Swine flu website provides Internet marketing lesson

Worried people overwhelmed the UK’s Swine Flu website with a massive 9m people visiting in the first hour. The site was getting over 2,000 visitors per second at one point. Now, wouldn’t you like that kind of traffic? Whatever you think about the way the Government has handled the Swine Flu pandemic, they have shown anyone running a website how to get traffic.

The UK Government's Swine Flu website is a huge success in traffic terms

The UK Government’s Swine Flu website is a huge success in traffic terms

And what they have done is what almost every web site does NOT do. Furthermore, what the UK Government has just done to get tons of traffic is what Google did to make itself popular, what the BBC itself does to get tons of traffic and what almost every high-traffic website does.

What the Government did was constantly promote its website using traditional media. The Chief Medical Officer has hardly been off the TV in the past few days, promising this web site. Every bulletin issued by the Department of Health has mentioned the web site, resulting in page after page of media coverage of this website. And where did the Government announce the opening of the website? On the web? No – the website was “launched” on TV.

Google, Amazon and the vast majority of high-traffic websites do this as well. They spend much of their marketing budget on traditional media – getting mentions in the press, on radio and on TV. Many web sites would love to have 9m visitors in a year; the UK Government achieved it within an hour, simply by getting publicity on TV.

Plus, they did one other thing. They spent the two weeks before the launch constantly talking about it and promoting it. They created demand. In fact, Swine Flu is less of a problem than “ordinary” flu. Plus, we also are currently living in an official pandemic for AIDS, yet there hasn’t been the same style of Government response. The cynics amongst us, of course, might suggest that getting us all to worry about flu, takes our minds off the economy and the complete mess the Government has made of it. Plus, when Swine Flu is “defeated”, Gordon Brown will be able to emerge the “hero” for leading the UK response against it.

But whatever you think about this Government, you can’t fault their “Internet marketing” savvy. In short, create demand using traditional media, build the website, announce the website using traditional media and then watch the visitors flood in. If you want lots of traffic, take a tip from the Department of Health, forget promoting your business online – use traditional media, particularly television, instead.

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