Cover Story: Finding the Perfect Balance
Gaiam runs video ads on affiliate sites in which browsers can view, say, a Gaiam yoga video ad. In addition to some other flash and static ads, Gaiam gets itself quoted in affiliates' articles about yoga, health and environmental subjects; the quotes contain links back to the Gaiam site.
Content (Really) Is King
The heavily educated nature of Gaiam's customers has led the company to beef up its content as it's continued to morph into an online company from a traditional print cataloger. In fact, last year Gaiam launched a content-only site, GaiamLife.com, which focuses on subjects its customers are interested in: yoga, exercise, sustainability and other subjects germane to Gaiam. "The site's been wildly successful," Marshall says. "Customers love it, and we're able to track how people click on our articles, then on our products to make purchases."
What's more, GaiamLife.com aids search engine optimization (SEO) efforts because it's a subdomain of Gaiam.com, helping organic ratings. "You can only rank once per term," Marshall points out. "If you type 'yoga,' Gaiam can only come up once. But if you have a subdomain, both Gaiam and GaiamLife can come up. It's a triple whammy for us, because customers love the GaiamLife site. We get two listings, and our articles teach them how to love this lifestyle." That leads to sales at Gaiam.com.
"Gaiam is a great example of a Web site that has the right level and amount of content for its customers to convert, and for search engine optimization to happen," says Ken Burke, founder, chairman and chief evangelist of MarketLive, Gaiam's e-commerce provider. "It's probably one of the best sites on the Internet for that, and certainly one of the best catalog sites."
Gaiam also presents SEO-friendly content on its pages, but makes sure that content is relevant to the customer. "Some people put garbage content on their pages for SEO," Burke says, "but it has no relevance for the customer. It might help them get better rankings, but it doesn't help the customer experience. Gaiam has done a great job of balancing the level of customer-friendly content that's also helping SEO throughout its site."