British shoppers spent a reported £1.1 billion online over the Black Friday weekend this year, in a fevered attempt to grab a bargain during the limited sales period. It’s no surprise then that Black Friday has now become a battlefield of promotional activity between retailers across the UK, meaning it can be difficult for many businesses to stand out.
In this article, I’ll explain how we approached Black Friday for one of our ecommerce clients, and the results we delivered during this period.
The brief was simple: Working on behalf of a small online technology retailer with a relatively small advertising budget, we were asked to devise and implement an online marketing strategy with the aim of boosting sales of discounted products over the Black Friday weekend.
The client in question was offering competitive discounts on their Apple range, including popular items such as iPads and iPhones. Ensuring the general public were aware of those offers on Black Friday was obviously going to be key to success. To do this, we explored numerous avenues such as display advertising on Apple specific placements, and social media advertising based on audience interests.
Despite encouraging the client to allocate a portion of their budget into targeting specific placements on Google’s Display Network, we estimated that the increase in cost per click over the Black Friday weekend would enable larger retailers with bigger advertising budgets to push out smaller retailers, including our client, to claim prime advertising real estate on the day. Therefore, we needed to explore other options if we were going to maximise the visibility of the clients offers over the Black Friday period.
We eventually agreed that the most cost-effective tactic would be to promote our clients offers through a targeted online PR campaign.
Online PR: The Strategy
Initially, we used tools such as Buzzsumo to research relevant topics such as ‘Apple Black Friday Deals‘. While doing so, we discovered that Macworld run an annual breakdown of Black Friday/Cyber Monday offers, which we knew had the potential to drive highly relevant referral traffic to our clients site.
The key to securing coverage in such a competitive market was to contact relevant publishers as soon as we had an information on the offers the client would be running over the Black Friday weekend. For example, we actually started working on this back in August by developing a Black Friday landing page with the client in question, and finalising the discounts well in advance.
One challenge we encountered was giving the journalists at each site enough information on the types of offers our client would be running, aiming to get them interested without informing them of the actual percentage discounts (i.e. this is what we did last year, this year will be even better). A tactic used to mitigate any risk at this stage was to request that journalists signed confidentiality agreements to ensure they couldn’t disclose any offers before Black Friday, which could have lead to a loss of competitive advantage for our client.
We managed to secure numerous links to our clients Black Friday landing page in the run up to the day, some of which referred a huge amount of traffic to our clients site over the weekend:
The screen grab above shows a breakdown of the referral traffic sources over the Black Friday weekend, 27th -30th November 2015. The sources I have highlighted are those we secured through online PR activity in the build up to Black Friday. The Macworld.co.uk link we secured, highlighted in pink, accounted for 82% of all referral traffic over the Black Friday weekend, and resulted in 392 transactions in this period.
Because we got in touch with Macworld so early with the required information, we were able to secure the client a prime position within their Black Friday roundup post:
Comparison to Black Friday 2014
In 2014, the client’s website received 7,355 sessions on Black Friday (28th November), and a total of 12,054 sessions over the Black Friday weekend (28th November – 1st December 2014):
In 2015, the clients website received 44,379 sessions on Black Friday, an increase of 503% YOY, and a total of 75,282 sessions over the weekend (27th – 30th November 2015) – an increase of 524% YOY:
It’s interesting to note that the Macworld.co.uk links alone referred 37,472 sessions over the weekend, which accounts for 49% of all website sessions in this period.
Not only did the client see a huge spike in traffic and transactions as a result of these links, they will have generated a huge amount of brand awareness as a result. For example, since Black Friday, I have noted a dramatic increase in branded organic traffic to the clients website, which I’d suggest has been caused by the increased coverage they received on Black Friday.
Lessons for Black Friday 2016
Based on what we’ve learned as a result of this activity, in the build up to Black Friday 2016 we would advise businesses to:
1. Start Early
The reason we achieved such a strong position on certain sites was because we got in touch with journalists well in advance with all the information they needed. Ensure you plan any Black Friday discounts as early as possible, and be prepared to provide journalists and bloggers with the details of these offers using a confidentiality agreement.
2. Keep Your Black Friday Landing Page Live All Year Round
From an SEO perspective, I would suggest keeping event landing pages live year round. There is no reason to take a Black Friday page down after the event – simply adapt it as the year goes by with relevant content for the coming year, or replace it with a holding message. It’s also important to remember that any links built to Black Friday landing pages will only pass authority if the page still exists – if the page is deleted those potentially valuable links will be lost.
3. Invest in Quality Hosting
Based on the amount of traffic that can be driven to a website in such a short period of time, we would recommend investing in a good quality dedicated hosting solution, and enabling full page caching to speed up the site where possible. If you’re running a Magento site, check out these tips on improving site performance at peak times.
If you’ve been focusing on promoting Black Friday discounts this year, I’d love to hear about the results you’ve experienced. Please feel free to use the comments section below, or find me on Twitter via @iambenwood.