Nuts & Bolts: Case Study

October 1st, 2007


Originally published in Target Marketing

Challenge: Improve Web traffic/sales through SEO

Solution: Use buzzworthy anecdotes, video and catchy titles

Results: A 14-percent increase in blog-driven sales and spikes of 1,000 sessions per day after each post that contribute to repeat traffic

Steve Spangler, famous for creating a 30-foot geyser of Diet Coke by dropping Mentos into a soda bottle, not only has mastered the art of science, but also the art of blogging to optimize natural search results and increase Web sales. Founder and CEO of Steve Spangler Science, a multichannel firm that sells educational toys, Spangler says the overall goal of his blog is to convey information in a fun, thought-provoking way. From a simple site with science toys and experiments, Steve Spangler Science has grown exponentially by using fun stories, catchy titles and newsworthy blog topics to catch the eyes of reporters, search engines and, ultimately, parents and teachers.

When he sat down to write his first blog, Spangler didnâ??t think he had anything interesting enough to discuss. However, after hearing that Insta-Snow, a product his company sells, was featured as a popular â??stupid productâ?? on a â??Good Morning Americaâ?? review of e-tailer, Spangler found what looked like a promising topic. According to Stephan Spencer, president and founder of Netconcepts, the SEM firm that works with Steve Spangler Science, leveraging a hot news story is one way to help drive Web site traffic. Spanglerâ??s Insta-Snow blog piggybacked on the interest generated by the current media coverage by describing the story of a woman who got out of a speeding ticket after using the science toy. Spangler says she told the officer she had just left a science training seminar and convinced him she could make it snow. The officer told her that if she could, he would let her go without a ticket. Spangler says, â??Lo and behold, she made snow by the side of the road. Not only did the officer excuse her ticket, he [also] asked for the Web site so he could buy Insta-Snow for his kids. We knew when we heard this story, it was like gold falling into our laps.â??

What was it about this story that worked for Spanglerâ??s blog? The anecdote surprised readers while showcasing the productâ??s usefulness or wow factor. â??Myself and my customer service team are trained to know that when we hear a great story, we could be very successful by sharing it with everyone through our blog,â?? he says.

Another solution for increasing Web traffic via a blog is to use catchy titles to attract the attention of news outlets for additional exposure. For example, when blogging about one of his latest group trainings in Florida, Spangler planned to title the post, â??Teachers perform hands-on science experiments as inquiry-based learning progresses in Bravard County.â?? Spencer said that to be effective, Spangler needed to find a great picture and develop a powerful title. Together, they came up with, â??Parents Beware: Teachers Gone Wild.â?? Spangler says, â??This was great Google juice! The search engines picked up on it, and we got links back to it from all over.â?? The flashy titles are fed through RSS and XML feeds to drive clickthroughs, which very quickly becomes viral marketing. Spangler also participates in media activities that drive traffic to find him through search engines. For example, each week his relationship with NBC/Channel 9 in Denver provides video clips placed both on his Web site and on YouTube. According to Netconcepts, these have trememdous viral reach, as well as support both link building and search placement.

In addition to using his own blog to fuel SEO results, Spangler also leverages blog interaction to drive clicks and links via social networking. He helps teachers develop their own science blogs for interaction with students, which often leads them to link to his blog in their postings. Again, this link activity and the blog visits that are a natural part of the blog development process for teachers and students all lead to better SEO results for Spanglerâ??s site.

For small-business owners trying to increase Web traffic and generate more sales, Spangler says, â??Two things are of utmost importance: 1.) Make sure you have something to say and [that] someone wants to hear it. Find some niche area on the Web where people are talking about what you are merchandising, or thinking about merchandising, and talk to them directly; 2.) Always ensure your blog features your own distinct voice. When starting a blog, a lot of business owners will see it as almost a diet pill. To stay with the same metaphor, a diet requires exercise, eating right and hard workâ??not simply a pill.â??

Adding a blog isnâ??t a quick fix if there are holes in your business or marketing strategy, he points out, â??but if hard work is put into it, and it is given a chance to develop and find its place in the online community, the results can be breathtaking.â??

â??Kate DeBevois