Search engine optimization is priority one at Blade HQ—out of necessity.
The online retailer sells knives, which is against Facebook Inc. and Google Inc.’s advertising policies. Both companies do not allow merchants to advertise for these products, among other products that can be used as weapons. That means the retailer needs a strategy to generate traffic to its site without paid advertising on two of the largest channels, Ben Petersen, marketing manager at Blade HQ, told attendees at the 2018 Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition June 7 in Chicago during his session, “How to Sell Online When Google and Facebook Won’t Take Your Ad Money.”
Instead, Blade HQ generates large volumes of original content—286 posts per month was the 2017 average—that it publishes online to reach its audience. Last year, Blade HQ reached nearly 9.30 million consumers via it posts on Instagram, YouTube videos, Facebook impressions, email opens, Twitter impressions, plus its BladeHQ.com sessions, Petersen said.
The retailer has 10 in-house marketing employees, including its in-house videographer, that produces content for these channels, as well as for its own 15-20 blogs that provide content on knives that link back to BladeHQ.com.
Petersen attributes its constant posting on these channels as the main reason why the retailer has posted double-digit revenue growth for the past two years. Plus, Blade HQ often receives positive customer feedback referencing its YouTube channel or blog posts, Petersen said.
No. 1 for us means money.
For example, on Google search, consumers search for “butterfly knives” on average of 228,000 times per month, which means there are a lot of searches for this one product that no merchants can advertise for on Google, Petersen said. Blade HQ ranked No. 5 for this search term in November 2016 and decided to make an effort to increase its ranking; the more visible Blade HQ is in search results, the more consumers click on the result, go to the retailer’s website and ultimately buy something, he said.
Blade HQ optimized 21 category pages, product titles and page meta tags, ensuring that, when appropriate, this keyword was in the text. Plus, the retailer ensured its blog network was linking back to Blade HQ for these knives with the word “butterfly knife” as the linking text, Petersen said. From these changes, BladeHQ.com ranked No. 2 in search for butterfly knives in October 2017.
While this was good news, Blade HQ had its sights set on No. 1 in Google search results for the term. It launched 10 exclusive butterfly knives, hosted a live competition of butterfly knife flipping at a trade show with 48 competitors, which generated 50,000 YouTube videos, plus created an email and video buyers guide about these knives that generated 250,000 views. As of April 2018, Blade HQ ranked No. 1 in Google search for this term.
“No. 1 for us means money,” Petersen said.
And he’s got the results to prove it: Page views for butterfly knives on BladeHQ.com increased 31%, items sold increased 47% and revenue increased 25% year over year, Petersen said.
Posts on Instagram, email and YouTube also generate sales for the retailer.
On YouTube, Blade HQ has two channels that it posts content to that about 231,000 consumers subscribe to. These videos generate about 1 million views per month, which translates to about 5% of traffic to its website, and 2% of revenue from its site stems from those videos.
On Instagram, the retailer posts 77 times per month. Those posts generate about 1% of web sessions and 0.3% of monthly revenue, he said.
For email marketing, Blade HQ sends three emails each week, which have an average open rate of 24% and average conversion rate of 1.5%. The retailer generates 10% of its web sessions and 10% of its monthly revenue from email, Petersen said.
Petersen also acknowledges that not every post is a slam dunk, and through guessing and checking, the retailer figures out what content its audience is interested in.
“We have colossal failures on a monthly basis, and we have colossal wins on a monthly basis,” Petersen said.