I have been a huge fan of ABC’s Shark Tank since it first aired in 2009. The show quickly became the most-watched TV show in our home as we discussed valuations of the companies and what we thought of the products and sales pitches.
Shark Tank made becoming an entrepreneur cool, and when ABC announced the spin-off series called Beyond the Tank, I was really excited to watch it.
As the name suggests, Beyond the Tank shows what happens after a deal is made and how the investors, or—the “Sharks,” work with the entrepreneurs to expand their businesses.
One of the companies showcased on a Beyond the Tank episode is the Red Dress Boutique which is an e-commerce site that Mark Cuban invested in.
Cuban has made his fortune in technology and the Internet, and I wanted to see what advice he had given the Red Dress Boutique to improve their online sales. What Internet marketing tactics was Red Dress using?
When I pulled up their home page, I was ready to be wowed, but when I hit “view source,” boy was I disappointed!
The title tag was the site name, the meta description tag was 278 characters, and, flashbacking to 2010, the site was still using the meta keywords tag!
What was going on here? Did Mark Cuban not know SEO best practices? Did he not understand that every SEO agency in the country would tell him that the website needed to be optimized better for search if he wanted to grow traffic and sales?
The interesting part about the Red Dress Boutique story is that they have hockey stick revenue growth without putting any emphasis on SEO or search.
Four years ago, their sales were $70,000. In 2013, that number jumped to $7.1 million, and last year—they reached $14 million. Obviously, Red Dress is doing something right, but what is it?
The answer is social. Red Dress positions itself as an American-based and family owned online retailer that specializes in fashion—clothing, shoes, and accessories for young women and teens where most items retail for under $50.00.
Shopping is a visual and community-based activity, and Red Dress takes full advantage of social media to showcase its products.
On Facebook, they have 1.3 million likes:
On Pinterest, they have over 14,000 followers and 18,000 pins:
And on Instagram, they over 165,000 followers:
Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram have helped fuel Red Dress’s growth in part because these are platforms where they can shape the conversation with their audience (with the clothes they use) and interact with their community via comments.
The main focus of the Beyond the Tank episode was the desire of the owners to redesign their site to make it faster—not to help with their Google rankings, but to improve the user’s experience. The Red Dress owners were concerned that the slow loading site was causing some of the images to pixelate, decreasing the user’s experience.
My takeaway from the show and the Red Dress site is that Cuban is focused on Red Dress maintaining its hockey stick growth. He does not want anything to get in the way of that.
Cuban is extremely intelligent, and if he thought there was an opportunity or market that the company was not targeting, then he would mention it. An analysis of the Red Dress Boutique website indicates that search is just not a key component of their growth plan.
And that has to worry Google and the SEO industry. It is clear that Cuban is perfectly fine with the Red Dress Boutique’s current online marketing strategy of using social media to grow its brand, control the message, and interact with its community without the sudden curveballs that Google has been giving website owners the last two years.
Will we see more e-commerce sites turn their attention and advertising dollars away from search and toward social networks? And if we do, what will that mean for search practitioners?