Search Engine Guide Case Study: How Small Guys Can Play Ball With the Big Spenders

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When Tiffany & Co., Blue Nile, Mondera and Overstock.com occupy the top search results for your products, you know you are up against savvy marketers with deep pockets. Here are some ideas we would recommend to Allentown Jewelers to kick-start its business. The company is not a client of ours.


Find and define the niche through keyword research. While in the process of defining its business strategy, Allentown Jewelers can help differentiate and position its product mix through keyword research. Using standard online tools such as Wordtracker (www.wordtracker. com) or the Yahoo Search Marketing Keyword Selector tool (http://inventory.overture.com), Allentown Jewelers can identify "diamonds in the rough" or untapped segments of the industry that have little competition, but frequent searches by potential customers.


These terms can help the online retailer further define its consumers' needs and contribute toward a larger merchandising strategy. In this case, we began by researching occasions, fashion trends, jewelry designers, specialty jewels and names of pieces Allentown Jewelers currently has in its inventory.


We found that terms such as "tension set wedding ring," "14 kt gold chains," "antique engagement ring" and "gold Italian charm bracelet" present great potential and should be considered for inclusion in site inventory.


Based on the number of product categories it carries, Allentown Jewelers should allocate a few thousand dollars for its search marketing agency to conduct this research. With some education, the company itself can continually conduct this research as it expands its product line.


Optimize the site for organic placement. Optimizing for search engines during the design/development process is most favorable for cost efficiency and results in the organic listings of engines such as Google, MSN and Yahoo. Key points:


· Once keyword research has been completed, keywords should be integrated into the site's directory structure, file names, hyperlinks, copy, meta tags, headings and alt tags.


· Simple text link navigation elements should appear somewhere on the home page to let spiders crawl the entire site.


· Since spiders cannot see content within graphics, ensure that key content is programmed as HTML text.


Initially, we suggest using an agency to define the keyword set and write main category page meta tags. Moving forward, a standard approach or database-driven solution to writing meta tags for each product should be developed.


Establish links. Achieving link popularity is pivotal to gaining ranking in all of the top spider-based engines. The easiest way to begin to develop link popularity is to submit the site to top directories like Yahoo, The Open Directory Project (www.dmoz.org) and industry-focused portals, or vortals.


Exploring existing relationships, such as memberships to associations or business connections, also can reveal strong link partnerships that can be formed in the online environment.


Other smart tactics, like using optimized press releases to generate links, can affect link popularity scores. Agencies should be tapped to research and submit to sites and to create a press release strategy.


Define initial budgets needed for search engine marketing. Google can lag upward of three to six months to index a new site and rank its results for competitive search terms. A paid search engine marketing campaign with Yahoo, Google and smaller networks can be a wide-reaching way to introduce a site to consumers while waiting for spiders to crawl and index for organic placement. Determine the budget by defining an ROI model.


Allentown Jewelers might estimate that it should invest $1 in search engine marketing for every $6 it makes back, based on the cost of the products and required margin. It also is important to factor the total lifetime value of the customer into the ROI model.


To start, Allentown Jewelers should focus on highly targeted low-cost terms. As revenue is generated and the site is indexed in organic results, budgets should be reviewed and reallocated to maximize profitability.


We suggest using the first two to three months' budget ($10,000-$15,000) to optimize the existing site for organic placement and to plan/implement an SEM campaign. Allentown Jewelers then can continue targeted revenue generation and brand building with its monthly budget through search engine marketing buys while also monitoring and building upon organic listings on a monthly basis.


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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