November 15, 2007
Startups face the daunting task of carving out their market niche at a time when generating leads is most critical. To get established, a videoconferencing firm embarked on a search strategy while conducting landing page tests.
They’re now one of the most visible online presences in their market and are converting 8.17% of Web visitors -- nearly a 400% increase -- into leads. Includes tips on optimizing press releases, tagging and link building with partners.
LifeSize Communications, a high-definition videoconferencing startup, was an unknown entity in 2005 in a very competitive market. Like all new businesses, the company needed to generate enough sales to stay afloat.
“When we had our first product announcement in 2005, our big question was, ‘How can we generate leads? No one knows who LifeSize is, they’ve never heard of us and we’re the first company with high-definition videoconferencing,’ ” says Megan Lueders, Director Worldwide Marketing Channels. “We realized pay per click was not going to suffice to get our name positioned as highly as our chief competitors and not with the HD element, which is our key differentiator.”
Achieving strong natural search results was one way to augment their paid search efforts. But there, too, Lueders and her team faced a disadvantage. As a new company, they didn’t have much press coverage and they didn’t have a vast community of partners linking to their site and helping make their site more visible to search engines.
The team embarked on a comprehensive search engine optimization campaign that relied on everything from keyword performance and landing page tests to Web text and tag overhauls. Here’s how they did it:
-> Step #1: Track and analyze search leads
The Web was the focal point of their lead generation campaign. The team designed a system that could handle leads from click to close and provide data on every step in between.
- The team had to integrate their Web analytics system with the CRM system they used to manage their leads. They wanted visitors who reached landing pages from search ads to be automatically recorded into the system.
- Each lead was marked with a special source code indicating its online origin (keyword, search engine, PPC ad, etc.). The code remained with that lead’s record in the CRM system, so they could see what search activity generated the lead, even after additional marketing touches, such as a telemarketing call.
-> Step #2. Research marketplace for positioning and keywords
To develop a list of keywords to test, Lueders and her team analyzed the marketplace and evaluated LifeSize’s competitive differentiators. They also assessed typical search behavior for businesses looking for videoconferencing technology.
Among the factors they considered:
o Keywords that ranked competitors highly
o Keywords that competitors weren’t targeting
o Keywords that indicated traditional meeting activity and alternatives to videoconferencing
The last point was a key part of Lueders’ strategy. They were targeting customers who hadn’t used videoconferencing before because of concerns about the quality of the service. They wanted to market their high-definition alternative to prospects searching for general meeting terms, such as “meeting rooms” or “scheduling conference room.”
-> Step #3. Test PPC campaigns to find best keywords
Before performing site optimization, the team narrowed down their list of more than 500 keywords. The goal: Find the short list of words that would significantly increase clicks and conversions.
To do this, they spent three months testing keywords through pay-per-click campaigns:
- Each keyword received a unique tracking code that tagged clicks generated according to ad, search term, search engine and a special variable called category.
- Categories helped record the impact of keywords that only generated a handful of clicks a month. The team grouped those keywords with similar terms under a category code.
For example, searchers spell videoconferencing as one word or two, so they created different categories for multi-word phrases that started with the different spellings. Likewise, they created categories for different references to high-definition technology, such as “Hi-Def,” “HD” and “HD Video.”
- Using the unique codes, the team tracked all clicks that came from PPC campaigns to see whether they became opportunities or leads. Each week, they generated a report from the CRM system to see:
o Keywords driving users to the company’s Web site
o How many of those clicks were becoming opportunities
o What stage of the process was a lead in (e.g., received a follow-up call from a telemarketer or downloaded a white paper.)
With this process, Lueders identified 10 keywords as the best performers, which became the foundation of their search engine optimization tactics.
-> Step #4. Optimize site around top keywords
After seeing which keywords were most visible to searchers and which generated the most clicks and other activity, the team began modifying their Web content.
- Hot keywords replaced the company’s standard terminology. For example, they had been using the term “videocommunications” to describe their technology; they replaced it with more standard words, such as videoconferencing.
- The Web site’s tags were changed to reflect what PPC campaigns revealed about the most visible search terms.
- They began incorporating top keywords in company press releases.
-> Step #5. Build links with external sites
Inbound links from trusted third-party sites are key determinants of a site’s natural search rankings, so the team set out to boost the number of sites linking back to LifeSize’s site.
- First, the team examined existing natural search rankings for their most significant keywords to see which sites had top positions and might be suitable for a link exchange. Competitors were out, but blogs, directory sites, industry associations or other non-competitive sites were potential targets.
- Directory sites like Yahoo! and Business.com received close attention. In establishing links with those sites, however, the team did not simply point visitors back to the LifeSize homepage. They created links from directory sites to relevant content or unique landing pages, such as one dedicated to the difference between high-definition and standard videoconferencing.
- The team reached out to bloggers covering IT or videoconferencing issues. In some cases, they paid them to write an entry about LifeSize’s technology.
In addition, Lueders developed a process to build two-way links between her Web site and industry partners and resellers.
- Lueders created a “Partner Map” page on the company’s Web site. Rather than simply linking to partners’ homepages, she required partners to provide a direct link to a page with relevant content about LifeSize Communications.
- To make it easier on partners, she provided an “SEO 101” document with step-by-step advice on how to create a search-optimized link. Tips included:
o Keywords to include on the page
o Specific copy to paste into their own sites for certain products
o Precise location on the LifeSize site to link back to
-> Step #6. Test content offerings and landing pages
While testing keywords, the team tested a range of content offerings and landing pages to help turn Web clicks into qualified leads.
For landing pages, Lueders started with “a slew of designs” that contained variations on:
o Number and type of registration form questions
In addition, they tested the response to a variety of marketing content, including:
o Standard long-form white papers
o One- or two-page “special reports” that focused on how-to topics, such as “Top 10 Questions to Avoid Videoconferencing Investment Mistakes,” or technology primers, such as “Myths vs. Facts about High Definition Video Communications”
The team’s efforts catapulted the company into one of the most visible online presences in the videoconferencing market. At the start of the process, LifeSize was unranked on Google, Yahoo! and MSN for targeted keywords. Today, they have achieved:
o Three first-page rankings on Google
o Five first-page rankings on Yahoo!
o Five first-page rankings on MSN
LifeSize also outranks its key competitors on two of the most popular keywords in the market: video conference and video conferencing. “We are beyond thrilled,” says Lueders.
Lueders cites the importance of often overlooked tactics, such as her link-building effort with partners. She started with only 20 partners, but now has more than 120 external sites linking directly to her site from a page with keyword-optimized and LifeSize-relevant content.
The efforts haven’t only improved the company’s visibility and reach. Tests of keywords, content and landing pages have boosted the number of leads generated through search. In August, 2006, they were converting 2.09% of visitors into leads. By May 2007, the conversion rate had jumped to 8.17%.
What’s more, the company has roughly 60 times more revenue in the pipeline from SEO-generated opportunities than it has spent on the campaign this year.
Useful links related to this article
Creative samples from LifeSize Communications:
Apogee Search - search marketing firm that helped develop and implement LifeSize Communications’ strategy:
Salesforce.com - CRM system LifeSize Communications uses to manage leads: