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Whether you’re selling specialty electronics, home-made products or anything in between, content marketing is the key to eCommerce success.
Just having unique web content isn’t enough anymore. Google search algorithms aren’t impressed just by seeing SEO keywords on your pages. Instead you’ll need to give visitors a steady supply of informative, valuable information if you want to sell anything to them.
When your old SEO tricks aren’t working and you’d like to rise toward the top of Google searches, the solution is content marketing. It’s the most effective way to generate leads and build a brand online. It’s also your best advantage over competitors who rely only on SEO keywords.
Does your online store suffer from sagging search-page rankings? Keep reading. We’ll explain what is content marketing and how you can use it to sell more in any eCommerce niche.
What is content marketing and why is it important?
The original gurus at the Content Marketing Institute have been studying it for the past twenty years. They define it as:
… a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.
Content marketing is critically important for eCommerce success because it’s the only way to improve your conversions in any competitive niche.
That’s because education with valuable information is the only way to connect with leads and build enough authority and trust to turn them into customers.
For purposes of this article, we’re using the phrase as applied to content that lives on your website or is connected to social platforms.
In technical terms, this is a type of “non-interruption” marketing that aims to build authority and credibility in a community of potential buyers.
The goal is to attract more traffic, build links and improve sales conversions.
There are also indirect marketing benefits such as more commenting and social shares.
Lots of eCommerce sites have blogs they update occasionally. And, all online stores send out marketing messages via email a few times a year.
But if you want to win the marketing game you’ll need to do much more.
You’ll need to give visitors valuable information to improve their businesses, such as the article you’re reading now.
Know your target buyers….
As we’ve explained in other articles about eCommerce, the first step for any digital marketing is to identify and locate your target audience of prospective buyers.
Keep in mind that you may decide to target multiple audiences with different needs for content.
Each target niche needs its own specific content marketing strategy. For example, let’s say your online store sells sports gear.
Your target audience isn’t “people who play a sport.” That group is far too broad for a content marketing outreach.
Instead, you’ll tailor the content to feed specific subgroups, such as high-school basketball players or middle-aged golfers.
….and find out where they live online
Before you start writing 10,000-word blog posts about random topics, first find out what types of content on which platforms will clearly drive conversions.
Be sure to use B2C marketplaces for consumer outreach and B2B platforms for business marketing.
Here’s an example. Let’s say you’re fixated on using LinkedIn advertising for your online handicrafts store because it seems like the right platform with plenty of users.
But LinkedIn is much better for professional networking than for eCommerce sales. So regardless of how good your site’s content may be, you’re fishing in the wrong sea.
Knowing where your target audience can be found online is the only way to know how to distribute your content for strongest impact.
Social media seems like a no-brainer for distributing content, but it’s important not to make assumptions about buyers’ habits without doing enough research about where to find them.
As in the LinkedIn example, just because prospective customers are using a platform doesn’t necessarily mean your existing marketing and sales conversion processes can be effectively linked to it.
If you want to avoid eCommerce marketing mismatches, put your B2B content on websites and business platforms and your B2C content on consumer platforms and social media.
Engage & inform readers with valuable content
Once you’ve identified the right target audiences and distribution platforms for your content, it’s time to start creating it.
Most important of all, your content must be valuable information that helps people solve their business problems and/or personal issues.
Sophisticated visitors will bounce away from a “hard sell” web page. Instead they want a no-hassle education so they can make their own informed decisions without pressure.
When consumers are ready to buy, they shop on the same trusted authority sites whose content has already educated them.
Give readers enough actionable information that your value is clear. If you educate people well enough, they’ll buy from you as a trusted authority.
Make content that fits into your existing funnels
The only way to ensure success for a content marketing strategy is to tie it directly to your conversion funnels.
That means making sure your content works seamlessly with each element in your marketing and sales processes.
It’s much easier to fit new content into your existing operations and target niches than to create new content first and then go looking for ways to monetize it.
If you’re wondering how to decide which topics to use for blog articles, and and looking for other ways to use writing for content marketing, the answer is easy: Fit the content topic and format to reflect a target audience’s position in a conversion funnel.
For example, you’ll generally use blog posts for top-of-funnel content marketing on your website to bring in new customers.
Meanwhile, you can use email “drip” messages for mid-funnel outreach to existing-but-inactive customers.
On the other hand, if your eCommerce business serves a B2B marketplace, then an industry-specific whitepaper is the best content for attracting attention to your solutions.
Use this funnel graphic to decide which topics to cover and how to present content for different types of buyers.
Blogs & other written content marketing for eCommerce
Good written content should be your first choice for marketing. That’s because writing is easier and cheaper to produce than video.
It’s important to distinguish between copywriting and content marketing: Copywriting keeps a direct focus on selling products and services.
In contrast, the writing for content marketing is more valuable because it’s educational and informative: Content marketing works its magic by letting you inform people and become a trusted authority voice.
Blogging is great for top-of-funnel marketing. How-to articles about solving real-world problems are your most important asset for eCommerce marketing.
SEO can’t win the search rankings game by itself anymore
SEO is helpful. But Google’s search algorithms definitely favor pages that feature lots of good shareable information and insight over “keyword stuffing.”
What’s the biggest customer complaint about products and services in a given eCommerce niche? Use your industry knowledge to solve it and you’ll own the niche.
When you – or someone you hire – writes a blog article that clearly explains how to solve that problem, buyers will notice your store, and you’ll sell more.
When choosing the precise topics to use for blog articles, check for popular SEO keywords in your eCommerce niche.
That means finding out which words and phrases consumers are likely to use when searching for products online.
Pay close attention to keywords that consumers use to search for information about the underlying problems that products are designed to solve.
For example, let’s say your online store sells sustainable hair-care products and your target audience is balding men who are worried about further hair loss from harsh shampoos.
Of course you’d use obvious keywords like “hair loss” when writing a blog article.
You should also include some niche-specific long tail keywords such as “does shampoo cause baldness” or “how can I avoid hair loss.”
In this example, your well-written content can explain how your products help men concerned about hair loss, blah blah blah.
If they buy your story as an authority on the problem, they’ll probably buy your products to solve that problem, too.
By building a library of valuable, informative content with links to related content, you’ll quickly rise upward in search page rankings.
The more people who read and benefit from your blog articles, the more search engine authority and social shares you’ll receive.
The more attention your web pages receive, the more you sell. Even if an eCommerce niche is small, valuable content always draws a crowd eventually.
The more specialized the niche, the more valuable your expert blog content will be for that target audience
For example, let’s say you have an online store called BigBunny where you sell ski equipment to overweight beginners who are learning to ski.
When shopping at most outdoor clothing stores, it’s hard to find ski suits to fit obese people. That’s a problem to be solved by content marketing.
If you incorporate the right keywords, it’s a safe bet that your blog article titled “Tips & Tricks For Big Bunnies” will be a sure hit with a specific audience of readers searching online for products like yours.
Design your content for easy conversion
As mentioned earlier, if you want to sell more then all new content should fit easily into an existing sale conversion funnel process.
That means writing about problems faced by your audience, and offering solutions for those problems.
So after they’ve learned from your informative article, website visitors are driven to click onward through the sales funnel.
How-to guides & buyer guides
Guides can quickly build authority in your target niches. They drive organic traffic to your site when buyers are researching products.
Let’s compare two type of written content – blog articles and buyer guides. As mentioned elsewhere, blog articles are top-of-funnel and they address product and brand awareness concerns.
On the other hand, buying guides are a form of mid-funnel content because they’re aimed at consumers during the evaluation stage of the buying process.
The same as with blog articles and all other forms of content marketing, make sure that your how-to guides and buying guides have clear calls to action that connect directly to your sales process.
Email content marketing for B2B & B2C audiences
Whenever someone buys from your online store or gives you their contact information, it’s a great opportunity to add them to your email “drip” marketing outreach list.
At the very least, you’ll have 4 good reasons to follow up with customers after any sale, in hopes of selling more:
- Order confirmation
- Shipping notice
- Package delivery confirmation
- Customer satisfaction followup
Use these “drip” messages to increase your conversion rate. First, run through this series of basic messages.
Then launch another round of messages that offer product recommendations based on their order history.
Returning to the example of ski clothing for chunky beginners: If your customer buys a training harness, in a couple of weeks send them an email to promote ski pants.
A further round of messages can focus on promotional discount codes, contests, and new-product announcements.
Call readers into action at the end of each piece of content
It’s important to end each piece of content with a consistent call to action (CTA) that leads directly to the next step in your sales funnel.
Continuing with the chunky ski clothing example above, we’ll assume that a top-of-funnel (intake) blog post is written about the topic of how a new skier should choose the right size of ski clothing to buy.
The article is very informative and worthy of sharing.
Of course after you’ve delivered plenty of valuable tips and advice about how to choose the right ski suit, consumers owe you a debt of gratitude.
Now it’s time to ask them to do something for you in return.
Depending on its exact stage in the funnel, an appropriate CTA might be something like “Learn more about choosing the best ski suit” or “Find the right size now” together with a link to related content or an inbound inquiry form.
Photos & graphic content
Once you’re regularly publishing fresh written content for the store’s blog, the next step in content marketing is to add photos and graphic content.
Pro-quality photos of your products is a quick way to add valuable content to satisfy human visitors as well as search engines.
For most eCommerce businesses the best strategy is to publish high-quality photos (or at least graphic concepts) of everything your store offers to buyers.
As mentioned earlier, if you do some basic keyword research you’ll quickly learn what buyers are looking for online.
After sprinkling those keywords throughout your written text content, also make sure to use those same search terms in your photo labels, tags and meta descriptions.
The idea is to rise upward through Google search-page rankings with SEO-friendly content that also happens to be very informative for readers.
Like we said earlier, SEO tricks alone don’t work anymore…. You also need to add valuable, informative content to be successful in any competitive eCommerce niche.
How to choose photos for content marketing
One of the biggest challenges in eCommerce, especially when you’re a startup (or upstart) trying to stand out from competitive clutter.
You need photos to be successful because buyers can’t touch and test the merchandise or services you offer.
Visuals are the best way to differentiate your own value proposition from others. Original photos are best, especially since they’re probably unique for SEO purposes.
If you’re forced to use a competitor’s photo to show a product that you sell, make sure to alter the image so it won’t be flagged as duplicate across multiple search platforms, or for copyright infringement.
Provide your visitors with multiple views of each product. Four to six pictures per product gives the best coverage.
Don’t worry about taking too many photos – You can use good pictures immediately for your product pages, then re-purpose them later across different channels.
For example, let’s say you’ve taken pictures of a model wearing clothes you’ve designed.
After first using those photos on a product page showing the highlighted clothing item, you can easily use the same pictures for an Instagram shoppable post.
As well as in product pages, you’ll also want to include photos with your blog articles, email messages and social media stories.
Videos can turn casual visitors into repeat buyers
Videos are the next step after written content and pictures. Studies suggest that the more time people spend viewing product-related videos online, the higher their average order value.
That’s because video content is much more engaging than written words or images. It offers more in-depth views that can quickly show the features and benefits of products and services.
Sometimes a video is the only way to show how something works.
If you sell any kind of niche product, videos are great for content marketing. Use a video to show features and benefits, and add voice-over or whiteboard for stronger engagement with viewers.
The most effective ways to use video for eCommerce content marketing are when they show viewers how the product or service solves their problems.
That’s why “how-to” topics should always be your first choice once you decide to add video content to your marketing efforts.
Just like text and images, you can also re-purpose video content across multiple marketing channels.
Put video content links in your blog articles, product pages, social media campaigns and email messages.
Clips on landing pages can boost your conversation rates by more than 50% as long as the page’s written content also gives a strong call to action.
In fact, just putting the word “video” in your email subject line can improve open rates by up to 20%.
Winning formats for video content marketing
- How-to guides & tutorials
- Product demos
- Brand advertisements
- Expert guest interviews
- Animations & whiteboards
- Live broadcasts
Hybrid content marketing
You can create powerful content marketing effects by combining written text with video or graphics.
Each of these types of content will help you build authority and trust in the eyes of your target community of buyers.:
✔ Customer stories & testimonials
✔ Case studies & whitepapers
✔ Interactive content
Testimonials and customer stories are a great way to improve your bottom-of-funnel conversions for consumer sales. Case studies and whitepapers serve the same function for B2C sites.
At that point, the visitor is very close to converting into a buyer. Customer stories built with a combination of written text and video can drive your conversions to the bank.
This is the best way to sell high-end products or add a personalized touch to any eCommerce site.
Here’s an example: BeardBrand serves a relatively broad niche audience of men who want the best in beard and hair care products.
The home page features an interactive quiz that educates visitors while moving them along through the funnel.
The accompanying text explains clearly that the site is devoted to education above anything else. This is a great example of the power of interactive content marketing.
There’s no need for a blatant CTA saying “buy now,” and the site has an air of community authority and trust.
The idea of content marketing seems fuzzy until you think of it as being education-based marketing. SEO is still important for search-page rankings, but it doesn’t work by itself anymore.
Search engines insist on seeing content that human readers can learn from. Giving your visitors exceptionally valuable content is the only way to stand out from a crowd of competitors.
First rely on written content, then expand your marketing efforts by adding videos or interactive content.
If your content helps buyers understand and overcome the problems in their lives, they’ll buy from you as a trusted authority in he online consumer community.
Images & graphics
Target by By Gunnar Richter Namenlos.net – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=14932196
Library from Wikimedia Commons
Alphabet Soup from Wikimedia Commons https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Alphabet_soup,_empty.jpg
Funnel Graphic from Quicksprout
Megaphone from Wikimedia Commons https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Man_with_Megaphone.png
Books from Wikimedia Commons https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?search=pile+of+books&title=Special%3ASearch&go=Go&ns0=1&ns6=1&ns12=1&ns14=1&ns100=1&ns106=1#/media/File:Pile_of_books.jpg By Missmarettaphotography – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=50344593