Case Study: Natural Search Program Boosts Pottery Barn’s Online Traffic, Visibility and Revenue
Problem: Pottery Barn wanted to build its natural search optimi-zation performance on major search engines for its three Web sites.
Solution: It launched a six-month NSO program to gain greater online visibility for PotteryBarn.com, PotteryBarnKids.com and PBteen.com.
Results: Total traffic, revenue and the number of indexed pages for all three properties surged, quickly surpassing Pottery Barn’s goals for the test.
Pottery Barn, the crowned jewel of San Francisco-based Williams-Sonoma, knew its natural search optimization (NSO) practically was nonexistent. The multichannel marketer’s sites, PotteryBarn.com, PBteen.com and PotteryBarnKids.com could barely be found on the average search, except by brand name.
Pottery Barn’s main problem was that it used lots of images, but not much copy on its Web site. “It’s not compatible to being crawled as a Web site,” says PotteryBarn.com Marketing Manager Karen Shea, who handles marketing for PotteryBarn.com only.
But Shea says changing the home furnishings cataloger’s image-heavy content on its Web sites was never an option. Shea says that Pottery Barn had already been satisfied with work done by Chicago-based Performics on its paid search and affiliate initiatives. So when Performics said it had a solution that could deliver excellent NSO results for Pottery Barn without interfering with existing sites or other marketing programs, the companies agreed to a six-month test.
The Performics marketing unit of DoubleClick launched its NSO solution, now called NSO Direct, at the end of 2003. “We’ve traditionally been strong in the retail vertical market with multichannel marketers and catalogers,” says its Vice President of Search Stuart Larkins. The marketing teams worked with Performics to “find those key words that were actually going to drive conversion,” Shea explains.
The test applied to all three brands, which are different in size, scope, pricing and audience. “We didn’t do full sites,” Shea says. “We did a certain number of pages split between the brands in a way that made sense.”
The companies spotted various terms core to the three Pottery Barn businesses, Larkins says. The sites’ tests went live in June and July 2006.
Pottery Barn shattered the indexation goals for each of the three sites within weeks. Total traffic from natural search surged in the first three months, and total revenue from natural search also grew at a rate described by Performics and Pottery Barn as “comparable to traffic for most properties.”
For PotteryBarn.com, the number of indexed pages grew by 1,268 percent, surpassing its six-month goal in one week and the ultimate target in less than two months.
PotteryBarnKids.com saw its indexed pages grow 9,756 percent. It reached a six-month goal in less than a week and more than doubled its overall target in a month. PBteen.com’s indexed pages grew by 4,319 percent, surpassing its target in less than a month.
As for costs, Shea says the program is performance-based. “We don’t pay on a cost per click,” she says. “We’re working on revenue share.”
In the future, plans call for building the next phase. “We want to attack the holiday season,” she says, “and add our seasonal products.”
* * * For background on the rise of the Pottery Barn Web sites’ NSO, click on “How Pottery Barn Sites Got Noticed” under Related Content.
Gail Kalinoski is a freelance writer based in Wappingers Falls, N.Y. You can reach her at email@example.com.