You Need SEO in B2C Marketing

SEO and B2C marketing go hand-in-hand.

Huckabuy CEO, Geoff Atkinson specialized in B2C SEO at as the SVP of Marketing and played a huge role in growing Overstock to the home and garden company it is today — primarily through SEO.

We’ve compiled several key quotes from Geoff, as well as some interesting case studies, to explain B2C marketing and the ways that putting resources behind your organic channel will reap huge rewards for your company.

Podcasts, Case Studies, and More

You can’t get anywhere in e-commerce without being an SEO ninja.

Huckabuy Founder-CEO Geoff Atkinson

Podcast Talk: SEO and B2C

Huckabuy’s Founder and CEO, Geoff Atkinson, used to be the SVP of marketing at Overstock. In a recent podcast, Geoff told the story of how he used SEO to transform Overstock’s business and help drive profits:

As one of the first big ecommerce players, Overstock dramatically changed its marketing strategy to become the home and garden company it’s known for today. The shift happened when Geoff first heard the word “SEO” and realized that by making some technical changes to the website, Overstock would bring in a lot more organic search traffic. 

Geoff spearheaded keyword research to figure out where there was unmet demand in various ecommerce categories. At the time, there were plenty of successful brick and mortar businesses like Crate & Barrel and Bed Bath & Beyond, but none of them were focusing on their online presence and digital sales. Geoff and his team figured out that there were tons of people searching for home and garden goods, and not a lot of competition in the search results. They realized the opportunity they had and quickly built product pages in the home and garden categories and developed a supply chain to support it.

Say you found a keyword with really low competition but high volume, that was my story from Overstock and why we moved into the furniture business — at the time, all the retailers were big box retailers that weren’t playing online, so Overstock became this home and garden company strictly based on keyword research.

Huckabuy Founder-CEO Geoff Atkinson

Overall, SEO grew from zero to a $300 million channel, and Overstock’s entire business model moved into the home and garden industry. It’s a great example of how smart marketing research and SEO can transform your business.

Podcast Talk: Keyword Research for B2C

Recently, Geoff was asked a question: If you’re an e-commerce brand, and you’ve got some funding and are about to launch, what would be some of the SEO tactics you would immediately start to use? Here’s what he answered:

“So, the first thing is always keyword research, which is lame to say, but good keyword research and understanding what people are searching for that’s relevant to your business is so important. And not only is it important, but it actually can change your business. So I’ll give you an example with Overstock. 

When I got there we were electronics, jewelry, and watches, and Overstock was a total hustle buyers place. But as we got smarter, we had SEO analysts that saw the opportunity in the home and garden category. Back in 2007, when it came to furniture, bedding, etc., all those brands that were participating in that space were big box retailers. They were retailers like Bed Bath & Beyond, JCPenney, and Target, and at the time, they didn’t have much of an online strategy. And an online retailer was all we were. So we were like, “There’s a ton of people searching for this stuff, and there’s no one doing it right.”

And now if you think of Overstock over 100% of their profits come from the home and garden category — they’re known as a home and garden company. That transition of Overstock from electronics, jewelry, and watches to a home and garden company was based on nothing other than good keyword research. We figured out that we could take advantage of this huge opportunity. All these companies were basically ripping off the American public by charging just through-the-roof on furniture and stuff, so we moved into these categories and they just took off. So that’s kind of an extreme example of how important keyword research is. Everybody that’s shopped at Overstock probably has a piece of furniture or bedding in their house, and that was all done by SEO and good keyword research. After a while, whenever you would search for anything in the bedding or anything furniture categories, what would you see? Overstock, Overstock, Overstock all the time. If you do that hundreds of millions of times a month, people start to think of you as a furniture company and a home garden company. So that’s one kind of extreme scenario. 

You can learn a ton about your business, and you can actually change your business based on keyword research. It’s so much easier to take demand that’s out there already, and then provide a product that suits that demand versus inventing a product and trying to stuff it down people’s throats. That doesn’t work as well.

Huckabuy Founder-CEO Geoff Atkinson

Here’s another example. We saw this keyword called “black end tables.” That’s a really random keyword, right? We didn’t have any “black end tables.” So we told our partners to start painting some of their end tables black, and we created a $5 million category overnight just by finding that people are searching for it. So you can learn a ton about your business, and you can actually change your business based on keyword research. It’s so much easier to take demand that’s out there already, and then provide a product that suits that demand versus inventing a product and trying to stuff it down people’s throats. That doesn’t work as well. So call things what they’re supposed to be called — call things what people search for. Doing keyword research can change your business super fast. So once your keyword research is done, then it’s about architecting the site. Ask yourself, “What does the navigation look like?” 

To speak to the e-comm community, if you’re not doing SEO, good luck. It’s near impossible. It’s so competitive. Almost every great e-commerce brand has been built on SEO. Like that’s how they got there. Amazon and eBay are arguably the two best e-commerce sites in the world when it comes to SEO. They just kill it. You could really argue that Amazon is built on SEO.”

Podcast Talk: Paid and SEO Work Together In Branding

Appearing at the top of a search results page is a fantastic branding opportunity and you can use SEO as a way to measure overall brand awareness. 

Our CEO shared his thoughts on the Secrets of Marketers Podcast on paid channels vs. SEO and how the two can work together to form and measure branding: 

“So paid advertising still works, right? Like the way that I view paid is twofold. One is branding, which is measured by how many people search for your brand or your brand name every single month. And that is such an important metric that no one tracks. Count up how many come through on SEO; how many come through paid — because a lot of people bid on their brand terms — and then how many people actually just type your name directly in the URL and just go directly to you. Add those three things up, and watch that number over time. That’s how we would measure branding: we answered “How relevant are we?” by first asking “How many people are searching for us a month?

Whether you’re doing TV, radio, print ads, display advertising or whatever it is, measuring your search traffic will give you a sense of how effective your branding is.”

B2C Case Study: Invited Home

Invited Home is a vacation rental company focusing on winter getaway destinations in the mountain west. They are a great example of a company leveraging SEO to improve their marketing.

When you visit the Invited Home website, one of the elements that really stands out is their header and dropdown navigation. It is very descriptive, robust, and intuitive to follow. It reflects the terminology their customers use when making searches.

If you hover over the section on Vail, as shown in the screenshot, you can view vacation homes for rent organized by neighborhood, as well as a long list of things to do in town during your stay. 

Their team has done an excellent job mapping out this element of the site and building content that generates demand from their target market.

They have also done an excellent job targeting and claiming high search volume, featured snippet-applicable keywords and phrases their target market is using in search. As a result, for searches like “weekend in Lake Tahoe,” “Park City day trips,” and “vrbo vs Airbnb” they have captured position zero and positioned themselves prominently at the top of the funnel for these winter vacation-related topics.

They have also taken important steps to align with Google’s most important technical SEO initiatives. For example, they have leveraged structured data markup on property level content to qualify for rich results like ratings and reviews that help drive click engagement and conversions.

The E-Commerce Case for Structured Data Markup

Marking up content with structured data is one of the “low-hanging fruit” SEO tactics every e-commerce business should adopt. Structured data qualifies your content for rich results which eliminate friction in the customer journey and significantly distinguish your organic listings from the competition. This is critical in e-commerce settings where most shoppers have visual preferences and websites need to display as much imagery and interactive content as possible in the search results to increase the quantity and quality of traffic to their pages. Rich results help improve business credibility, set up user expectations, clearly identify the remaining content on the website, and resolve various questions and pain points in the buying process faster than ever before.

Shown below are excerpts of a test of Invited Home’s Property Management page using Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool and the associated markup types that have qualified for rich results in search.

Invited Home indicates to Google the customer reviews that are present on their property management page:

Invited Home tells Google everything it needs to know about the property management service it offers:

E-Commerce schema is a specific class of structured data markup that informs Search Bots about all the important e-commerce-related details on a webpage and qualifies that content for rich results in search, which give shoppers the ability to research, rate, compare, and even purchase products and services directly on the results page. It is a serious competitive advantage for your business. Think about it. If a customer is scanning the search results page and sees your blue link enhanced by ratings, reviews, product information, and pricing while the following link for your competitor is generic, which one are they more likely to click? 

ECommerce schema encompasses a number of different structured data markup types including product, ratings, reviews, pricing, availability, logo, business name, address, and description among other elements. You want to be exhaustive in accounting for all of this information and including it in your markup to secure Google’s understanding of your website and to qualify for as many applicable rich results as possible as shown below.