SEO helps secure shipping case company succeed

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Deployable Systems, an Oak Hill, Va.-based start-up, sells “integrated protection systems.” That’s a fancy name for rugged, protective cases that are used for shipping sensitive equipment—anything from computers to weaponry.

The company considered the federal government and the military its primary customers, and it focused on marketing to those customers through its direct sales force. For example, its equipment has gone into Iraq to protect rifles, guns and computer equipment from the elements.

Deployable also had a Web site, but online sales were nonexistent.

“We had launched a Web site for e-commerce, but we were getting no real traffic or sales through it,” said company President Mike Morin.

Deployable approached Search Mojo, a search engine marketing agency, with the intention of generating incremental sales revenue through e-commerce.

Initially, Search Mojo worked to gain an understanding of Deployable’s business and customers, then it optimized the company’s Web site. That work included a standard practice among search marketers: identifying a universe of keywords and optimizing the site on a select subset of those terms as well as measuring the organic results. The optimization immediately increased traffic to the Web site.

“It was quite an improvement,” Morin said. “We saw improved results, but not what we were expecting in terms of sales.”

Next, the decision was made to implement paid search. Search Mojo created an account for Deployable with Google AdWords, starting out with a fairly robust list of keywords that Deployable was willing to pay for.

“We wanted to be in the first five listings [in the search results] or at least on the first page,” Morin said.

By testing those keywords on Google and carefully tracking the results, they winnowed that list of words down, removing about 70% of the words that were logical to pay for given the company’s business but which were not converting.

“Some of them were too broad or had too many other meanings to searchers,” Morin said. “We ended up with a subset of 30% of the total and applied our whole budget to those words. Spending money on a smaller subset translated to better positioning [on the results page]. We’re coming in among the top five for most of those words, and it has driven sales.”

Deployable spends an average of $6,500 per month on paid search, including its retainer fee to Search Mojo.

Search Mojo uses Google exclusively for Deployable’s paid search campaigns. “Yahoo has never been a converter for us,” said Janet Driscoll Miller, president-CEO of Search Mojo. “We’ve had a tough time with Yahoo having a good return on investment.”

In addition to testing to identify the best converting keywords, Search Mojo created landing pages for the company, which has had the greatest impact on its sales.

Creating landing pages gave them the ability to highlight very specific, bestseller products. Deployable found out that the most popular items by far were its Storm Case line of cases manufactured by a company called Hardigg and resold by Deployable.

Search Mojo created a landing page for the top five performing cases, with easy links to allow purchase of the products.

“It has made a huge difference in the number of conversions they receive,” Miller said. “It’s challenging for them to convert from the main site because the catalog is so large. There are so many choices. The more [users] have to click, the greater the chance we have to lose them. You have to make it as easy as possible to convert.”

Additional landing pages were gradually created.

“As part of our package, we create a landing page for them every month for their campaigns,” Miller said.

That enables Search Mojo to do multivariate testing in order to compare conversions from one page over another. “We may have a Storm Case page that is performing really well, but maybe we can make it even better. We would simultaneously test it against another page.”

Her business associate agreed.

“For example, we’ll put up a landing page similar to the one we had, but with more of a watertight theme, with pictures of a boat [to highlight that particular benefit of the product],” said Tad Miller, account director at Search Mojo. “We’ve seen improved conversions on those keywords than on our regular landing page.” He added, “You can’t get the whole catalog on the page. We want to give them what sells and what sells best. The emphasis is to drive traffic to the bestsellers.”

Perhaps the most surprising outcome of deploying paid search has been that the federal government and the military, while important customer constituents, have not been the only markets for the company’s products. Deployable discovered entirely new markets.

There was significant demand from b-to-b companies across industries, as well as state and local governments. In addition, integrators for the government, such as Lockheed Martin, have found Deployable through paid search. Even trade show organizers are customers, because they need to transport things like big screen TV monitors.

“The majority of our customer list are not government buyers,” Morin said. “That was not the market we set out to tap; it was a secondary market.”

In terms of results, the program has more than paid for itself, and Deployable plans to expand its search strategy by building landing pages for additional product lines.

In the last 12 months, revenue has soared. “In terms of rough sales numbers, we went from zero at the start to averaging about $35,000 to $40,000 a month in revenue [for the last 12 months], with a high of $80,000 last June,” Morin said.

Morin estimates he has added 2,000 to 3,000 new customers since this time last year. “It gives us a base of customers to market to,” he said.

In addition, they intentionally timed the search campaign to coincide with the government buying season to acquire customers. August and September are typically considered a heavy government buying season, with federal agencies scrambling to spend any remaining balance of their budgets before Oct. 1, when the new fiscal year starts. However, since Deployable discovered a wide array of customers outside the government sector, its paid search program has become a year-round initiative.

“It definitely is a year-round business,” Miller said.

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