Company: Panel Systems Unlimited
Contact: Scott Chapman, Director of Sales and Marketing
Location: Tucker, GA
Industry: Office Furniture (B2B)
Annual revenue: Confidential
Number of employees: Confidential

Quick Read:

Panel Systems Unlimited specializes in buying and selling used and refurbished office furniture systems. In August 2003, as the nation was in the middle of a recession, the company knew that it had to act quickly to position itself on the leading edge of the recovery. Panel Systems knew that it could use the Internet to get its name out to businesses that would be ready to buy when the economy picked up again.

After exploring options, the company partnered with Medium Blue Search Engine Marketing. Four years later, that partnership has resulted in Panel Systems Unlimited's tripling of its sales goals and increasing its exposure on the major search engines to among the highest in the industry.

The Challenge:

With an ever-changing inventory, the company's marketing team recognized that print brochures would not have as much versatility as their Web site, making Internet marketing a major priority.

"We needed a firm that could work with a site like ours—one that was constantly being updated to match our stock," said Scott Chapman, director of sales and marketing. "Our site was often the only face we had to show our customers, so it was a critical component of our marketing plan."

Chapman decided to pursue search engine optimization (SEO) as the key aspect of his Internet marketing strategy. Organic search engine optimization involves keyword research and the insertion of keyphrases into Web site copy, making changes to a site's code, and both incoming and outgoing links—all to boost that Web site's profile on the major search engines. While Google is most commonly mentioned as the search engine to target, others like Yahoo and Ask are also important.

With a successful SEO campaign in place, searchers looking for Chapman's industry on one of the engines would ideally find his site on the first page of the listings—but not as a part of the paid listings that appear on the top or to the side, which many searchers distrust.

There are literally hundreds of search engine optimization companies, and taking SEO in-house would have cost time and resources that Panel Systems did not have to spare. It needed to find—quickly—an external partner that could learn its business quickly and would not require a great deal of babysitting.

"We knew we needed to get our name out there on the search engines to get our phones ringing as rapidly as possible," said Chapman.

Chapman was offered an inexpensive solution by his Web design firm, but he knew it wasn't comprehensive enough to meet his team's goals. After conducting extensive interviews and research into marketing approaches as well as vendors, he chose Medium Blue Search Engine Marketing.

He noted that trust played a major part in his decision to both hire Medium Blue and to utilize search engine optimization in general. "It's difficult to be looking at a service that is so abstract—something you can't hold or touch," Chapman explained. "Out of all the vendors we spoke with, Medium Blue gave us the best feeling that the team really knew what they were doing."

The Campaign:

Medium Blue developed an SEO campaign for Panel Systems Unlimited from scratch. The company began with research into the industry, finding out the hot topics regarding which potential clients were conducting online searches.

Then, Medium Blue's team selected the most appropriate keyphrases and carefully updated the Panel Systems site with optimized copy geared toward attracting search engine spiders and customers alike. "It was important to us that the copy sound natural," said Chapman. "And Medium Blue set our minds at ease."

Early on, the selected keyphrases targeted the basics—the Panel Systems Unlimited product line of used office furniture in general. As the campaign moved along, Panel Systems expanded its business to not just selling but also buying used furniture and selling clones of brand names. Medium Blue responded with phrases that focused on these new areas, so that the site was constantly drawing in the traffic that would help Panel Systems grow.

With Medium Blue's guidance, Panel Systems also used a more subtle SEO technique—adding some helpful, and search-optimized, articles about its business. The articles helped to make the Web site a resource that searchers could return to for information, even when they weren't necessarily ready to make a purchase.

Medium Blue also worked behind the scenes to bring inbound links to the site, using "white hat" techniques—those that did not contradict the search engines' policies. "The last thing we wanted was to be penalized and have our site drop off of Google after all of our hard work," explained Chapman.

The Results:

After a few months of work, Medium Blue had the Panel Systems site ready for the search engines. The results were remarkable: Within the first year of the campaign, Panel Systems achieved triple its online sales goals and beat its initial ROI projections for the project.

Over time, Panel Systems' search engine visibility rose significantly, and the site went from virtually no traffic before the campaign to thousands of visitors per month, with the numbers continuing to steadily increase.

Moreover, 80 percent of searchers finding the Panel Systems Web site now arrive from phrases targeted by Medium Blue, a clear indication that the campaign has worked to not only increase the site's traffic but also increase the quality of that traffic and bring in the people most likely to buy or sell with Panel Systems Unlimited. This has improved ROI and pleased the Panel Systems sales team by giving them fewer tire-kickers and more true leads.

What brings all this traffic? Rankings.

The Panel Systems site is now consistently featured on the first-page results of the major search engines for industry-specific phrases such as "used office dividers," for which the site is number one on Google, and "used office panels," for which the site is number one on Yahoo.

Such rankings also lend the company more credibility in the eyes of searchers, enabling Panel Systems to beat out major competitors.

Furthermore, the partnership between Medium Blue and Panel Systems is ongoing. Medium Blue expands the campaign on a regular basis with new keyphrases and new ideas.

The Panel Systems site has over 1,000 inbound links, with Medium Blue continually looking for new link opportunities to keep the site's visibility on the search engines high.

In August 2007, the site also reached a new all-time high for monthly traffic. And in 2007 Panel Systems named Medium Blue its Vendor of the Year, clearly demonstrating the value of the work that Medium Blue has continued to perform for the company.

Lessons Learned:

  • Don't just settle for the lowest bid—make sure you choose a partner that will bring you results both immediately and over the long term.
  • Make sure your copy does more than just bring in the search engine spiders. It has to engage potential customers as well.
  • Think outside the box when you're expanding your marketing strategy. "Search engine marketing was still a new idea when we started," said Chapman. "Now it's one of the industry standards—but we got there first."

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Case Study: How an Office Furniture Company Tripled Its Sales by Optimizing for Search

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