Today’s social media world can easily feel all-encompassing, such is the impact of its non-stop torrent of content. People painstakingly document the moments of their lives, hoping to connect with others, while companies eagerly hunt for opportunities to win support and earn sales. When you’re trying to market your website, though, there are some good reasons to look elsewhere.
It’s frustratingly competitive, for a start. Whether you’re concentrating on original social media output or engaging with prospective customers, it’s incredibly hard to stand out: new options appear at a blistering pace and users are easily swept along by them, so only the most polished and eye-catching work will get them to stick around long enough for marketing to be effective.
It’s also tremendously risky. While a social strategy can have incredible ROI, it can also destroy a brand (or at least seriously damage it) if mishandled. Just one poorly-timed comment or use of a misunderstood hashtag can turn the social media hordes against you — and no matter how delicate you are, that prospect is never too far away.
So what can you do to promote your website that doesn’t directly involve social media? In this post, we’re going to look at four tactics that can prove highly effective (and even spark social buzz without requiring the operation of a single Twitter or Facebook account). Let’s begin.
Build an industry-leading blog
Sponsor videos and live streams
Run a temporary pop-up shop
Partner with a compatible brand
Sounds good? Let’s dive in!
People want to buy from brands they can trust, so how can you establish your brand as one worthy of that trust? Sitting neatly alongside the ecommerce basics (having great products, shipping promptly, etc.) is one key marketing tactic: content marketing. By producing and marketing industry-leading content, you can establish your team members as reliable experts.
It isn’t enough to create great content that offers a lot of compelling value, though. You also need to focus on SEO (search engine optimization) to give each piece the best possible chance of ranking well in Google for the most relevant search terms. The reasoning is simple: if no one ever finds your content, then it won’t matter how good it is. Any quality will be wasted.
Accordingly, you need to invest time and effort in picking the right keywords, nailing your metadata, and winning backlinks from trusted sites in your niche. Let’s run through some tips for each of these things, priming you to make some major progress:
In whichever niche you target with your content, there will be particular words and terms that people search for more often than others. There will also be terms that are more actionable than others, which is to say more likely to result in action. In ecommerce, contrast “types of shorts” and “blue shorts size large”: the former indicates a desire for information, while the latter clearly indicates a desire to buy.
Your goal is to take the most common and valuable keywords and work them into your content in natural ways. If there are several popular terms for one type of product, you can include them all at different points on a product page to cover your bases. At the same time, you can include some fresh phrasing that might get searches in the future.
Is it possible to focus too much on keyword optimization? Technically, yes, but you’re unlikely to reach that point provided you focus primarily on making your content as useful as possible — so don’t waste much time worrying about keyword stuffing.
Metadata consists of data about your web pages and the content within them, and it’s important to get right because Google will take it into account. To some extent, at least. Every blog post you write should have an SEO-friendly title and description (with a suitable URL). This will require you to stay within character limits and accurately represent what visitors can expect. There are various tools for crafting this metadata, but I recommend Zeo’s SERP Preview Tool.
Aim to have consistency in your meta titles, using the same structure each time. If you end one title with the name of your blog, for instance, you should do the same with every blog post. This isn’t a huge deal for Google, but it will make your posts easier to pick out in search results for people who view your blog positively.
You should also think about using structured data to make elements of your blog post more likely to be chosen for featured snippets in the SERPs. Supposing you answer a common question, for instance, you should tag the component parts appropriately in accordance with the schema.org standard and Google’s own guidelines.
While Google’s search crawlers can break down and parse a post’s content to some extent, they can’t do much to gauge its value, accuracy or significance. For that, they need to draw upon contextual clues, most notably through SERP clicks and through backlinks. A backlink is a link to the post (or the blog in general) that’s been found on another site that’s been crawled.
If a small site links to your blog, that might help your rankings slightly — but if a huge site with a lot of authority in your niche links to you, it will do far more than just earn you some direct visits. Google will take that as a clear indication that your site features high-quality content, and move your posts up the search results to see how well they perform when given the spotlight.
Earning these backlinks is much easier said than done, of course. If you create fantastic content then you’ll eventually pick up some, but you should be much more proactive. For some link building tips aimed specifically at ecommerce sellers, you can look elsewhere on this site. Put time and effort towards getting your site mentioned – all the work will pay off down the line.
If you have the time and inclination, of course, you can couple your content marketing with some classic PR through distributing press releases. You can be much more straightforwardly promotional with a PR piece – you can view it as a statement of arrival and intent. For one example, take a look below at a press release that wearable tech company Hapbee issued through PR Newswire in early 2020:
A press release like this won’t bring you many visitors or convince people of the quality of your brand – after all, anyone can boldly state how great their business is — but it will introduce your business to the wider PR community. You can then segue into broader PR outreach.
YouTube’s immense popularity hasn’t gone anywhere during this troubled year. It’s actually grown more popular with people stuck at home looking for ways to pass the time, and that makes it more worth sponsoring videos. Regular web ads can be blocked, but if you pay for an ad slot within a video (or fund the entire video) then you can be featured in an integral way.
The viewer can still skip it, but they’re much less likely to do that than use a standard ad-blocker. More often than not, video viewers will want to support their preferred content creators however they can – and if you allow creative freedom for your ads, you can earn a huge amount of goodwill from potential customers. I’ve most effectively seen this done on the Internet Historian channel. Below is a compilation of the ads:
The ads started out as fairly pedestrian, but quickly became more comical and started to feature narratives. Allowing this approach is great for advertisers because it makes them seem less controlling and more open-minded, so choose content creators carefully and give them the flexibility to bring you attention in their unique styles.
In addition to sponsoring YouTube videos, you can sponsor Twitch streams. It’s harder to find hyper-relevant streams since they almost exclusively concern video games, but if you can find one that’s a tonal match then some sponsored mentions can yield some great results for relatively little investment (here are some examples of how brands have used Twitch to good effect). Just be sure to have a good hook behind those mentions.
Sometimes the best way to bring attention to an online store is to run an offline store: after all, it allows you to use traditional marketing techniques and reach people who might never have learned about your store otherwise. But isn’t it incredibly expensive and complicated to run a brick-and-mortar store, particularly in these times of limited foot traffic in retail areas?
Well, you don’t need to set up a full store: just a pop-up shop. Made possible through cloud-based POS systems, you can run your ecommerce store from a physical space using your tablet to seamlessly log in-person transactions, keeping costs down and convenience up. If you take suitable precautions and follow area rules then you can still get somewhere.
Setting up temporary stalls where possible allows online retailers to showcase their products and speak to prospective customers face to face — and in-person communication is powerful. They can make sales then and there, but the focus is largely on building the brand so people will later seek out the store website.
One great example of a brand using pop-up stores to great effect is Collector Square (see above), an ecommerce company that sells expensive second-hand vintage items such as handbags and watches. Taking a middle-ground approach, it opted to create permanent pop-up shops to serve as hybrid shops and showrooms. They display curated items so shoppers can verify their quality and authenticity, giving them enough confidence to order online later.
Additionally, there’s a decent chance that a given visitor to such a pop-up store will choose to mention it on social media, probably including some photos and tagging them in various ways. If you can create such a store to represent your brand and do enough to make it worth documenting, you can take advantage of this desire to share through social media.
Brand partnerships can be incredibly effective, and they’re often fairly simple. You could simply arrange a mutual promotion deal with a brand that operates in your niche without being your competitor: if you’re selling phone cases, for instance, you could partner with a brand that sells phone screens but not cases. You link to them, and they link to you. Easy results.
You can also use discounts and promotional deals to make this more compelling: saying that anyone who’s bought from your partner brand can get 20% off an order with you, perhaps, or offering a combination product package available through both of your sites. You don’t need to establish a permanent collaboration, but it could well be a worthwhile investment.
Alternatively, you could make it more complicated and team up on a tentpole piece of content that you could both promote. There’s even the option of simply contributing heavily to a piece of content that they helm, agreeing that they’ll mention you extensively when they run their own social media promotion for it (that way, you get to benefit from it without being directly involved).
What you can see above is a selection of posts from the Boardly section of the Vice website. Here’s the story: Broadly is a site (acquired by Vice) that concentrates on gender and identity, and it partnered with footwear brand Vans for the Boardly project about women succeeding in skateboarding. So what was the point of this collaboration?
Well, aside from promoting positive stories, it made for an easy win-win. Broadly got to offer its female-dominant audience a lot of great content, and Vans got to associate its products with inspirational role models. And Vans didn’t need to set up its own site to benefit from the content: it left all that work to Vice, an established media company.
As we’ve seen here, social media isn’t the only avenue for promoting a website. You can still get great marketing results through other channels, all without having to deal with the inherent intensity and risk of the social media world. You also get more control over the stories you tell: it’s akin to producing studio tracks instead of recording live performances that can be interrupted or even ruined when onlookers just want to inconvenience you for fun.
Furthermore, if you do great work outside of social media, it’ll invariably be talked about on social media. That discussion will have a lower chance of turning negative, and you don’t actually need to engage with it if you don’t want to (provided it doesn’t turn incredibly negative), making it markedly safer overall. So if you want to take your website marketing to the next level, don’t obsess about social media. Consider how you can work these tactics into your strategy.
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