February 26, 2009
Case Study

5 Steps: Customize Paid Search by Targeting User’s Operating System

SUMMARY: The more information you get from website visitors, the better. Even knowing which operating system they use can improve your paid search.

A marketer detected website visitors’ operating systems and used the information to boost penetration in a key market. Sales rose by 12%.

Jon Kahn, EVP of Business Operations, Smith Micro Software, had learned a lot about customers of Stuffit – a file-compressing software. The company had been selling versions of Stuffit to consumers for about 18 years.

About 18 months ago, 7 out of 10 Stuffit customers were Mac users; the rest used the Windows operating system, Kahn says. That breakdown requires a focus on online marketing.

“We’re very aggressive online, and we’ve always been, because the channels for Mac software had always been limited in retail, until Apple filled out their stores,” Kahn says.

Kahn wanted to craft an aggressive online campaign in late 2007 to leverage and improve Smith Micro’s paid search marketing, grow their Windows user base, and increase overall sales. Here is their five-step campaign.


Kahn’s team built a four-page microsite to handle traffic from paid-search ads. A redirect page drove visitors to the most relevant landing page by detecting the operating system they used and their interest in deluxe or standard versions of the software. The team employed multivariate testing to optimize page layouts.

5 Steps to Search Customization

Step #1: Verify segments’ value

By looking at their website analytics, Kahn’s team knew that customers were taking extra steps to find the correct versions of the software. Some visitors who landed on the Stuffit Mac page would eventually navigate to the Windows page and purchase. But those extra clicks increased the chance of abandonment.

The team performed some preliminary testing on their site by delivering relevant pages to visitors depending on their operating system.

“Our website always detected what OS you were running. We experimented with this on our website and noticed that we get a good amount of traction for that,” Kahn says.

Kahn’s team has learned over the years that Mac customers prefer slightly different messaging than Windows customers. “What we found, through our email campaigns especially, the users are similar but different. And what they’re looking for is close but not exact.”

For instance, Macintosh users often refer to their portable computers as “notebooks” rather than “laptops.” Kahn’s team incorporated lessons of this sort when designing the microsite.

Step #2: Build a 4-page microsite

Stuffit comes in four versions: Standard and Deluxe for both Windows and Mac. So, the team created a microsite with four landing pages (one for every version), each with slightly different messaging. (See creative samples below)

Here are some of the key components:

o Images

The most important differences between the pages are the Mac and Windows’ icons and the product shots. Visitors needed to be immediately aware that they were being offered the correct products, and images communicate faster than words.

o Description

Windows’ customers are more likely to use the software in a business setting, Kahn says. So, the Windows description emphasized efficiency. The Mac messaging assured that the software “solves all your needs.”

o List of features

Smith Micro has sold Stuffit in the Mac market longer than in the Windows market, and it has more dominance among Mac users. Since Mac users are more familiar with older versions of the software, the Mac pages emphasized new features with bold red type.

Windows users were less likely to be familiar with the software and more likely to need persuasion that the product was right for them. Therefore, the features lists on the Windows pages included descriptions.

o Navigation

The left-hand navigation allowed visitors to navigate only to the four product pages. There was no way to click to the Smith Micro website from the microsite. The intent was to decrease distraction and keep visitors focused on the products.

Step #3: Create a redirect page

Paid-search campaigns on Yahoo! and Google was the only method of driving traffic to the microsite. Kahn’s team created a redirect page that accepted users from paid search ads and directed them to the appropriate landing page on the microsite. The redirect identified keywords used by visitors and/or the operating system they were running.

Kahn’s team used the software programming language Java to detect the visitors’ operating systems. A capable IT team is vital to completing this step.

Step #4: Set up paid search campaign

Kahn’s team ran paid search ads before this campaign. They had to change the ads’ links to the redirect page for certain keywords. The keywords typed into the search engines determined which of the four pages the redirect would deliver. If the keywords did not indicate which operating system the visitor used, it would be detected by the redirect page. “We tried to always deliver the deluxe product first,” Kahn says.

Here’s how the keywords and pages were matched:

o Perfect matches
If the visitor searched “Stuffit Standard Windows” or “Stuffit Deluxe Mac,” the appropriate page was shown.

o Operating system matches
If visitors searched for “Stuffit Mac” or “Stuffit Windows,” they were shown the appropriate deluxe version.

o Tier matches
If visitors searched for “Stuffit Deluxe” or “Stuffit Standard,” the redirect page determined the operating system and delivered the appropriate page.

o General “Stuffit” keywords
The redirect page determined the visitor’s operating system and delivered the appropriate deluxe product.

Step #5: Multivariate test layout

The four landing pages had individual designs (see creative samples below). Each page had a three-column structure with a nearly identical left column, but the similarities ended there. The layouts were the results of A/B and multivariate testing.

Almost every visual element of the pages was tested, including:
o Headline
o Button design
o Messaging
o Product shots
o Calls to action
o Placement of all elements

Immediately after launching the microsite, Kahn’s team noticed a 12% lift in Stuffit’s sales. Sales per click for Mac users increased 14%. “In today’s world, that’s a big number,” Kahn says.

Stuffit’s ratio of Mac to Windows users also has gone from 70-30 to about 65-35 since the microsite launched last year, Kahn says.

“I think we’ve picked up a couple points [in the Windows market] because we’ve picked up on this technique on how to differentiate on our messaging to our customers coming in,” he says.

Useful links related to this article:

Stuffit 4-Page Microsite: Creative Samples

Stuffit Microsite:

Digital River - Agency that created and tested the microsite

Smith Micro Software, Inc.

Improve Your Marketing

Join our thousands of weekly case study readers.

Enter your email below to receive MarketingSherpa news, updates, and promotions:

Note: Already a subscriber? Want to add a subscription?
Click Here to Manage Subscriptions