Digital marketing and the demand for online shopping continues to grow in the US and abroad, yet for more established brands, digital is still young enough to take a second position when it comes to where to allocate marketing budget. This traditional mindset has helped many smaller businesses take advantage of free and low-cost traffic from search engines making SEO the catalyst for long-term business growth.
According to a study from Hubspot, 91% of marketers are “somewhat confident”’ or “very confident” that they’re investing in programs that influence revenue. However, less than 25% of marketers are reporting how campaigns are impacting revenue.¹ No wonder decision-makers often scrutinize proposals from digital marketers; they have no data or confidence to support such an investment.
Bob’s Watches – An Example of Business Growth via SEO
One business’s reluctance is another business’s opportunity. For example, there are hundreds of authorized Rolex dealers all over the world, yet one man with a safe of pre-owned Rolex watches was able to capture the majority share of voice for searches performed for nearly every model in the Rolex catalog.
Understanding the Situation
To be competitive in the Rolex industry, an online store could pay up to $170,000 per month bidding on just three competitive keywords in Google Ads, with a net profit of $76,000. It simply doesn’t make sense to pay for clicks, when it may actually be cost-effective to use search engine optimization to earn that $76,000 per month from organic keyword rankings.
What Most Brands Do
Many businesses jump into digital marketing focusing on websites-first and then bring on SEO resources. The SEO resources come in, oftentimes baffled and confused, wondering “who did this, and why?” Then, they provide a scope that may require completely scratching the website and starting over. This is something that no company ever wants to hear.
What Bob’s Watches Did Differently
Paul Altieri, owner of Bob’s Watches, did something smart when he first started the company. Rather than simply start building a website, Altieri started with a comprehensive digital marketing strategy. He brought in experts in every area, including SEO.
Then with the help of a student from Stanford University, search engine optimization focal points were mapped out. Below is a partial list:
- Prerequisites were provided to the theme developer and shopping cart platform. This maximized search engine crawling and indexing, and minimized potential duplicate content issues.
- Exhaustive keyword research was performed, surfacing, and organizing keywords driving traffic to the competing websites. A complete sitemap was built based on the data, with emphasis on competitive keywords close to the root of the domain, and lesser competitive keywords nested beneath.
- A link analysis was performed to identify where competing domains were getting visibility. A frequency table built to provide a list of websites in order of the most common (such as watch forums and Rolex fan sites).
- Processes were written for the uploading and optimizing of new product pages, product images, and custom videos.
Patience and the First Year of Results
Another hangup many business owners have about search engine optimization is the time it takes to put water and sunlight into page optimization and earning links. In fact, for competitive keywords, it could take 1-3 years to appear on page one of the search results.
The team at Bob’s Watches understood that SEO is truly a marathon and not a sprint. With part-time help from a student intern, a consultant, and a handful of contractors the team worked to finish the marathon.
The result was online sales of around $125,000 for the first year. This would later grow to a total of $25 million over a 5 year period, specifically from organic search traffic.
How Bob’s Watches Stays Competitive
A common misconception about SEO is that it is predominantly a technical task. That it can be done once and yield years of high keyword rankings. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case. Even more so in competitive industries. As Altieri would put it, “competitors aren’t going to give up while we rest on our laurels.”
The traits and habits Bob’s Watches developed to be a leader in the online sales of Rolex watches include the following:
- Monitoring the rankings of 10-20 mission-critical keywords as a trend analysis of how the whole site might be performing in organic search.
- Monitoring how competitors are changing their versions of category and product pages, and what inbound links they are earning to those pages.
- Obsessing over PageSpeed, learning that the faster the page loads, the more revenue improves.
- Keeping up with changes in search result appearance, and hints shared by the search engines (mostly via the Google Webmaster Central Blog and YouTube Channel, along with industry news websites)
- Testing, testing and more testing. Improving bounce rates, conversion rates, mobile user experience, product sorting and an array of other page-level tasks
Learning From Mistakes
An example of a test that was worth the effort (most are), would be the page where consumers sell their watches online. The owner realized leads had been going down, particularly from users on mobile devices. He gathered the troops and spent a full week redesigning and reworking the page to restore keyword rankings and lead volumes to their prior top positions. Below is a screenshot of the results, where you can see a 39% increase in leads and 64% increase in conversion rate.
The Importance of Leadership’s Support
You might be thinking, “wait, this is the SEO team’s job, not CEO or CMO.” And there lies the difference between a business that sees growth from SEO and a business constrained by doubt and uncertainty at the leadership level.
As it turns out, the leadership team needs to fully believe in SEO, including how it works. Otherwise, getting approvals to make expensive website changes (sometimes business changes) can be nearly impossible. After all, how does one hold the SEO person accountable if they don’t know what they should be holding them accountable for?
Long story short, Bob’s Watches has thrived. It made the Wall Street Journal in 2016 and grew a small idea cooked up by 3 people, into a 30-person team. In 2019, the business pulled in millions of online sales with 33% coming from organic traffic.
The company is now a force to be reckoned with, and it was SEO that played a key role in the start and ongoing success of the company website.
Why You May Be Struggling With SEO Growth
Three reasons businesses may not see success when it comes to search engine optimization:
- Not having a thought-through strategy for technical, contextual and off-page SEO
- No buy-in or knowledge transfer to the leadership team
- A lack of patience; remember it could take 1-3 years to rank well in search engines
If nothing else, hopefully, this case study and the experience of a double-decade SEO consultant will help you weigh the risks of investing in search engine optimization. Who knows, maybe you’ll be the next business owner or VP featured in the Wall Street Journal.