REI Boosts Sales Via Keywords

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ORLANDO, FL -- Improving keyword indexes on Google was one of several search strategies outdoor gear and clothing company REI used to boost sales from natural search by 200 percent, the company's online executive said during a session at the Annual Catalog Conference here yesterday.

The Sumner, WA-based retailer began looking at ways to improve its results from search a year ago, after finding that its competitors' keyword indexes were much more extensive than its own.

"What drove it was seeing our competitors consistently ranking higher than us in algorithmic results. Some had 100,000 to 120,000 pages indexed, and we had 5,500," said Jennifer Rodriguez, manager, Online Customer Acquisitions Programs and Strategy at REI.

REI enlisted the help of search optimization firm Netconcepts LLC, Madison, WI, which conducted a complete audit of its Web sites, including, and

In addition to improving keyword indexes, REI experienced sales growth after it rewrote dynamic URLs to make them static URLs, "free of stop characters," Rodriguez said. It also converted certain graphics to text on the Web because graphics cannot be found by search engine crawlers.

It also optimized its search keywords, changing terms that were less frequently used by consumers to more common keywords.

For example, it changed the search term "snow sports" to specific individual sports, such as "snowboarding" and "skiing," since consumers are more likely to use those search terms.

Rodriguez believes REI experienced improvement because the retailer had buy-in from its upper management.

"Educating management on the potential of search to your business is a key part of this. To win that support, consistently share industry articles and case studies," Rodriguez said.

Christine Blank covers online marketing and advertising, including e-mail marketing and paid search, for DM News and To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting

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