Bathrooms.com relaunched its site last year, and also began a more PR-focused approach to SEO, after receiving a penalty or two from Google.
Now, a year or so later, this approach seems to be working. I’ve been asking Adam Cassar, digital marketing manager at Bathrooms.com, about this SEO strategy, its site redesign and its new ‘digital concierge’ service.
The last time we spoke, you’d just redesigned the website. A year or so on, how has it performed?
Very well. In terms of straight metrics we’ve seen about a 50% increase in conversion rates year-on-year, of which around 20% we can attribute to the redesign of Bathrooms.com.
How do you measure the impact of a new site?
Ideally, you want to split test the whole site because that’s really your gold standard measure, but we didn’t have that option at the time because of some limitations in our old tech platform.
But, it is possible to get a reasonable idea of the impact of a site overhaul by doing some careful analysis, and that’s what we did.
The key technique was gathering data from comparable periods before and after the site redesign and then looking at performance where factors like stock availability and traffic mix were roughly equivalent.
Once we grabbed lots of data like that and adjusted for or ruled out things like seasonality, we were able to conclude that, unless the market had gone pretty mad, our conversion rates had definitely gone up because the new site was performing better.
That exercise needed a lot more work and care than a simple split test, which would have given us a much cleaner answer, but the analysis we did gave us the kind of confirmation we needed anyway.
Have you needed to make many changes since then?
The key area we have optimised since the redesign is the checkout process which we have simplified and made a lot more intuitive. Outside of the checkout process we are always working on site optimisation.
We’ve undertaken a big initiative to re-range all our product lines in the last eight months, which encompasses both which products to sell and at what price, but also how they are presented to a consumer in the context of their purchasing journey.
As we’ve re-organised those product categories in the back end, we’ve also overhauled the front end UX for each of those categories to make the shopping experience more coherent for users.
You can look at our bathroom suites as a good example – for suites we’ve not only changed the bundles we offer, but also made it simple for users to match different products together in combinations that work well together right out of the box.
What’s your approach to content and how do you measure its performance?
The PR and social content is planned out quarterly. We follow a loose pattern of one big content project, two middle sized ones, and a smorgasbord of smaller, quicker pieces to keep a diverse and consistent citation, link portfolio, and sustain the public awareness.
The bigger and middle-sized projects are usually well-researched creative pieces aimed at strengthening a target category, the whole site or both.
For example we recently ran a project where we made an entire bathroom suite out of chocolate that played really well in the press and online community in general.
That was really aimed at promoting our suites, but the whole site got a nice uplift from it as well. A lot of the ideas for those kinds of projects come from someone noticing something about the industry that could have an interesting angle on it or being inspired by something they’ve seen somewhere.
The chocolate bathroom, for example, started when our PPC manager noticed bathroom sweets as a relatively common misspelling in our search queries and the more pun conscious among us had a nice little giggle about it.
Smaller pieces are a lot faster to produce and are based on general activity in the business. Some of it is just around site features and mechanisms we release, like our mix and match functionality on bathroom suites, or our digital concierge service.
Other pieces talk about how we work internally and those are more meant for the business publications or interested blogger communities and press. We’ve done some quick pieces on re-shoring our supply, or the challenges of hiring German speaking customer service agents lately for example.
What results have you had from a more PR-focused approach to SEO? The algorithm changes since last year have in part justified your decision…
Good results. A year ago we were recovering from some hefty penalties that SEOs past had gotten us into, so we were in the deep dark woods as far as organic SERPs go.
We’ve since changed our ways and now have an agency taking a completely white hat approach to SEO where PR’s a big part of the mix.
In particular, the PR really helps us plug gaps in our linking schedule in between bigger creative projects and groom a nice little community of friendly bloggers and journalists who are receptive to the content we’re producing (which really does matter when you do finally have a big piece of creative content you want to push).
The results speak for themselves. We’ve not only been able to recover from the penalty we were under, but also get to number one on ‘bathrooms’ (our key head term) and stay there for a couple of months and counting.
We’re making very steady progress with all the other key terms too and we’re chasing our competitors up the ranks, and the PR focussed approach to SEO has been a big part of that.
Algorithm changes have justified it a lot, yes. We’re lucky to be working with Dynamo, who have been doing a good job of feeding us smart information about which direction algorithms were moving in, so they’ve been a big part of helping us win at SEO.
Do you still employ people to take care of SEO basics- on-page optimisation etc?
Absolutely. Again, a year ago, our site wasn’t very well optimised for SEO and that was contributing a lot to our poorer organic performance.
We’ve seen site optimisations that we’ve performed over the last year have big impacts on rankings in and of themselves. We’re not quite done with them yet, but I think we should be about as site optimal as possible within the next couple of months.
How important are sales offers and interest free credit in this industry?
Pretty important. The end of the month and its associated sale drives a disproportionate amount of revenue so getting the timing and content of sales right is key in our industry.
Interest free credit is a bit more mixed. There aren’t that many of our consumers who utilise it, but when they do it’s all the difference between making a sale or not.
So, you could argue that it’s got niche appeal, but it really does appeal to those buyers who’d rather have some form of financing.
You recently introduced a ‘digital concierge’ feature – can you tell me about how it works?
We do a lot of our sales via phone (users calling off the website). The problem with trying to sell a bathroom over the phone is that it’s hard for the sales agent to show someone on the other end of the line what they think would work for them and what they need.
Historically the way we’d deal with this was to have a conversation with the customer that went something like, “okay, if you look under this menu… are you on page x? So if you click on that button… it’s at the bottom of the page. No, not that one…” It wasn’t a very efficient process and it took up a lot of time.
To that end, we developed the digital concierge. It’s basically a basket recovery mechanism that allows our salespeople to temporarily share a basket with a consumer while on the phone to them.
It means that not only can our sales team see what a customer might have already put in their basket, but also add things to their basket which the customer can then see and comment on.
Effectively, it means that you can call us, and not even have to use the site while you shop. You can just talk to the agent who will build your order while chatting to you as you just watch the bathroom order come together in your basket.
How has it worked so far?
Really well. Customers are happier and so is the sales team. Sales figures and call completion times also had a nice bump after we introduced it.
Does this kind of feature mean you have to have a more specialist/trained customer service team?
Trained and specialised isn’t quite how I’d describe it, they’re a lot more efficient now.
Whereas they used to spend a lot of time just trying to verbally guide customers though the site to specific products, they’ve now cut that part out and spend a lot more time advising and selling rather than steering the customers around the site over the phone.