The #Takeoff series is about crowdsourcing issues important to Canadian small businesses. They tell us about their defining moments and we write about their stories, the issues, and strategies for success or how to overcome obstacles.
Along with the pouches of coffee beans they send each month to subscribers, Suneal Pabari and Adam Frank, owners of the Roasters Pack in Oakville, west of Toronto, deliver stories – about the provenance of their products, and the artisans who roast their own flavour of magic into the beans, the "bloom" that happens when you pour water into freshly ground coffee.
"We create a lot of content for our customers," says Mr. Pabari, who had worked in marketing and merchandising for Loblaw Cos. Ltd. and later started a corporate photography and video production company. "We find our customers really benefit from that – they're coffee lovers like us who want to discover new and interesting coffees."
For less than $30 a month, the Roasters Pack subscribers get three four-ounce pouches of coffee each month, enough to make more than 35 cups of coffee. Mr. Pabari says that, since he and Mr. Frank launched their company in February, the Roasters Pack has gained about 40 subscribers. Their target is to have more than 500 subscribers by the end of the year.
What might get in the way of the Roasters Pack taking off and hitting their target? Not enough visitors to its website, which is set up to take subscriptions. So far, the Roasters Pack has seen an average of about 700 unique visitors a month, says Mr. Pabari. Only 6 per cent of these visitors arrived at the site through Google search, and most of them – 80 per cent – knew the company's name and typed it into Google's search field.
"The rest of our traffic is made up of consumers either arriving directly by typing in our URL or by being referred to the Roasters Pack by another website or social media," Mr. Pabari says.
While media coverage has created spikes in website visits, what Mr. Pabari and Mr. Frank would like to see is more customers finding their way to the site through organic online search.
They know that putting certain keywords and phrases on their website, as well as creating relevant online content, can help improve their Google search ranking. They blog, post videos on their website and on YouTube, and cultivate communities on Facebook and Twitter.
Of the total number of visitors who come to the the Roasters Pack website, between 2 to 3 per cent sign up as customers, Mr. Pabari says. He figures that to meet the first-year target of 500 subscribers, The Roasters Pack would need 8,300 Web visits a month.
"We need more people coming to our site on a daily basis," he says. "Once they're there, we know we can convert them into subscribers."
They're doing something right, as far as reaching out to bloggers and doing social media, says Rachel Segal, digital strategist at Toronto-based Broad Reach Communications Inc.
"More and more SEO [search engine optimization] really comes down to content marketing, and they have a blog and a strong writer."
But, "coffee subscription" is searched for far less than "coffee club," she says.
"They should try updating their web copy using the term 'coffee club' more consistently. The downside to this is that there is a fair bit of competition when you search for 'coffee club Canada' but there's also competition for 'coffee subscription Canada' so it's worth the update in frequency and consistency.
"It may help to develop pages or posts that cover how coffee clubs work, the advantages of coffee clubs, or where the Roasters Pack coffee comes from, to try and help convince Google that the Roasters Pack should be on the first page of Google. Remember, Google is ranking Web pages, not websites," she says.
"A good idea would be to set up Google Authorship – an offshoot product of Google Plus. This makes the author's photo appear next to the search result, so Google says "Oh, we know who this author is," so you come across as a reliable source."
Axle Davids, CEO and branding technologist at Toronto-based Distility Branding, says that, although the Roasters Pack is getting juicy media links to their pages, Google plays down their relevance, given that the pages are not telling the search engine that they are about a coffee club or coffee subscription. "So a key brand-SEO crossover question is 'Have you researched and discovered the power words that are being searched the most by your customers?' Those need to be strategically written into the on-page SEO qualities of the site."
He adds: "When you do an analysis of the Roasters Pack site, the top ranking single word is "roaster." Which is great if they're selling roasters. I looked at some of the stats and the key phrase "best coffee" gets tons of searches, way more than "coffee club" or "coffee subscription." Their URL could have the term "best coffee." Another popular term is "gift for coffee lover." They should have a page which is optimized for that term.
"The Roasters Pack might want to look into a service like Google Remarketing, which puts their ad in front of people who went to their website but didn't buy. If their conversion rate is 2 to 3 per cent, they're losing that 97 to 98 per cent of people who obviously have an interest in their product," he says.
"They should also keep an eye on the new .coffee domain names. It's too early to tell how successful a .coffee domain will be from an SEO perspective, but it wouldn't cost them too much to buy it today."
Chris Hamilton, owner and marketing consultant at Calgary-based STAD Consulting, says there's no question that SEO is important because it brings more people to a company's website.
"But I think the Roasters Pack is missing out on opportunities to convert the people who are already on their site. Something like 70 to 80 per cent of people who go to a website leave without ever coming back again. The reason being is that businesses are giving up a huge opportunity to engage with people that found them online for a reason.
"One thing the Roasters Pack can do is to engage with clients by using a live chat solution. When you provide a live chat on your website you can engage with people and they can ask questions," he says.
"They should also have an e-mail service, not for people to sign up for newsletters but for special deals and offers. What we've seen is a lot of people who sign up for e-mail service become repeat clients, and you can entice them to sign up by maybe offering 10 per cent off their first purchase.
"The Roasters Pack should also be leveraging their existing customers by creating a referral process – either by offering a monetary incentive for referring a friend, or maybe a free bag of coffee. Some people will send you referrals because they're evangelists and they love you, but others will want something in return."