Exactly how huge is ecommerce? Almost two trillion dollars a year huge.
You’d think there’d be enough business to go around wouldn’t you? But if you run an ecommerce site, you don’t need me to tell you that business doesn’t just happen by magic. You’ve got to work for it - and with the number of online sites growing every day, it’s getting even harder.
But savvy online retailers are adapting to the change really fast and have learned new ways of standing out from the crowd. And ecommerce content marketing is the most effective.
With content marketing, retailers are able to engage with their audience and ultimately make more sales. It’s the sweet spot where blogging, SEO, social media, link-building and even paid search all converge.
Content marketing is hugely under utilised
Despite this, many ecommerce businesses still rely on what they consider to be the tried and tested methods of ecommerce. That means a home page plastered with their products instead of high quality content that can help a visitor reach their decision faster.
That’s just so 2005....
It’s not like they don’t know how useful content can be to their marketing strategy. It’s just that they assume that “content must require a big budget” or “it must take a heap of my time” or maybe “it’s too much of a commitment and will take a lot to sustain it”.
Now I don’t dispute some or all of these. But I just think the challenges are overstated.
Sure, it does require a budget. But it doesn’t have to bankrupt you. It also takes time to really see the benefits and you do have to be committed if you want consistent results.
But here’s the upside...
On average, ecommerce sites doing content marketing have a conversion rate of 2.9% while that of their counterparts is only 0.5%.
So today I’m going to explain how you can quickly switch from the old “in your face” approach to the highly effective content-first approach. Summarised below are the main points I cover on how to make ecommerce content marketing work for you.
Your ecommerce content marketing strategy
Now if the mere thought of creating a strategy gives you the shivers, then relax.
I’m not one to stand in the way of anyone who likes to create huge strategy documents. If that floats your boat then don’t let me stop you. It’s just that I prefer a bit more of an action-oriented strategy.
So, what should your strategy have?
1. The first thing is your content marketing goals. What are you trying to achieve? This should have both short-term and long-term goals.
For instance, you want people to sign up for your email newsletter? That’s a short-term goal. But eventually, you want to have a whole community around your brand. That’s a long-term goal - but one that starts now.
Personally I find it best to identify goals in terms of authority and conversion. Authority involves things like traffic and list building whereas conversion focuses on getting more of your visitors to buy more of your stuff.
2. The second thing you need on your strategy is a list of influencers. Don’t get hung up on the word and think that you’ve got to start schmoozing the ‘A listers’. My most basic definition of an influencer when it comes to content is a) they have a blog and b) they have an audience.
This is important because a) they can link back to you and b) they can share your stuff with their audience.
So, take time to research and create a list of influencers to include in your strategies. Think bloggers, non competing/complementary services or products and other businesses that share your audience.
3. Thirdly, you need a buyer persona. This keeps you focused on the audience you’re targeting. Depending on your business, you might require more than one buyer persona. Create as many as you require––not that many, really; a maximum of three will do.
4. The fourth item on the list is the buyer journey. You need this to help you determine the kind of content to create as your buyer reaches different steps in the purchase process.
Remember, it’s hard to get people to enter their card details on your site. We all know that. But it’s a lot easier to invite them in at the wide end of the funnel when they’re considering the options.
As you expect, you need to commit to your content marketing. To help you with this, create a content calendar.
Content for traffic and authority
Let’s start with the sexy side of content marketing: traffic and authority.
The two are inextricably linked. Let’s face it, someone needs to be the ‘Voice of the Industry’. So why not you?
Fortunately there are various types of content that can help you build your authority among your influencers and hence make them more likely to get behind your content.
An excellent starting point is creating expert guides. At a minimum of three or four thousand words they are heavyweight content that clearly states: You can trust me because I am an expert in this field.
For this reason alone they are very effective way of getting on the radar of your busy Influencers.
The trick with guides is not to get overwhelmed. Sure, this is long form content but most of this stuff is either on your hard drive, in your outbox or just up there in your head. You know all this stuff - you’ve just got to make a commitment to get it all ‘out there’.
So eat the elephant in chunks. Create six or seven chapter headings. Convert each into a thousand word blog post. Publish one or two a week. After three or four weeks, bang! you’ve got yourself the basic content for your guide.
Now you’ve got your guide you can take it ‘on the road’. You’ll start getting guest blogging gigs with this type of content.
And I don’t mean spammy, guest post opportunities that Google’s put the kibosh on. Remember you’ve got a list of Influencers so you know who you’re after and these are quality gigs.
List based content
Then we’ve got list posts. Sure, they’ve been overdone in recent years but we seemed to be hard wired for lists. They’re fun and throwaway and tend to be better for social sharing, but they also present an opportunity to take another view of the world. Don’t build your entire strategy around lists, but do include them from time to time.
Now that you’re starting to develop relationships with the movers and shakers why not get them to create the content for you? This is where crowdsourced content comes into its own. Think of a question and put it to your list of Influencers and let them provide the answers.
Think about it. If you feature someone in your content (and who doesn’t love to be featured) what’s going to be the first thing they do when they see it? You got it - hit the share button.
What about infographics? OK, OK, bear with me. I know they’ve been overcooked but when done well, an infographic can become a backlink and share magnet.
The trick is to focus on one main point or argument and back it up with a dozen points max. Any more and it just becomes a crazy mishmash of facts and figures.
Another underused type of content that is really popular is comparisons. If you’re selling a product then you’ve got the perfect opportunity to pitch product A against Product B (iPhone vs Android). It works perfectly for services too (WordPress vs Joomla vs Drupal).
The trick is to position yourself as the impartial referee drawing attention to the points for and against, and coming to a reasoned conclusion.
Remember, people are looking for help to justify their purchasing decisions. They’re busy and they just haven’t got the time to go researching all the options. This type of content helps them to make an informed decision and that puts you in a position of authority in their eyes.
Content for conversion
So, traffic and authority are great to have. But conversion is where the rubber hits the road.
There’s no point making all that effort to get people to your website if they’re not going to buy. That’s where conversion content comes in. I mean let’s face it 1,000 qualified leads will always trump 10,000 unqualified ones.
Your content marketing strategy therefore should have space for creating content with the purpose of increasing conversions.
This is the type of content that helps build trust and prove to your visitors that you’re a safe pair of hands. It helps you set the benchmark by which potential customers measure you against less well informed competitors.
The secret is to create content that answers your prospects’ questions. It’s your chance to use your expertise to create rich content that customers can rely on. Here’s what you should be creating:
How to Guides
First up are How to Guides. A friendly How To Guide tackles everyday issues that your prospects are experiencing and presents the solution in an easy to digest, step by step manner. If you’re absolutely stuck on where to start, this is as good a place as any.
Next we have Buyer’s Guides. These are breathtakingly simple to create but hugely effective because you are setting the benchmark in your prospects’ minds.
Just think of all the sales calls you’ve had with your prospects over the years, or the emails you’ve answered. It’s all there for you. Just take all of those questions and create an informative Buyer’s Guide that provides all of the answers. A conversion goldmine!
And what about video? Too difficult? Well what if I told you that you can expect up to an 80% increase in conversions using video on your sales pages.
You can use them to complement your other content too, such as How to Guides and Buyer’s Guides. And if you’re really stuck just start unboxing - it’s a HUGE phenomenon.
User Generated Content
Another key component of conversion content is User Generated Content (UGC). Sure, it would be nice if people just automatically believed every claim we made about ourselves but that’s just not the case.
That’s where Reviews, Testimonials and Case Studies come into play. They are the genuine voice of your client and from a conversion perspective they’re pure solid gold.
In my experience a lot of businesses are far too shy to ask for reviews or testimonials but in reality they’re pushing at an open door. People enjoy giving feedback, especially if they’re experiencing a good service. And the best time to ask? When you’ve got a happy client in front of you.
Case Studies are more in depth but there is a tried and tested formula for creating them. Just state the problem clients were experiencing, ask why they chose you, what happened during the process and finally what was the outcome.
You’ve created some great content. Excellent. But don’t hit the ‘publish’ button just yet.
Why? Simply because Content Visuals are a key piece of the jigsaw. If you’re not sure then it’s worth considering that 74% of social media marketers use images in their posts.
So visuals aren’t really a bolt-on extra - they’re the basic price of entry these days.
But also, they can be a fantastic way to repurpose other content for different audiences. People just like to consume content in different ways.
Here are some of the options to consider…
First up are Slides. Slideshare is the YouTube of Slides. And Slideshare gets a TON of traffic. There are plenty of people who love the logical, step by step approach of a slide presentation. You’ll need to optimize it with keywords etc., and try to avoid just presenting boring bullet points.
PDFs are another great way to breathe life into your content and some people are addicted to PDFs. Sure, they have limited SEO value in that they can’t be fully optimized but they can attract backlinks and they are easy to embed on sales pages to improve conversion rates.
OK, we’ve covered video before, but have a good look through your content catalogue. I’ll bet there’s a ton of stuff you can create a video from. You’ve got loads of options too. Take your pick from whiteboard presentations, screen captures, webinars or even just a quick product video on your mobile.
I know we’re on the visual aspects but don’t forget audio. The death of podcasting keeps getting postponed for the simple fact that some people just prefer their content spoken so it’s worth keeping an open mind on that front.
Content promotion and distribution
Finally, you need to get your content in front of eyeballs.
The simple truth is that no matter how great and optimised your content is, it can never share itself. Simply writing it, throwing in great visuals and publishing on your blog isn’t going to get it in front of your audience.
To make sure your effort creating the oh so high quality content is honoured, spend a sufficient amount of time promoting it.
You have three channels at your disposal:
Owned channels. These are under your direct control and include your blog, website, social accounts, email list, etc.
Earned channels. These include external channels that have seen your content and are happy to promote it either through links and shares or by quoting you. Think influencers and media sites.
Paid channels. You’re probably already paying for ads on your products. But why not divert some of that budget to promote your content too? These kinds of search terms are much less competitive and will help bring paid visitors to your brand and can be backed up by a remarketing campaign.
This isn’t an “either or” step. I’d suggest using all three to gain maximum exposure.
Is content marketing quick and easy? No. Will success come for free? No.
Is it worth it? Absolutely.
Start with understanding your goals - whether that’s for traffic or conversion. Then consider your client profile and identify the questions they’re asking which will guide the content you need to create.
Make a list of influencers who can help with the heavy lifting of content promotion and make your content visually appealing.
It sounds like a lot of work but it will pay off - remember, most of your competitors won’t be doing this kind of stuff.