This is the tenth post in a blog series about how to launch an eCommerce business years 1-3. You can view the previous week’s post, “How to Hustle the first 1,000 Visitors to Your eCommerce Site” here.
Just like a healthy body, a healthy website shouldn’t rely on a single fuel source. To increase traffic delivery to your site, you’ll need to have about five or six tactics going at the same time. There are free tactics—what we call “organic” tactics—and there are paid tactics.
- SOCIAL MEDIA
For many people, the thought of posting regularly to social media sounds about as painful as a urinary catheter. I get it. But social media isn’t going away anytime soon, and you’ll need to have some sort of social media presence if you want to look legitimate and stay relevant.
First, decide which platforms to use. A common myth is that you need to be on every social media platform. It’s better to focus on one or two social media platforms than to be inactive on six or eight.
So what platform should you choose? If your product is targeted toward executives or business owners, LinkedIn will probably be the place for you. If you’re selling boutique clothing, Instagram and Facebook may be a better choice.
What about Twitter? Twitter started as more-or-less a ticker newsfeed, so it was easy for people to miss your tweets if they didn’t log in at the right time. Twitter has gotten better at indexing content, but it still requires you to post a whole lot, like several times a day, in order to be seen.
You also need to follow people on Twitter and comment and retweet in order to gain traction. And it doesn’t hurt to be clever. Some people are great at that, stand-up comedians for example. But if you’re like me and don’t sound good in 280 characters or less, maybe don’t hedge your bets on Twitter.
Snapchat and TikTok are super promising, but they skew very young and require grade-A content. So maybe don’t start there.
Choose the platforms where your customers are most likely to hang out. Look at the demographic breakdown of each platform and weigh the pros and cons of taking time out of your week to come up with content.
One reason organic social posting is so difficult is that most of these platforms want businesses to pay-to-play. They don’t want to give away free advertising, so they make it really difficult for your followers to see unpaid posts.
For example, if you follow our CleverFunnel Facebook account, the likelihood of you seeing one of our posts in your feed is about a tenth of a percent. Basically, you’re not gonna see it. Instagram is slightly better at indexing posts, but still not great.
One way to get around this is to promote your product and your business account from your personal page. That may be uncomfortable, but it can really get the ball moving since Facebook is far more likely to index posts made from your personal account.
Once you pick a platform, you’ll need to commit to posting twice a week for, like, all of eternity. Or until that asteroid finally hits earth.
Posting is hard, creatively difficult, miserable at times. You’ll sit there in front of a blank screen and wonder, “WTF have I not said already about this?” Sometimes your content won’t be amazing, but that’s not the most important thing.
The most important thing is to post consistently. That’s how you gain a following and drive traffic to your website. Or as Dori would say, “Just keep posting … Just keep posting …”
We discussed how to set up email capture on your site in a previous blog (basically, use OptinMonster). Once you’ve got a healthy number of emails in the tank, you can start scheduling regular email releases.
A basic platform like Mailchimp lets you send bulk emails as needed, but most companies will outgrow it pretty fast. It won’t be sufficient for advanced repurchasing tactics and email nurture campaigns.
If you’re serious about using email marketing, we recommend paying for ActiveCampaign or Klaviyo. This will enable your email strategies to grow as you grow. Don’t underestimate the value of email marketing. It can be huge for updating your customers, promoting new products, and driving conversions.
Everyone thinks their company is newsworthy. We’re all the protagonists of our own story, and we tend to overestimate our importance by a long shot.
Getting free PR—articles and mentions in online or print publications—is virtually impossible, unless your business actually is newsworthy. For example, if your fake plant business uses carbon capture to rid the world of greenhouse gasses, then maybe you’ve got a story.
Some people (not many) straight up kill it in the world of PR. They’re either born hustlers, or they’re just really good at building connections with journalists and pitching their stories in a compelling way.
If you want free PR, you need to do more than tell the fascinating story of your life and why you started this business. You need to show how you’re solving an important problem for the public good and, ideally, tie in with some existing cultural narrative.
Another way to get free PR is to position yourself as an expert on some topic and either write an article as a guest contributor or be quoted in an article. This requires, of course, that you develop a good working relationship with journalists who write about your industry.
You can also choose to pay for your PR, what’s called an advertorial. You’ll see this done in publications like Forbes. But it’s not a common strategy for small businesses and not one we often recommend.
Site Engine Optimization (SEO) is one of the most misunderstood things in modern digital marketing. And it’s largely bull.
Years ago, you could trick Google into pushing your business to the top of search results using backlinking and naming conventions and meta tags and what are called “black hat SEO” tactics.
But the folks at Google are pretty smart, and they caught onto it. They updated Google’s algorithm to prevent SEO hacking and basically wiped out a billion-dollar-a-year industry in a single keystroke.
So why are companies still trying to charge small businesses $2,000 or $3,000 a month for SEO work? Because they are con-artists. Because they are thieves. Today, SEO is really just about updating your site regularly and making sure nothing is glaringly wrong. Here’s all you need to know about SEO:
Technical SEO — You probably won’t have to worry about this. If you’re concerned that your site may look hostile to Google for some reason (very few platforms do), a five minute web search will give you all you need to know to ensure that Google is indexing your site.
Backlinking — Backlinking, or getting other websites to link back to your site, does still matter, but certainly not as much as it used to. You can choose to blast your news releases out to the world and a few small sites may pick them up, but that won’t do a lot for your SEO.
What could make a difference for your SEO is High Authority Backlinks, or links from trusted and prestigious websites, such as Forbes or the Wall Street Journal. Getting mentioned once by a major publication is much more important than getting mentioned regularly on smaller sites.
Publish Often — This is 95% of modern SEO. Publishing blog articles on your site consistently is what makes Google go, “Hey, this is a legitimate, active business.”
Two blog posts a month is a good target goal for most eCommerce businesses. You could pay someone else to write blogs for you, but it’s important that the writer be a native English speaker and well-informed. If you do decide to pay a blog writer, Verblio is a great Denver-based service. But remember, you know the most about your product and you care the most. That will come across in the blogs that you take time to write.
The bad news is that, even with regular blogging, you won’t see changes to your SEO for about 18-24 months. This means if you started publishing blogs twice a month today, Google wouldn’t reward you in the search ranking for another two years. So don’t put too much stock in SEO.
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR
Starting an eCommerce business is like building a rocket in your garage and expecting it to take you to the moon—it might not work, and even if it does, there’s a good chance you’ll get hurt along the way.
The good news is you’re not the first person crazy enough to try this. There are many others (myself included) who have tried, failed, and tried again. By learning from our many (many) mistakes, you can launch an eCommerce business that makes it safely to orbit and beyond.
In this blog series, you’ll get a step-by-step guide to creating and launching your eCommerce business years 1–3. We go over how to create a functional brand, set up your website, and develop an advertising strategy that scales with you. We’ll go through the various pros and cons, so that you can feel empowered to make the best decisions for your business.
My name is Chris Franks, and I’m the founder and CEO of CleverFunnel, a digital marketing agency that focuses on using straightforward, data-driven strategies to drive real results for our clients.
I’m also an avid lover of indie music, fly fishing, baseball, and sunscreen (although that’s more of a genetic necessity). I wrote this with the hope that my story could help other young entrepreneurs achieve their goals, without losing their savings (or their sanity) in the process. If any bit of this helps you, it’ll have been worth it.