Calendars.com Optimizes Campaigns, Bids

May 03, 2007 10:41 PM  By

(Searchline) For a business that’s built around time, Calendars.com doesn’t have much of it.

“It’s an extremely seasonal business,” says Hilarie Pozesky, president/CEO of Hilarie Pozesky Consulting, which handles online advertising for Calendars.com, billed as the largest online calendar retailer with some 6,500 product items. “Calendars.com does about 85% of its business between the end of October and the end of January. We really have just a few weeks out of the year to sell, and we need to be on top of our marketing.”

So in early 2006, Pozesky hired Web analytics firm Coremetrics to come in and give the Web marketing efforts of Calendars.com a search checkup. “We initially installed Coremetrics Search because we had very little information about what was happening with our organic search,” she says. The agency also wanted to understand better the interaction between natural and paid search.

Working with Coremetrics Search, Pozesky’s firm developed an integrated report that quickly identified areas where paid and organic search were not meshing successfully. “We were able to find paid search terms that were generating a lot of traffic or revenue for us but weren’t producing equal results from organic search and vice versa,” she says. “If we saw that a paid keyword was working really well but producing nothing in organic, then we had to optimize a page for that keyword.”

The result: After going full-bore with the search analytics platform last August, Calendars.com reported a 23% lift in conversion rates in January 2007. A large part of that increase was attributable to finding and marketing to those buried keywords that were performing in one search sphere but not the other. In fact, the analytics effort allowed Calendars.com to expand its paid keyword list by about 47%.

The company has done so well tuning its search efforts that Pozesky has signed Calendars.com to transition to Coremetrics’ newly-launched Search 2007 platform. The new suite includes enhanced tools for landing page and keyword analysis, along with an integrated bid management function across all the major search engines.

Landing pages are a particular concern for Calendars.com. The company’s keywords fall into three types: very specific product items (“Thomas Kincade calendars”, “French bulldog calendars”), product categories (“dog breed calendars”, “travel calendars”) and generic terms (“2007 calendars”, “engagement calendars”). As the terms get broader, the landing page conversion rates get harder to view.

“We have a very high return rate, because people need a new calendar every year,” Pozesky says. “But for those generic terms, we tend to deliver people to the best-sellers page or to our home page, and there’s probably room for improvement there.”

The new Coremetrics platform will also let Calendars.com do what’s already been successfully doing, identifying keywords currently performing well in natural search for inclusion in paid-search campaigns. The Keyword Zoom tool will highlight strong pay-per-click (PPC) performers currently used as broad match terms, so Pozensky can consider changing them to exact match. It can also isolate inappropriate terms that should be negative matches to damp down non-converting clicks.

Finally, the latest version of Coremetrics Search integrates automated bid management tools that will let Pozesky set big rules for specific paid-search campaigns across all the major search engines at once.

“With such a small window, it’s critical that we drive the best return on investment that we can,” she says. “Costs for most of our 2500 keywords are rising each year, and as a marketer, it’s in my job description to worry about ROI. It’s very nice to set a metric and get an e-mail alert if returns suddenly drop below that level for an ad campaign.”

Bid management will play a large role in search marketing, says Pozesky, even with search engines transitioning to a hybrid bid/quality model for ad delivery. “We’ve been focusing on the quality of our ads for a while now,” she says. “Meanwhile, our keyword list is large and growing and can’t be handled entirely manually. With 6500 products, we add new words every single week.”