beyond the results themselves, why Levenger was able to so fully embrace the search engine marketing process.

First, while technology played a major role in the success of the campaign, including bid management and adapting the site to meet search engines' technical requirements, the holistic natural and paid search strategy always centered around the consumer's interests. The success of search marketing campaigns hinges on the campaign's relevance, and the campaign has helped Levenger offer timely suggestions and offers to consumers.

Most importantly, Levenger's experience with search engine marketing has not only led to increases in sales and a high ROI, but it has delivered insight to inform Levenger's overall marketing and sales strategy.

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