Let me preface this by saying that I'm not going to tell you to spam Imgur. This is just an interesting look at how, under the right circumstances, Imgur can drive a lot of traffic - even to a product page.
I randomly stumbled across a comment in an Etsy help forum in which a user claimed to have received 23,000 views in one day to an Etsy page from imgur.com. I had never really thought of the popular image hosting service as something that could have such power for an e-commerce site.
It doesn't seem like Dawn, the Etsy seller who posted that, really expected it either. "I'm not a member, but am sure grateful to whoever posted one of my dresses on it," she said in the thread.
We reached out to Dawn to talk about this a little. "As a seller on Etsy the views and exposure from Imgur were nice, but as we all know views do not mean sales," she says. "I am still getting views from the post which just mentioned this dress. Out of all those views and hearts I believe I have sold three of that particular design and know that two were not from the posting as I did them prior to the post."
OK, so maybe the power isn't completely displayed in this example. But still, 23,000 views in one day to an Etsy page from Imgur. That seems really noteworthy to me. This is not to criticize Dawn in any way, but what if the landing page was more effective? If nothing else, it shows that there is some traffic value Imgur.
"Imgur and sites like reddit can bring a lot of traffic," Dawn says. "You always get a bit a fear when you see them in your stats because it can either be a rave review or not so nice one."
Here's the image and link that drove the traffic. It's the link in the first comment:
"There is another [comment] that is kind of rude saying, 'That blue tie with the black suit is HORRIBLE.' It too links to my listing," she notes.
Yeah, that'll happen. That's the Internet.
Dawn also points to another comment: @barkingmad: Poor Etsy seller is wondering why 50,000 people have looked at her dress today and no one has purchased it. =("
What Imgur says
We talked to Imgur about product promotion and business uses of the services.
"Often times an image of an interesting product will be added to the gallery and Imgur users (Imgurians, as they have named themselves) will post relevant links to products, articles or other images associated with that original image," says Imgur Director of Communications Sarah Schaaf. "We encourage our community to share things with one another, and if they happen to share a link to a product page, we have no problem with that at all."
"The captions section of the gallery is somewhat self-moderated, where the relevant, funny, or otherwise good captions are voted to the top and the bad ones are voted down the ranks so that they are truncated from the original caption feed," she adds. "Usually if a user posts an obvious ad or spam of some sort, other users will take it upon themselves to downvote that caption or report it for removal, so, in the case of a link to a product, it would be important that the link be relevant to the image in a very clear way."
This certainly was the case in Dawn's scenario. The Imgur image was actress Keira Knightley in a blue dress. Dawn's Etsy page was selling a dress modeled after that dress, so someone linked to it.
It's not as though Dawn was out promoting her page on Imgur. I'd advise against that, for the reasons Schaaf mentioned.
"It is against the Imgur terms of service to use Imgur to host advertisements or solicitations, but we allow open use of our API where commercial usage is allowed with prior permission," Schaaf also notes.
Commercial purposes, by the way, are considered sites/apps that earn or expect to earn over $500 a month.
Here's what Imgur's terms of service page says under the "stuff not to do" section:
If someone else might own the copyright to it, don’t upload it. Don’t upload gore, pornography, anything that looks like pornography, advertising, solicitations, "hate speech" (i.e. demeaning race, gender, age, religious or sexual orientation, etc.), or material that is threatening, harassing, defamatory, or that encourages illegality. Don’t hotlink to such content, or to file- sharing or torrent sites. Don’t be a troll or a jerk. Don't impersonate someone else. If you do (and we will be the judge), or if you do anything illegal, in addition to any other legal rights we may have, we will ban you along with the site you're hotlinking from, delete all your images, report you to the authorities if necessary, and prevent you from viewing any images hosted on Imgur.com. We mean it.
So that's not really saying anything about product pages, but the community is what will get you.
But just look at Imgur's stats. They're noteworthy on their own. Luckily, imgur.com always provides its stat counts for all to see. And why not? They're pretty impressive.
Here’s some stats for one month:
Here’s how many times Imgur is appearing on the front page of reddit at just the random time I happened to be writing this. And this is pretty standard.
That’s just the front page, and it’s not much different throughout the site.
The takeaway here: Imgur is really popular. It looks like Imgur will have some official mobile apps later this year (for iPhone/Android). That should make the service even more popular.
Look at how many new users Instagram got just by launching an Android app.
Even without the apps, it's no wonder Imgur can drive so much traffic when the right scenario happens.
Similarly (though to a lesser extent), Dawn gets some traffic from Pinterest, but again, she says she can't confirm if it ever brought her a sale. "I don’t foresee any items exploding with views like I received from Imgur because people are more likely to re-pin than view the item if they like it."
That's a pretty good point about the nature of Pinterest, and one that people hoping to see sales from Pinterest exposure will have to deal with. Still, those repins do equal increased visibility, and that's not a bad thing.