Security certification produces link and landing page benefits

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Since 1984, Stacks and Stacks has been a leading retailer of products to organize and furnish homes, offices and gardens.

Beginning in 1999, we evolved from a six-store regional storage and organization chain to a single store, Internet-centric retailer. We have to be nimble because our primary competition is much larger national chains like Restoration Hardware, Bed Bath and Beyond, and The Container Store.

As online sales now represent the vast majority of our corporate revenue, we're extremely analytical when evaluating opportunities that promise to boost online traffic and conversion. We invest a lot of time and resources into search to direct prospects to our catalog of more than 16,000 product SKUs. Web site security certification has been one area that has worked well for us.

Like many DM News readers, I've seen these security trust mark images on many Web sites, including those of key competitors like Restoration Hardware. I wanted to see what would happen with our own customers. We decided to try ScanAlert's Hacker Safe service. Although our technical staff was more interested in it as a data security tool, my interest was focused on benefits to our search programs. Would it have any effect on traffic? What would happen to our conversion rate?

Hacker Safe retailers can add their sites to a directory of certified sites in up to three product categories, which provides us with three highly rank text links from an authority site. You can't just buy these links, only certified sites are in the directory, and your site disappears from it if your certification lapses. The links help us and are one of the reasons why we rank very high organically for our most important keywords. I'm not sure if other security trust mark vendors provide this feature, however.

The other objective of higher landing page conversion also was realized. We quantified the extent using an A/B methodology across a total of 2,407 orders. Half of the buyers had seen the trust mark image while browsing our site, while the other half had not. The group that visited the certified StacksandStacks.com made 67 (5.73 percent) more orders. Additionally, if people come to us through a pay-per-click ad, our certified landing page makes us immediately more credible even if they've never heard of us.

In summary, our experience with security certification over the past year has been very positive, helping to increase the overall profitability of both our paid and unpaid search programs.

Cathy McManus is marketing manager at Stacks and Stacks, Richmond CA. Reach her at cathy@stacksandstacks.com.
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