Content marketing for ecommerce
Using onsite content to boost your website
Content marketing is playing an increasingly pivotal role in the new business strategies of most major eCommerce websites.
Over the last couple of years, major search engine updates such as Google Panda and Google Penguin iterations have put well-optimised content centre stage in determining how sites are ranked on those all-important search engine results pages (SERPs). In addition, more and more users are coming to expect that eCommerce sites provide genuinely useful content about what they’re buying rather than just the same generic information as everyone else.
But what exactly is well-optimised and useful content? And how do you go about producing high-quality content that translates into strong sales for your business?
To answer these questions, we’ve put together a new three-part series on content marketing for eCommerce. We’ll start today with onsite content, before moving onto email marketing and outreach in subsequent posts. Our hope is that by the end of this series, you’ll have all the information at your disposal to create a content marketing strategy that delivers tangible returns on investment.
Onsite content basically refers to all of the content (text, images, videos, etc) on your website. In terms of content marketing, the two areas that are particularly worth focusing on are:
- Blog content
- Product and category content
These two areas have quite different requirements, so let’s take a look at each of them in turn.
What is onsite blog content?
Blog content basically just means the posts on your company blog. If the posts are hosted on a third-party blogging site (such as WordPress.com, Blogger or Tumblr), it’s known as offsite blog content. But if they’re hosted on your own website, it’s known as onsite blog content.
Setting up on a third-party blogging site is very easy but, generally speaking, you’re much better off posting onto your own site. There are many reasons for this but perhaps the most compelling is that anyone who chooses to link to one of your blogs (from their website, social media or forums for example) will effectively be helping to boost your entire website rather than just your offsite blog. This is the most natural form of linkbuilding around, helping your website climb the search engine rankings and ultimately generating more sales.
For those of you who’ve already built up a legacy of posts on a third-party blogging site, your best bet long-term is to migrate everything over to your own site if possible. Otherwise your blog will never quite reach its full potential.
Why do I need it?
Onsite blog content usually forms the hub of an effective eCommerce content marketing campaign.
It’s a great way to show that you and your colleagues have a genuine passion for business. What’s more, it allows you to draw attention to the topics of your choosing so it’s ideal for driving sales both directly and indirectly. It enables you to build brand loyalty by portraying your team as thought leaders ‚Äì price isn’t always the decisive factor in influencing online purchasing decisions and, in many cases, customers would rather pay more for the added peace of mind that comes with a trusted brand.
How often should I write?
The optimal frequency for blogging will vary depending on a range of factors such as the established norms for your sector, the size of your product range and the amount of resource you can realistically set aside to producing high-quality content.
As a rough rule of thumb, you might want to aim for one post a week to begin with. This should give you enough time to create interesting content, while also ensuring things are refreshed quickly enough to encourage repeat visitors and help you to build a significant content portfolio over time. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you have to blog all the time though. Take Apple as an example ‚Äì it doesn’t blog often, but when it does the content is top-notch so everyone sits up and takes note.
What should I write?
Write about what you know and you won’t go too far wrong.
You could blog about the latest news in your industry, provide solutions to problems that your customers are likely to encounter, talk about subjects that your target audience enjoys or more generally just offer useful advice. As long as you don’t go down the hard-sell route, you might also want to blog about specific products in your catalogue that you’d particularly like to push (customers of an edgy fashion brand would no doubt appreciate a blog along the lines of ‘What’s in fashion this spring?’).
Remember that people buy products either as a treat or because they fulfil a need, so your content should portray products in that light (eg. a car dealership could blog about ‘What to look for in a new family car’). While outspoken content can occasionally enhance your thought leadership credentials if done right, generally it’s best to stay positive in your content because lots of negativity risks alienating potential customers.
Ultimately, you’re aiming for your online blog content to act as a genuinely useful resource that people want to come back to again and again.
What elements should I include?
There are no hard and fast rules on what to include in a blog.
In general, the best advice is simply to allow yourself to be led by the subject matter. When you’ve got a very visual subject in mind, use lots of images, infographics and videos if you’ve got them or have the resource to create them. Or if it’s very text-heavy, remember that online readers tend to skim-read information much more than their offline counterparts so break up the content with Q&As, headings, subheadings, bolds, italics, lists and so on. Either way, try to include a couple of links if possible ‚Äì internal links (to other parts of your site) help to boost traffic to, and the search engine visibility of, specific pages while external links (to third-party sites) help to boost your thought leadership credentials by showing that you’re engaging with the wider industry.
Also, don’t stuff your content with keywords because this is frowned upon by search engines and it’s very off-putting to readers. However, do remember to include unique HTML titles and descriptions to help your content stand out on SERPs.
Once you’ve published some content make sure you leverage it through other channels such as via email marketing, PR and social media. We’ll cover this fully in future blog posts.
How do I know if it’s working?
You may find some of your onsite blog content starts to attract comments and shares on social media, which is a sign that things are moving in the right direction, but the best way of tracking progress is via analytics.
Blogging platforms, such as WordPress and Blogger, offer a basic level of insight into your content with their own inbuilt analytics platforms. However, Google Analytics offers a much more in-depth look at how the content on your site is performing.
Analytics allows you to examine all sorts of metrics such as the number of hits on specific blog posts or the profile of visitors to your blog as a whole (including their age, gender, location, browser, operating system, internet service provider and device). It also enables you to track their user journey ‚Äì you can see whether they found your content via search engines, social media or other parts of your site, and where they go afterwards. Ideally, a significant minority will be impressed enough to move onto more sales-orientated parts of your website via the main navigation or the internal links that you included in your content. For instance, you could include a call-to-action at the end of your blog (such as inviting them to buy a specific product) and use Analytics to find out what proportion of readers clicked through and actually completed a transaction.
It would be wrong to suggest that more visits to your blog inevitably means more sales. However, if you see an increase in sales over time and particularly for those products that you’ve pushed in your content, you’ll know you are heading in the right direction.
Product and category content
What is product and category content?
Product and category content is the bread and butter of an eCommerce website.
Each product page should be dedicated to a specific product (eg. ‘Charlotte Tilbury Cheek To Chic Blusher’ product page). They’re generally for people who either know exactly what they want or people who are browsing specific items that they might want.
Category pages sit above this (eg. ‘Charlotte Tilbury Ing√©nue Look’ category page) and generally link to a selection of relevant product pages. They’re more for people who either only know roughly what they want or people who just want to find out more as part of their research.
Both product and category pages should be filled with relevant content.
Why do I need it?
Product and category content should explain to visitors exactly what’s available on your eCommerce site.
If done well, it will make website visitors much more likely to convert into paying customers. They also describe exactly what is on the site pages allowing Google to index for SERPs
Do I need to write my own content?
Many eCommerce sites try to cut corners by using generic product information from the supplier or even other venders (although this risks infringing copyright) but the truth is that for the best results you definitely need to write your own content for both product and category pages.
Partly this is for the benefit of search engines ‚Äì Google and its rivals penalise sites that feature duplicate content already found elsewhere on the web. But this is also to help would-be customers ‚Äì people are more likely to trust and buy from brands that go the extra mile to answer all of their questions about a specific product.
What should I write?
Product and category pages are by their very nature more sales-orientated than blogs.
But remember that you’re not just selling products, you’re selling ideas, aspirations and problems solved. What this means is that you’ll achieve better results if you go beyond merely explaining the product to also discuss what difference it’ll make to the buyer.
What elements should I include?
There are lots of disparate elements to include in onsite product and category content.
So, for example, you’ll want to include detailed product descriptions, images and videos where possible. And it’s often a good idea to suggest other items that the customer may be interested in (such as a ‘complete the outfit’ option for fashion sites). Also, try to include some links, don’t stuff your content with keywords and remember to create unique HTML titles and descriptions.
How do I know if it’s working?
There are many ways that you can check the effectiveness of your product and category content, but ultimately its purpose is to drive sales so hopefully any changes you make will be reflected in your financial results.
Having said that, Google Analytics is again incredibly useful for drilling down into the detail, while Google Webmaster Tools (WMT) can also provide some very interesting information. Among other things, WMT can show you what search terms your website is being returned for on Google, what your average Google ranking is for these terms and your click-through rate for each term. It’ll also show you Google’s view of the main keywords on your site ‚Äì if these aren’t relevant to the products you sell then it may be worth reviewing and rethinking your existing content.
Onsite marketing is a huge part of a good eCommerce content marketing strategy.
If you get your blog right, and update all of your product and category pages, this will really help your website get noticed and hopefully supercharge your sales.
For the next post in our content marketing for eCommerce series, we’ll be taking a closer look at email marketing.