Promoting most traditional businesses online isn’t really that difficult. Most businesses that want more web traffic simply advertise on Google AdWords or boost some content on Facebook. You may have been initially surprised, then, when you attempted to promote your vape shop on Facebook or AdWords and discovered that neither website allows advertisements relating to e-cigarettes. Google and Facebook, it turns out, both lump e-cigarettes in with tobacco products — and they don’t accept tobacco product ads. So, how do you promote a vape shop online?
Welcome to the quandary that just about every e-cigarette website faces at some point. Most everyone seems to agree that e-cigarettes are potentially less harmful than cigarettes. Many smokers try e-cigarettes and never smoke again. To the major online advertising venues, though — which do allow alcohol advertising, by the way — e-cigarettes are just as bad as cigarettes. If you want to break through in the competitive vaping market, you’ll have to be creative.
Roll up your sleeves. We’re going to get your vape shop some web traffic.
Search Engine Optimization for Vape Shops
To drive traffic to your vape shop’s website, SEO will likely be your primary technique — and SEO begins with a website’s content. You’re going to need to add a blog section to your website if you haven’t already, and you’ll need to write articles that rank well on search engines. If that were an easy task, of course, there would be no need for search engine rankings. What it all comes down to, though, is that you need to write great content. Every time you write an article, you should try to go above and beyond in addressing the article’s topic in a way that would delight the reader.
How can you decide what to write about? We have a few suggestions:
Since your vape shop’s website most likely doesn’t have a lot of existing domain authority. You’re probably not going to achieve a top ranking on Google with an article targeting a very general keyword phrase like “best e-liquid.” General keyword phrases receive a great deal of search volume — which means that many websites have articles targeting those keyword phrases.
While your website is still gaining traction on Google, you’re better off writing articles that target much more narrow niches. If you write an article targeting the keyword phrase “best fruit punch e-liquid,” for example — and your article thoroughly satisfies the intent that someone might have when searching for that keyword phrase — the article will have an excellent chance of reaching the top of the search results immediately. If your article is the only one online that fully satisfies a search term, it will receive traffic.
Online content containing original research is quite rare. If you conduct exhaustive research on a topic and use it to create a resource that doesn’t exist elsewhere, you’ll automatically have an advantage over your competition.
Have you ever searched for information online and pulled up the first several search results — only to find that there weren’t many differences between them? It’s very easy to write an article by taking information from the most authoritative websites and rewriting that information in your own words. A great many websites do exactly that when they publish new content. The information in the content is the same, though, as what’s already out there.
If you want your vape shop’s website to rank well on Google, you need to bring something new to the table. The best way to do that is with original research.
As a vape shop owner, you probably answer questions on a daily basis. What is sub-ohm vaping? How do I clean an e-cigarette? You know what questions e-cigarette users typically try to find the answers for online — because you have actual customers asking you the same things. Writing articles that answer those questions is an excellent way to bring traffic to your vape shop’s website.
Providing information for free with the hope of making a sale later is called content marketing. Content marketing works well because informational content is much more likely than sales content to encourage people to visit unfamilar websites. Also, giving away free information is likely something that few of your competitors are doing — so informational content tends to rank well on search engines more easily than sales content.
Benefits of Content Marketing for Vape Shops:
- Allows a newer website to increase its traffic very quickly.
- Helps to establish your vape shop as a trusted source of quality information.
- Builds brand awareness — as long as you do a good job of branding your content.
Content marketing does have a downside, though: It rarely results in immediate sales.
Let’s suppose a person searches online for an article about how to clean an e-cigarette. Is that person likely to buy an e-cigarette that day? Probably not. A person who wants to learn how to clean an e-cigarette already owns one — and probably just bought it. Don’t discount content marketing, though, just because it doesn’t generate a lot of direct revenue. Content marketing has three far-reaching effects — if your articles are good enough.
- Your articles can generate traffic from social media when readers share them.
- People will link to your articles, increasing the authority of your vape shop’s website. Over time, the website’s sales content will begin to rank higher on Google.
- Content marketing gives you opportunities to capture leads. You can advertise to those leads later — when they are ready to buy.
Capturing Leads: Building Your Vape Shop’s Mailing List
A person who reads a purely informational article on your vape shop’s website probably isn’t going to buy that day. For your best chance of selling to that person in the future, you need to capture his or her information — and that means building a mailing list. A mailing list gives you an opportunity to continue marketing to people after they’ve left your website. To build a mailing list, you need three things:
- An email marketing service. We use MailChimp. It’s very easy to use, and it’s free if your list has less than 2,000 subscribers and you send less than 12,000 emails per month.
- A plugin to advertise your mailing list and entice people to subscribe. We use the Bloom plugin by Elegant Themes. You can download everything that Elegant Themes makes for $89.
- You need to give people a reason to subscribe.
Making people want to subscribe to a mailing list is hard. People know that subscribing to a mailing list means that they’ll receive advertisements. Here are a few things that you can try:
- Offer a content upgrade. “Did you like this guide? Sign up for our mailing list, and we’ll send you a free e-book that shows you how to maintain and repair the three most popular e-cigarette models.”
- Offer a giveaway. “This month, we’re giving a complete coil building kit to five newsletter subscribers! Sign up now to enter.”
- Offer a single-use coupon. “We’d love for you to visit our vape shop in downtown Denver! Sign up for our mailing list and immediately print a coupon for a 20 percent discount on your first purchase.”
Local SEO for Vape Shops
When you write content for your vape shop’s website, don’t forget that you should also write an occasional article with a local focus. Search terms such as “vape shop in (city name)” and “e-cigarettes in (city name),” for example, will probably be some of the most important keyword phrases for your business.
You can insert one of those keyword phrases into a general information article with a call to action at the bottom. “Are you looking for the best vape shop in San Diego? Stop by and look at our deals today!”
You can also send local signals to search engines with locally focused content. Use these article titles for inspiration:
- Choosing the Best Vape Shop in San Diego
- The Hottest Vaping Trends in San Diego
- The Five Things You Should Ask Before Buying an E-Cigarette in San Diego
By using keywords to send local signals to search engines, you’ll increase your vape shop’s chance to rank well for local searches. Don’t forget to put your business’s name, address and phone number (NAP) somewhere on every page. Google considers the presence and consistency of NAP information a very strong local ranking signal.
Business Directories, Social Media and Local Citations
Key Business Directories for Vape Shops
Business directories are so important that we’ve written an entire guide to business directories for vape shops. In short, though, business directories are important for three primary reasons:
- People search business directories to find local businesses. Business directories will send customers to you.
- Business directories allow customers to leave reviews. Review signals will influence your vape shop’s search engine ranking.
- Business directories provide local citations. We’ll explain that term further in a moment.
Generally speaking, you should create or claim listings for your vape shop on as many business directories as possible. These are the three most important business directories for vape shops.
If you want to advertise your vape shop online, Google and Facebook do not want your money. Do you know who does, though? Yelp. Yelp is the most important business directory — and Yelp allows vape shops to pay for more prominent placement on search results pages. Yelp receives more than 100 million unique monthly visitors — and most of those visitors are ready to spend money at local businesses. Your vape shop needs to be on Yelp.
Google My Business
Google My Business is important because it is your official avenue for providing Google your business’s name, address, phone number and category. Google will potentially use that information when displaying results for local searches such as this one:
When Google detects a local search, its algorithm displays results on a map at the top of the results page. You definitely want your vape shop to be there. Adding your vape shop to Google My Business doesn’t guarantee that you’ll appear on the map, but it helps. Google also allows users to review businesses. If your vape shop receives many reviews, the likelihood of your business appearing on the map will increase.
Bing Places for Business
Don’t discount Bing Places for Business just because Bing isn’t as popular as Google. Bing is the default search engine on Amazon Kindle devices. On iOS devices, Siri draws data from Bing — and voice search is only going to become more popular in 2017 as natural language processing improves.
Social Media Marketing for Vape Shops
If you’re reading this article, it’s likely that your vape shop already has a website (find out why your vape shop needs a website if you don’t). You’re probably also on at least one social media platform already. It is actually very wise, though, to add or claim profiles for your vape shop on as many social media platforms as possible. Each social media platform can create value for your vape shop in a slightly different way. Business pages, for example, have essentially turned Facebook into a business directory in its own right. Social media platforms also give you avenues — in addition to your own mailing list — for marketing your vape shop directly to customers and potential customers.
If a social media platform allows you to list the name, address and phone number of your business, it also provides a local citation — and now it’s time to discuss why citations are so important for promoting your vape shop online.
The Importance of Local Citations
You probably already know that a link from an authoritative website can help to increase the search engine ranking of your vape shop’s website. Did you know, though, that an online mention can improve your ranking even if it doesn’t include a link? An online page that contains your business’s name, address and phone number is a citation. Google’s algorithm looks for a large number of online pages that list your business’s NAP information when it determines whether to list your business on the map at the top of local search results pages. Google also wants the NAP to match in as many citations as possible — Google won’t display a business’s listing if the algorithm isn’t confident that the contact information is correct.
So, start building citations now. Create or claim as many pages on business directories and social media websites as possible. Add your business’s name, address, phone number and website link to each one. Complete your profiles by describing your business and adding pictures. If you find incorrect contact information, fix it.
Supply Search Engines With Structured Data
Structured data — or schema — is extra information that you can embed within webpages to define the data that your pages contain. You can use schema, for example, to tell search engines that your website is a business’s website and provide your vape shop’s name, address and phone number. You can also use schema to provide details such as your business’s hours to search engines. Getting started with schema isn’t easy, but there are several WordPress plugins that make adding structured data to your website easier. At minimum, you should use schema to add your business’s contact information and hours to your website. Schema gives search engines extra information that they may add when displaying your business on results pages. It also sends an additional signal that can help your vape shop appear on the map at the top of local search results.
Optimize Your Website’s Structure
At eCig One, we strongly advocate a silo structure for vape shop websites. In short, a silo structure ensures that each piece of content reinforces the importance of a main sub-theme, while the sub-themes reinforce the importance of the website’s main theme. Here we have an example of a basic silo structure for a vape shop:
As you can see, the website’s primary keyword phrase is “Vape Shop in San Diego.” The subtopics — such as “E-Cigarettes in San Diego” — are closely related to the main topic and reinforce its importance. The individual product categories — such as “Box Mods” — are closely related to the subtopics. Below the product categories, you’d have individual product pages. Every page reinforces the importance of the page above it in the hierarchy.
Optimize Your Website’s Design
Does your website have a professional design that puts users first — and more importantly, puts mobile first? Most of Google’s search traffic now comes from mobile devices. As a result, Google will transition to a mobile-first search index sometime in 2017. Most of the people who visit your vape shop’s website will probably use mobile devices as well. For the best possible performance on Google, you need a mobile-friendly website. We mentioned Elegant Themes earlier in this article. If you buy the Bloom plugin, you’ll receive access to all themes from Elegant Themes as well. Their themes are responsive, which means that the themes automatically scale or move page elements to fit on smaller screens. We use Elegant Themes, and we can’t recommend them highly enough.
If your vape shop’s website already looks professional and displays correctly on mobile devices, the next things that you should examine are the website’s layout and design. Is the text large and readable on all screen sizes? Is the interface large enough that someone can use it by tapping? Have you removed unnecessary links to make your sales funnel as prominent as possible?
Does your vape shop sell products online? If it does, you could benefit greatly by launching an affiliate program.
An affiliate program essentially gives you access to salespeople around the world — people who run websites just like eCig One. Those people will place links to your vape shop on their websites. If someone clicks an affiliate’s link and buys a product, you’ll pay the affiliate a portion of your revenue. Affiliate marketing is just like many other fields in sales; affiliates have plenty of motivation to do well because their pay depends upon their performance.
Running a successful e-cigarette affiliate program is a large enough topic to merit its own article. However, we can provide a few pointers to help you get started:
- Use an affiliate network to track sales and manage affiliate payments. We recommend ShareASale.
- Clearly define your vape shop’s unique value proposition. There are already lots of e-cigarette companies with very established affiliate programs. Why should someone promote your vape shop online instead?
- Pay your affiliates well. Affiliates know how high the profit margin can be in the e-cigarette industry.
- Search for influencers and thought leaders to recruit top affiliates. Many great affiliates don’t spend a lot of time looking for new merchants with whom to partner. They’re too busy nurturing their existing relationships.
- Be attentive and give your affiliates the tools that they need to succeed.
Avoid the Temptation to Cheat
If you searched the web at any point during the history of the e-cigarette industry, there’s a chance that a good number of the websites on the first page of search results cheated to get where they were. Cheating is a pretty common practice among affiliate marketers anyway — but it’s even more tempting to cheat when you can’t advertise a website on any of the traditional channels. Some of the most common tactics that we’ve seen black hat e-cigarette websites use include:
- Buying links or using private blog networks to increase the number of links pointing to a website and increase its ranking
- Buying old domains with existing inbound links, and filling those domains with e-cigarette content that isn’t related to the website’s existing links
- Hiding money-generating e-cigarette content behind self-help content that makes the website look like a nonprofit organization dedicated to smoking cessation
If your goal is to have a thriving vape shop that lasts, we strongly advise against attempting any technique that manipulates search engine rankings. Black hat search engine optimization often brings quick results, but those results are seldom permanent. If Google catches you violating its webmaster guidelines, your website may receive a penalty that reduces its ranking. Google may even remove your website from its index completely.
Black hat marketers don’t terribly mind receiving penalties from Google — they simply use their profits to start over with new websites. Their websites aren’t businesses — they’re temporary vehicles for generating profit. Your vape shop’s website is far more important than that, which means that you’re going to need to promote it the hard way. Getting results may be slow — but those results will last.