HP TouchPad and Pre 3 shopping frenzy post-mortem…

by Edwin on August 29, 2011

Like even the strongest of storms, it started with a gentle breeze of traffic that quickly developed into a raging tempest that delivered nearly 7,000 visitors and 16,000 pageviews over a 7-day period to this neglected blog, which normally sees about 50 visits a month. Google contributed 1,900 visitors to that total, across 715 keyphrase searches. The traffic drove 90 orders at Amazon, and a smattering of referrals to other affiliate programs.

7 day traffic graph

I was amazed – and thrilled – at the success of my 2 posts about the HP TouchPad and the HP Pre 3, but hindsight being 20:20 I’ve also learned a number of lessons from the experience.

LESSONS LEARNED

1. If you’re going to surf a monster wave, prepare well in advance
I put up the page about the HP TouchPad on the day the shopping frenzy kicked off in the UK, whereas had I been clued in earlier (based on reactions in the US market, for example) I could have set it up a couple of days in advance, which would have given me a chance to get mentioned in press reports about the sale, and “age” the page a bit.

2. Affiliate program managers don’t work at internet speeds
When I saw the massive traffic hitting the blog, I belatedly thought “Perhaps I should monetise that…” but aside from Amazon, I was not an affiliate of any of the main retailers selling the products. Most of my applications are still pending today, with only Argos and Tesco coming through in near-real time! Again, advance preparation would be key here.

3. If the meme is strong enough, even a tiny piece of the traffic can be huge
The flood of people looking everywhere for cheap tablet PCs crashed a number of ecommerce sites, including at one point Dixons, Currys, Staples, and several other retailers. It was effectively a shopping DDOS! As such, even though my 2 modest pages were on the periphery of the event, they still attracted “interesting” levels of traffic.

4. Google does work at internet speeds
Google delivered its highly daily count of visitors (359) on the day I made the initial blog post, and that traffic has declined gently since then. Meanwhile, Bing delivered 21 visitors during the same 7 day period that Google brought close to 2,000.

5. Every detail counts
Looking at the “long tail” of search keywords used to find my site, it’s clear that those searches are far more diverse than you could ever expect to predict from keyword research tools alone. As such, it’s important to add the “incidental” details that sharper-focused searchers might be looking for, such as model/part numbers, colour variations, alternative names (HP TouchPad vs HP Tablet), generic category descriptions (“tablet PC”), spec details (16GB, 32GB, etc.), as well as “shopping” keywords like “buy”, “in stock”, “out of stock”, “supplier”, “shop”, “retailer”, “fire sale”, “cheaper”, “price cut” and so on. (I did particularly badly on this point)

6. Send enough people to Amazon and somebody will buy something
Less than 1/3 of the products ordered by Amazon visitors referred by my blog posts had anything at all to do with the HP fire sale (and most of those leads probably won’t pan out as they were for TouchPads that it seems Amazon may have trouble fulfilling). So although you obviously want to select products that are likely to convert directly, if you can generate interesting levels of traffic, Amazon’s suggestion tools and brand strength will see to it that you’ll end up selling things you would never have imagined.

7. It only takes a few snowflakes to start an avalanche, under the right conditions
I kicked off the “promotion push” with a tweet about my shopping page (“This might help (a little) if you’re trying to buy one of the bargain HP TouchPads this evening…”) and ultimately I ended up posting 9 tweets, and 4 forum posts across 2 forums about it. That’s all it took on the promotional front.

8. The most important thing about a timely event is timeliness
Over the first 24 hours, when the shopping mania was hitting its peak, a substantial number of visitors were hitting my blog post 10, 20 or more times in a matter of hours (thanks, Google Analytics!). As such, I kept tweaking the page, adding snippets of information like a list of each “dead” retailer as the product sold out, which I believe contributed to the “return visitor” count.

9. Keep your eye on the prize
I really only collected the links because I was trying to buy a TouchPad! They were in an open Notepad file on my desktop for the first few hours, before I realised they would work as a blog post. But once I got sucked into the constant blog updates, I didn’t keep up with the minute by minute changes (retailers were selling out in 10-15 minutes) so ultimately I found myself staring at “out of stock” notes on every single retailer I visited. No TouchPad for me.

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