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Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

June 11, 2008 at 4:18 PM

A bit of “Sex” thrills Seattle startup

It seems too good to be true for Seattle Web startup Bag Borrow or Steal.

But the purse and accessory rental venture did not pay to get its name prominently mentioned by a major character in the “Sex and the City” movie.

“Actually it was a gift from the heavens,” said Mark Belanger, director of direct marketing.

Belanger couldn’t disclose precisely how much of a gift, but he said the company’s enjoying a big jump in traffic since the movie was released, putting Bag Borrow or Steal’s name in front of its target demographic.

After the company found out it was in the script, it did ink a marketing partnership with studio New Line Cinema that led to “Sex”-themed giveaways continuing on the company’s site.

Belanger mentioned that little bonus during a press briefing with Tom Leung, senior product manager of Google Website Optimizer, a service developed and run from the search company’s Seattle office. Optimizer’s tools help site owners test and analyze different site designs and layouts.

Leung said his team worked with local startups, including Bag Borrow or Steal, to improve the service. Belanger said his company used the tool to figure out that sales increased when the site displayed a bigger variety of merchandise “above the fold,” leading to a change that increased transactions by 27 percent.

Optimizer is part of Google’s effort to lure advertisers with a broader suite of tools and services. The company’s expected to announce on Thursday that it’s made partnerships with content-management system vendors to preload the tool onto their systems.

Although Optimizer is a free alternative to professional site optimization services, Leung said Google isn’t trying to undercut them and there should still be a need for experts and custom projects.

“We like to think we’re increasing awareness for the whole category,” he said.

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