DISC’s Case Study of Jerry’s Artarama
Brown, Bruce C.
The Complete Guide to Google Advertising:
Including Tips, Tricks, & Strategies to Create a Winning Advertising Plan
Ocala: Atlantic Publishing Group, Inc., 2007
The business story of JerrysArtarama (JA) illustrates the benefits conferred when a company works closely with a trusted firm that can prioritize SEM (search engine marketing) within a broad range of web marketing activities.
When JA first contracted with DISC in 2003, it was a medium-sized art supplies company trying to negotiate the transition from mail order catalog sales to becoming a formidable e-commerce player. They had and still have well over 30,000 products in their database.
Over the course of three and a half years, DISC has facilitated Jerry’s outstanding success by providing a full palette of SEM services including SEO, PPC and trusted feed, as well as usability critiques, traffic analysis, and research and recommendations on a wide range of online marketing techniques. DISC has also served as an advisor and troubleshooter whenever JA has encountered unexpected online setbacks or difficulties. JA’s business metrics show the company has realized superb ROI on DISC’s services.
When JA approached DISC, JA’s online situation was bleak: its level of organic referrals was low, which meant that a vast amount of opportunity was being lost. Meanwhile, a larger, strong competitor in its product niche was drastically outperforming JA.
Like most companies, JA was not inclined to tackle the complexity and subtleties of SEO on its own. In fact, the company had already had a dissatisfying experience working with a large SEO firm. Not only had the investment yielded inadequate results but JA found that working with the SEO firm’s account team was vexing. Part of JA’s motivation to work with DISC was the fact that at a small firm it would work directly with the principals, which seemed like a less risky plan of action, rather than to try another large SEM company.
At the time it began working with DISC, JA also had not yet conducted a professional PPC campaign, which it was eager to try.
DISC started the project by conducting in-depth analysis and research, producing both an SEO Technical Report and a CMS (content management system) and SEO Redesign and Recoding Report. Based on the data and insights that were thus unearthed, DISC composed a detailed Web Marketing Plan and proceeded on to an intensive SEO phase, fully optimizing a large number of key pages on the JA site, as well as a number of pages on JA’s separate sister site, www.ASWExpress.com (Art Supplies Warehouse Express). DISC also “partially” optimized a batch of less-critical pages, focusing primarily on HTML titles, meta tags, headers, and footers. We also ensured that the site’s code and navigation systems were optimally open to the search engine spiders and that the site smoothly circulated and amplified Google’s “PageRank” factor – two crucial parts of successful SEO for large, dynamic web sites.
For the PPC campaign, DISC adopted a two-prong strategy combining bulk submission of low-bid, low-management terms with semi-automatic bid management of more competitive phrases, starting with a list of 250 optimal phrases. To precisely track results, DISC relied on the GoToast (later called Atlas One Point) system, while also manually adjusting the bid prices as needed. Over the next several years, DISC has grown increasingly adept at manipulating bids to extract the best possible ROI and ROAS (return on ad spend) for JA. DISC applies multiple rules to the same ad to create complex bidding formulas that give a tremendous edge over competitors.
Another key element of the value DISC delivers is the detailed monthly PPC reports that describe what actions have been taken, and calculate the corresponding ROI and ROAS. These reports have generated great confidence on JA’s part that its best interests are being served.
DISC has performed ongoing SEO for JA, totaling over 50 pages between their two sites. Of course, much less optimization work has been needed after doing it right the first time. Part of the beauty of SEO is that doing it well frees up a client to focus resources on other web marketing.
In addition to SEO, PPC, and trusted feed, DISC has performed most of the other web marketing activities that JA has needed over the years. This includes a highly detailed usability study that prompted JA to revamp its sub-par site-search module as well as make many adjustments and changes to “tweak” the site towards perfection. It also includes shopping-site marketing, internet yellow pages, occasional copy writing, and research in unique problems and opportunities. Each year DISC prepares an omnibus Web Marketing Report & Plan for JA that details the previous year’s work and ROI, and previews the year ahead.
DISC’s contract with JA consists mainly of a monthly retainer divided into tasks (SEO, PPC, etc.). We also quote one-time jobs as needed during the year. At the beginning of the year, we agree to a total budget, including DISC’s labor and all click charges. In 2006, DISC will come under budget by about $100,000, while accomplishing all tasks and earning maximum ROI.
The JA site saw a massive increase in organic referrals immediately following DISC’s SEO work. As the number of pages indexed by Google went from dozens to thousands, referrals more than quadrupled, and many search terms rocketed to 1st place positions in the engines.
JA also saw a correspondingly huge increase in sales. One month after DISC performed SEO on the site at the end of 2003, sales rose by more than 50%, and from December 2003 to December 2004, sales more than doubled.
The PPC campaign got off to a good start, though it could hardly be expected to yield the same astonishing results as the first wave of SEO. In the first year alone, gross profits from PPC were approximately $70k, or $140k when calculated with repeat and “viral marketing” sales included. From the beginning, DISC has paid ultra-close attention to the ROI for each and every term used in PPC, and this strategy has also driven strong profits. Finally, in the first year the total ROI for DISC’s activities for JA came to roughly $2 million, and more like $3.5 million when repeat and viral sales are factored in. These are truly incredible results on an investment of less than $50k.
Results into 2005 and 2006 continued to be spectacular, with about 100,000 additional visitors per month in 2005. With a conversion rate of about 2%, this was nothing less than a windfall. Gross profit from PPC was three times the amount of the previous year, and DISC’s trusted feed campaign yielded superb results: $600k revenues on $43.5k costs. The gross profit from trusted feed was actually higher than that from PPC. Trusted feed has many advantages: low click charges, highly specific ads, high conversion rates (4.5% for JA in December 2005!), and relatively low management requirements.
DISC has been doing search engine marketing (SEO, PPC, trusted feeds, shopping site marketing, IYP, and ROI tracking) continuously since 1997. It serves all kinds of companies, large and small, in a broad range of business areas. The firm has extensive proof of success, as the references on its long client page will attest. DISC’s employees, highly educated and long seasoned in SEM, all do thorough and continuous research to back DISC’s methods and to educate clients. The company is also highly proficient in web design and all web and database programming, so it can integrate SEM into any kind of site. DISC is thoroughly versed in usability design for conversion rate optimization, so its SEM produces maximum profit, and the firm focuses intensely on clients’ ROI, from the proposal stage to reporting.