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Graeme Benge

The Cambridge Satchel Company: The Social Object Master Class

21st May 2013 Brand, Social Media 5 minutes to read

bigstock-A-bullhorn-or-Megaphone-trumpe-42103402Or How The Cambridge Satchel Company Succeeded In Spite Of (And With Some Help From) Google. Right now Google can play a massive part in small business success and failure, so to understand the role they play I thought I’d take a look at one recent success story and the role Google played and the extent the business helped themselves.

The typical evolution of most retail businesses is to start out with an exciting concept, made real with sales scaled until premises can be secured. The next steps depend on the life of said product, how it can continue to scale or how it can withstand economic buffering. At this point both successful and struggling businesses can tend to seek solace online, casting off the massive overheads of existing in the real world on a real high street and set up shop online as an eCommerce business where both scale and profit exist in a less risky environment (depending on your viewpoint).

The Cambridge Satchel Company took the path less travelled. Starting from nothing, conquering the internet and only then treating themselves to a high street presence with its first retail shop in the not too down market Covent Garden in London. All this off the back of getting people to talk about their product, take pictures of their product and even get a nifty television ad courtesy of Google. It was this that sparked my interest in them:

Now, for the sake of clarity, I have no problem with The Cambridge Satchel Company getting this win fall. It was around the time of Google’s Interflora takedown and the ad content seemed to reflect Interflora’s fall from grace and I was a bit miffed at what looked like double standards. So being a mardy SEO I did the mature thing and gobbed off on Twitter to which Julie Deane very politely and professionally enlightened me:

Cambridge Satchel Company

I approached founder Julie about contributing to this post following her polite response to my Twitter moan about Google’s Interlflora advertorial takedown but alas her schedule prevented it from working.

The point of this post is to explore the success of The Cambridge Satchels Company and understand if this was just one of those things or something that can be replicated.

Given the line of work that I’m in, it can be easy to put the SEO hat on and pick at the site…so I will…

Cambridge Satchel Company Home Page - Pretty Hand Made Leather Satchels

Content: So the home page has little meaningful “quality content” and instead opts for high quality visuals. Handbags, sorry satchels aren’t my thing but they shure do look purty…

Being effectively a carousel the page acts as a bit of a wolf in sheep’s clothing – little content, amazingly enticing imagery coupled with a handful of links that give you all you could really need prior to getting the credit card (presumably out of the old, soon to be unloved, bog standard handbag) and snapping one up.

Meta structure: With next to no text on the page it’s unsurprising that the title tag key word ‘Handmade Leather Satchels’ doesn’t feature on page or even in the Alt attribute of an image (of a ‘Handmade Leather Satchel’). So not much really for Google to work with there.

From a general on page SEO perspective the site is lacking but that all means pretty little if you can do one thing. Commit. If you have the confidence you can bend a market to your will. Well that might make it sound easy and the reality is anything but, that said though whilst it takes a lot of effort, it is not rocket science.

A Social Object

The single simple truth of this is that The Cambridge Satchel Company have established a product desired by many and most importantly a brand people want to engage with – tie these together and I think you have something approaching what Hugh Macleod writes so well about; the social object.

Google organic search offers a remarkable opportunity to obtain “free” traffic however it should not be the basket that you put all your eggs into. Unless you have played by Google guidelines one shift in a filter within the algorithm and it could be curtains. A successful long term business will establish a healthy level of organic traffic but incorporate that within a multi-channel audience derived from their “known” audience; that of email lists and social advocates.

I’ll refer you to Kevin Kelly’s legendary “1,000 True Fans” maxim that still rings true. Delight a pocket of your audience and they will not just send money your way but even better, send more customers.

The platform for this success has been built off the back of having the marketing done on behalf of The Cambridge Satchel Company as opposed to any uber-SEO. Fashion bloggers have loved raving about these bags and have done so in their droves and bucket loads of fashion lovers have followed suit, spreading the word.

Let’s look at some evidence:

In the past 30 days MajesticSEO has been able to detect a bucket load of links with not the best ratio of referring domains (66 links per domain) and MajesticSEO doesn’t have anything too kind to say about how authoritative these domains maybe are or even how well used they are.

link profile

‘Satchels company’ accounts for 85% of the Anchor text used to link to https://www.cambridgesatchel.com/ . Is ‘Satchels company’ a brand term? Tough call, I guess it forms part of the brand but it could also be a legitimate search query for the uninitiated searcher much like ‘Loan company’ might…

All of this is far from exemplary. The point of adding the analysis is to show that building a brand, having the wherewithal to get people talking about you (Celebs endorsing you and the not unhelpful Google TV advert) could achieve that nirvana of sales and a self-sustaining customer base.

The social profile of the business is decent:

  • Instagram – 2,000
  • Twitter – 20,000
  • Google+ – 4,000
  • Pinterest – 1,000

However over on Facebook, the Cambridge Satchel page has close to 46,000 fans. A big if slightly empty number-but over a thousand of them are talking about the page…break that out and suggest a Facebook user has a conservative 200 friends that’s a potential 200,000 news feeds seeing excitable chatter about pink leather satchels.

That is a serious example of getting your audience to establish your brand and pay it forward.

The Cambridge Satchel Company is one of a bazillion brands out there who have successfully used their audience to create buzz and engagement. SEO is still an important part of business strategy but in the age of vengeful Penguins and Panda’s we’d all do well to get some brand insurance. Let me know your thoughts in the comments, and any other brands you feel have done this well. It’d be great to hear from you.

Image Credit

Bullhorn or megaphone – Big Stock

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Graeme Benge

Graeme is a self-confessed chocolate addict and his carefully curated physique reflects this. His beard is better than yours and if you ever want to see such a majestic creature you can find him in the ‘room of doom’ listening to rock and heavy metal.

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