Creating High Demand With A Fake Error Page

A few weeks ago, I set my alarm for 8:30am with thousands of other UK music fans. It didn’t matter that I was hanging like a dog without a bone. I wanted to buy Glastonbury tickets and I knew the usual painstaking process of navigating an online jam on SeeTickets.com.

If you’ve never been sat at your desk trying to buy Glasto tickets, let me explain the process for you.

– Tickets are due to go on sale at 9am.
– Tickets somehow end up going on sale at 8:50am.
– SeeTickets.com couldn’t handle the demand and crashed at 8am.

What usually follows is a three hour F5 mashing session, hopelessly contesting with thousands of other users the chance to buy a ticket that at £185, is bordering on scandalous for a festival where not a single act has been confirmed.

I was one of the lucky ones. After receiving dozens of error messages and “server timed out” notifications, I finally made it to the booking page. I guarantee you this. You’ve never seen somebody fill out a form and hand over their credit card details so quickly in your life.

It wasn’t until my confirmation email arrived that I thought to myself “Actually, that’s quite an effective selling technique”

Frustrate me to the brink of tearing my hair out by not letting me buy something I want. I had a think about the psychology behind it all. On Twitter, I could see Glastonbury trending and thousands of frustrated fans struggling and bitching over their inability to bag a ticket.

It dawned on me that, actually, the Glastonbury organizers couldn’t give a shit how bad the ticketing process is. They probably quite like the sound of a thousand music fans begging for the chance to buy a ticket. It’s the creation of high demand. It adds to the prestige.

This week it happened again. Take That, a group you need not investigate if you don’t already know them by sigh, crashed every ticketing website that was supporting their tour. BBC and Sky News reported on the incident and what happened 24 hours later? The group released ten extra dates! I’m willing to bet that any Take That fan who wasn’t already aware of the concerts, will have rushed out with even more incentive to buy tickets upon hearing the demand.

Creating an illusion of high demand is something that can be applied to your affiliate campaigns too. I started to think about how I could use a scenario similar to a frantic rush to buy tickets. How could I build hype around my service by creating this illusion of such high demand that the user HAD to act now or miss out altogether?

Well, I’m not going to give away my exact creatives. But I came up with a unique slant on my dating landing pages that looked like this:

“PAGE LOAD ERROR!

“We are experiencing an unprecedented high demand from 35-40 year old females to join DatingSiteX.com. We could not process your request.”

“As a result, we are only able to accept another [4] new registrations before *insert your little PHP date script here* when our invitation will be closed.”

Please click here to try our mirror site

The “Fake Error Page”, if you will. A landing page so fiendishly innocent and so clinically effective that I felt bad for even using it. I’ve often enjoyed an upturn in conversions when I’ve put it to the right use. But as with most things affiliate marketing, the money is in the execution.

My intention was firstly to produce a creative that sold the fact that this really was the “next big thing” in terms of dating sites. So your banners are going to be important in that stake. But critically, the landing page was to establish an illusion of high demand. Now let me just say that you’re not going to enjoy much success without a very specific line of approach here. It can’t be a standard error page.

You have to get creative and design something that retains the reader’s attention. And for that, you’re going to have to stop reading this blog and grow your own ideas instead of jacking mine.

Of course, when the user clicks the mirror site link, they get taken straight through to the registration page. Except they’ve had the illusion enforced in their heads that this site really is the dog’s bollocks. Be careful not to use this ploy on the wrong crowd. You don’t want to advertise to tech savvy bastards who take your page load error as a sign of weakness and leave on their high horses.

Nobody wants to miss out and nobody wants to feel left out. It’s a very simple technique. It’s also a technique that needs to be applied VERY carefully to avoid losing too much traffic. When I tell people that I blew X amount of dollars sending traffic to an error page, I’m not always pissed off about it.

There are many other ways to establish an illusion of demand in your service. I’m sure a lot of the guys who’ve published flogs and farticles will be aware of them. Some are misleading, some are just too downright effective for mainstream advertisers ever to dare use them. Either way, you shouldn’t be afraid to get creative and try something different.

Some of the most effective campaigns I’ve come up with have been born out of religiously studying people’s browsing habits. What they do, what they click, why they click it. You can drive yourself to the point of insanity just by watching how people react to various traits of the web around them.

Ironically, as I went to publish this post just ten seconds ago, I received an Internal Server Error.

That’ll be Karma shagging me in the arse.

About the author

Finch
Finch

A 29 year old high school dropout (slash academic failure) who sold his soul to make money from the Internet. This blog follows the successes, fuck-ups and ball gags of my career in affiliate marketing.

16 Comments

Leave a comment
  • So basically you lie to get people to sign up. Sounds like something a teenager would do. Definitely not something to base a business off of. Lets hope the advertiser sees your ad and cuts you off.

  • “Ironically, as I went to publish this post just ten seconds ago, I received an Internal Server Error.

    That’ll be Karma shagging me in the arse. ”

    Hahahahaha i love this part lol.

  • interesting post,
    I once read somewhere that a guy got x10 adsense clicks when his site was less responsive and people were eager to load pages and see what was there.

  • Brilliant post 🙂 I’ve done something along the same lines in terms of creating a demand.

    I used to be a part of a site that had a massive community and the only funding was purely donations. So to cover server costs once a year we decided to host a competition. Well more of a prize draw.

    Now bare in mind we didn’t have the capital to cover the costs of any prizes at all.

    However one year, i devised a nice little plan of creating this prize draw that would create a sort of hysteria.

    We had a tier of prizes and the prizes equated to around £1000. We put a nice little disclaimer that if the cost of the prizes couldn’t be covered then we would pass on a percentage of the ticket sales.

    Instead of going all out and simply advertising we had a £1000 worth of prizes we put like a playstation3 up for grabs and an xbox360, and with the site being a techie site the demand was already huge. Tickets costing £5 started flying out.

    About a week into the draw of the three months deadline we set. We’d hit over 150 tickets and were getting very close to covering the costs of the xbox and the ps3.

    So i thought what the heck. Go out on a limb and add another prize. I think it was like an external hard drive or something like that.

    The ticket sales increased massively. As the odd of people winning went down, so did the tickets.

    Until we repeated the process again and again.

    Basically without dragging this out. In the end of the three months. We had about 50 prizes worth about £4000.

    We managed to cover the server costs for over a year in the one hit. The server costs were about £250 a month as well. It was bandwidth intensive and needed a bit of beef.

    Anywayz, a little long winded, but i guess it reiterates finches point about creating a hysteria and demand and influencing people’s emotions.

    Sorry for the mispellings/shit grammar. English is my first language!

  • nice post Finch, something i didnt think about.

    @Seth, I guess you have no idea of advertising or how to sell products.

  • This happened on the day IWEARYOUSHIRT.COM was taking new offers for 2011. The site crashed and when it was back up , almost all the ad spots were gone.

  • Another clever and well written post.
    It is a good spin on the “false scarcity” ploy but I am not sure how comfortable I would be with it..

    But it could be employed in other ways..

  • I can understand why some affiliates would be cautious about using it. There’s an element of misleading the user involved. But it’s more of an illusion than a blatant lie.

    One thing that definitely is important is that you stress that it’s your own landing page that has been experiencing the “problems”. You don’t want to reflect badly on the brands you’re advertising by saying that their own sites are crashing.

  • Hmm. Have you got any ideas on how to make a page load slower? Any laggy javascripts, etc? Just if it goes straight to an error page, with no wait, some people might think something’s up.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Copyright © 2009-.