Usability upgrade helps industrial site

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Thwing-Albert Instrument Co., a 110-year-old product testing equipment provider based in West Berlin, N.J., was getting lost in the crowd—literally. A few years ago, the company frequently failed to show up on the first or even the second page of search results for its products and services. Worse, when prospective buyers did find their way to Thwing-Albert’s site, they often ended up lost, confused or unable to locate what they needed.

“Our Web site lacked flow and was very hard for customers to navigate,” said Brian Kline, marketing manager at Thwing-Albert.

As return on investment from traditional sales methods such as trade shows and print mailings steadily declined, Kline realized an effective Web site was all the more essential. He hoped a completely revamped site would help the company penetrate markets in previously untapped industries and areas of the world. At the same time, an improved Web site, he reasoned, would differentiate the company from competitors and improve its search engine rankings.

Strategy: With the help of the Web Solutions Group at b-to-b media company ThomasNet, Thwing-Albert set out to create a Web site that could serve as another senior salesperson.

ThomasNet aggregated Thwing-Albert’s long list of products and services into an online catalogue—one that was easily searchable by product name, industry or physical property. Each page of the catalogue includes the capability to request a quotation, providing customers with an accurate idea of pricing and, at the same time, delivering qualified leads.

Thwing-Albert also employed ThomasNet’s tracking software, WebTrax, to determine the where visitors were coming from, through which search engines and from which advertisements. The application revealed top search items, as well as the pages prospects viewed and the amount of time they spent at various parts of the Thwing-Albert site.

Using these metrics as a guide, Kline was able to put popular items on the company’s home page for maximum exposure.

Results: The redesigned Thwing-Albert site is returning 10 to 15 qualified leads per week, and has resulted in a 30% to 40% increase in online sales. Now, Thwing-Albert often shows up first in search engine rankings, and search engine referrals have increased 60% from 2000 to 2008, Kline said.

“Working on our Web site opened up new markets,” he said, adding that the company has attracted clients in South America and has seen a 20% increase in sales to the food industry.

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