E-commerce sites are a traditionally tough cookie to crack in terms of attracting links, particularly if you are in competition with larger more established brands and competition. One of the underlying things any online retailer needs to remember about their site, and indeed their brand is that you need to give people a reason to care, a reason to get excited about your products, and a reason to link to you.
Allow me to digress slightly, to two real life examples of smart marketing that I’ve experienced from the high street – which can also be applied to the web. Yes, there’s actually things that can still be learned from the traditional bricks and mortar store.
The $1,000 pizza.
There is a pizza place in New York that offers a pizza on its menu that you need to pre-order by a week. It costs $1,000 and contains ingredients soo exquisite and expensive they need to order them in – a week in advance. How many of these pizza’s do you think they’ve sold? It’s obvious though why this super pizza remains front and centre on the menu. A food critic would be hard pressed not to mention its inclusion on any review they write, it generates instant buzz around the restaurant, is unusual, extraordinary, and allows them to stand out from the competition as the luxury pizza place.
The £1 guitar sale.
In my home town, there is a music store, so small, that you wonder how it even manages to survive in its rural surroundings. Every year, they have an infamous Christmas sale, where the first person through the door can buy a £500 electric guitar for a single £1. Unsurprisingly, people grab their sleeping bag, flask of hot soup, and sleep out nights before in advance of this offer. The street is often lined with score of young musicians camping out. Again, word of mouth manages to attract attention with the people on the street being joined the morning of the sale with other curious shoppers. Attention attracts attention, and there’s a viral effect that helps the sale of the other products in the shop – including the ones with not so extreme discounts.
At its heart, both of these are PR spin, but the twist is that they generate PR subtly through their products by either being extravagant, or incredible value for money.
Some sites on the web have picked niches that are interesting to start with, and source products that are unusual, difficult to find (anywhere on the web or high street) and generate links and social shares naturally. Firebox, iWoot and ThinkGeek (see typical examples that Tech publications cream themselves over) come to mind as ‘quirky geek gift emporiums’ that have become popular organically due to their stock, and the products they source. These ‘link bait products‘ take many forms, but are fantastic at generating link equity directly into your product catalogue from around the web and improving SEO overall.
Of course, this concept doesn’t have to be applied to just e-commerce sites. eBay have had their fair share of link bait generated because they don’t have upper limits on price, or restrictions on the type of goods that can be listed. Anyone remember this Aircraft carrier listed years ago? Or what about this Jet-powered Go-Kart?
You too can take advantage of this trend, even if you are traditionally conservative in the content you list. Many of the sites which are listing the weird and wonderful have neither the actual product in stock, nor price it realistically.
Shoe Retailer online? Try listing something like this under an ‘unusual’ category. Car sales online? What about this? Classifieds? Yep, Gumtree have linkbait ready to roll. Jobs website? Yes there are interesting jobs out there outside the norm. Ultimately there is no telling in some cases when content has been planted, or when it has been user generated. Much like the pizza place I mentioned earlier, many of the clever sites out there are generating social traction by faking content, designed to attract attention and links from around the web.