April 3, 2009, 12:00 AM

The secret to more site traffic? Squeezable meat

If you offer bacon squeeze, they will come. That’s the lesson ThinkGeek learned this week with its April Fools’ Day spoof home page. The fake products on the page have garnered traffic spikes for the retailer each year since the tradition began in 2001.

If you offer bacon squeeze, they will come.

At least, that’s the lesson zany e-retailer ThinkGeek learned this week with its annual April Fools’ Day spoof home page. The yearly smattering of fake products has garnered quite a following since the tradition began in 2001-and incremental traffic and buzz for ThinkGeek.

ThinkGeek experienced a 600% increase in traffic on April 1 this year compared to its average traffic numbers, and 250% more traffic than its busiest day during the holiday season, says Caroline Offutt, vice president and general manager at ThinkGeek. The retailer’s conversion rate was about 40% higher this April Fools’ than last. ThinkGeek attributes this mainly to the popularity of this year’s free-with-purchase T-shirt, which displayed an image of a quick response code.

In addition to the convenient squeezable meat, this year’s fake product selection also included a handy Unicorn Chaser potion that promises to remove disturbing online images inadvertently viewed -such as, say, a video of grandma parasailing sans clothes-from one’s mind.

To promote the spoof page, the retailer, No. 268 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, sent e-mails to its customer base, a message to its Twitter followers and promoted the page on Facebook. It also posted videos of the products on YouTube. This year’s squeezable bacon spot has already attracted more than 62,000 views and the Unicorn Chaser a respectable 16,000. The YouTube video for 2007’s popular fake Wii Helm, a Wii controller built into a helmet to allow a consumer to use his head to control the Nintendo video game console, has attracted 590,000 viewers.

Fans eagerly awaited the prank this year, says Jennifer Frazier, co-founder and web design manager for ThinkGeek. “We were a few hours late getting the page up this year-we put it up around 2 a.m. instead of midnight-and around 12:30 we started getting e-mails wondering where it was,” she says.

When consumers tried to place one of the fake items in their shopping carts, they received a message that it’s not for sale. April Fools’ items are archived on the site so visitors can still have a good laugh even after the holiday is over, ThinkGeek says.

But some of the fake goods are so well received that they turn into real ones. Last year’s personal soundtrack T-shirt, for example, started out as a spoof, but the retailer received so much positive feedback that it decided to manufacture and sell it. It was a top seller.

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