Larry and Wendy Davis’ company has been selling guitar parts for 25 years. It is mostly a wholesale business, hawking guitar necks, tuning keys, whammy bars and the like to music stores, instrument builders and repairers.
About five years ago, the company, WD Music Products Inc., Ft. Myers, FL, put up a Web site (www.wdmusic.com). Some more retail customers — people who build or repair their own guitars — trickled in but they were never more than 1% of the total business.
That is, until about a year and a half ago, when WD Music started working with a search engine optimizer, Anthony Muller of ZenHits, Bayshore, NY, to make the site attractive to search crawlers. (Search engine optimizers are consultants who try to help companies raise their sites’ rankings in searches.)
Muller diagnosed the site in 25 areas and WD Music began — and still is — making adjustments.
The result? Retail customers are now 26% of the business. “We were totally astonished to see that — and delighted,” says Larry Davis, vice president. “It was far in excess of our expectations.”
Davis says that before working with Muller, “we were throwing keywords and meta tags on the site without any idea of whether it was considered spam or was counterproductive. We got a real education into keywords and learned how little we knew.”
Citing competition, Davis declines to name his keywords or revenue.
“We changed our keywords to reflect who we are as a company, not what we do as an industry,” he says. “I don’t want people coming to the site because they’re searching for an amp and we have the word ‘Fender’ on it. It’s understanding how your business works and who you want coming in your door.”
WD Music’s keyword expertise was evident the night of Sept. 11, 2001, when 25 people ordered American flag pickguards. “I was shocked, we hadn’t sold any in months,” says Davis’ wife and company president, Wendy Davis.
Davis says he was particularly grateful about the results because he had worked with other optimizers who made claims they couldn’t fulfill and in some cases got the Web site listed further down in the search results because they did things the search spiders perceived as spam.
On the retail side, “we created a business where there wasn’t any before,” Davis says. “I have reams of letters from people all over the world who say, ‘Thank God I found you. I found parts I couldn’t find for years.’ Particularly international customers. I just sent a bunch of stuff to a guy in Tasmania.”
WD Music, which mails out about 20,000 copies of a 60-page catalog once a year, also has a business-to-business site (www.wdbiz.com). Davis says the number of dealers who have signed up at the site has leaped from about 40 to close to 1,000 in the space of a year. And he estimates that he had never done business before with 75% of them.
Though he has no plans to bid on keywords for sponsored links, Davis says he’s so happy about his ROI from search marketing that he is rethinking his overall advertising budget.
This year about 20% is devoted to online advertising, next year it will be around 50%, including search optimization.
“You go where the money is,” Davis says.