As e-commerce is continuing to grow at astonishing rates worldwide, the PPC and SEO competition is becoming stronger every day. It is much harder to get a positive ROI out of your advertising today than it was just a few months ago, all thanks to incredible growth in the sector and new software, tools and services that allow people to build professional online stores with relatively humble investments.
At this moment, according to many studies, one of the best ways to advertise your online store with good ROI is content marketing. In HubSpot’s 2012 State of Inbound Marketing report, they share astonishing stats showing inbound marketing (the big part of inbound marketing is content marketing) oriented companies experience 61% lower cost per lead compared to the outbound oriented organizations (outbound meaning mainly paid advertising).
UPDATE: Matt Cutts talks about unique content on eCommerce product pages
I’m adding a new video by Matt Cutts, famous Google’s engineer where he explains the problematic of unique content on example of eCommerce product pages. He argues that if you have too many pages to provide quality content for each of them, you’re simply having too many products and your strategy is wrong. Have a look:
How do you create a good content marketing strategy for your online store you ask? This blog post will guide you right through that:
1. Technical requirements for good e-commerce content marketing
The first thing you need to do is solve the publishing issue. If you’re using older, outdated e-commerce software solutions, they might not be the best fit for building your content marketing strategy. Get rid of those and start fresh with one of the modern platforms such as Magento.
What you want from your technical solution is:
- Ability to post static pages with rich content – text, images, videos.
- Ability to post news items and / or blog posts, for fresh and date relevant content.
- Ability to create a knowledge base for “evergreen content” – the FaQ section and / or support forums functionality
An example set-up of good technical background for content marketing on an e-commerce website would be a Magento store with AheadWorks blog extension + some FaQ or knowledge base extension or service.
Another way to go would be Magento store + WordPress blog integrated either in a bespoke way or through extension such as this one. This might be a better setup for more experienced inbound marketers who know exactly what they want from their blog and will use WordPress to its fullest potential.
2. Assigning the content marketing tasks to your staff
This is usually the tricky part for many organizations. You’d love to do it but you don’t have time for it and everybody in the organization seems so act as if it isn’t their job to write that content. So, whose job is it? This depends on the size of the company, but in most cases it’s a very collective effort of several departments:
- Marketing Department is your obvious first choice when it comes to content marketing. They should really carry the whole story and make sure everyone else including themselves fulfills the content marketing goals. Their job is also to measure the results and predict the future growth. With time they need to figure out what type of content works best for your ROI and prioritize that content.
- PR department, if you have one, is obviously going to write some content for you. Make sure marketing folks explain them what kind of content they need every month.
- Support Department will give you some of the most useful content you can have on your e-commerce website. They can update product descriptions to include the answers to the commonly asked questions about those products, they can write the Q&A section and knowledge base entries and more!
- Designers can be an amazing force in your content marketing team. Combining them with marketers who feed them data, they can create beautiful infographics that your users will love to share via social networks!
- Even developers can contribute to your content marketing strategy by filming screencasts or writing tutorials on how to use some of the new features you implement into your online store for the users.
It will be hard to create a culture of generating content within your organization, especially if you were historically a very “closed” company that keeps its “secrets” to itself. You will need to push hard a new corporate culture and explain to employees that it’s actually good to share what they’re doing publicly and encourage such behavior.
It might be a good idea to schedule your content creation activities in advance if your corporate culture is not such that people will be very proactive about creating content. Here is a little guide that will help you do it for a year in advance.
3. Generating amazing content ideas
In the beginning you’ll have lots of stuff to write about, however, as time goes by, you’ll start running out of ideas. This is where to get great article ideas for your e-commerce content marketing:
- Seasonal content is something you can write about that’s relevant to this season only. Depending on your niche, this might be the new fall collection, the latest trends in your industry, the best things to buy from your store as presence for the holiday season, the must have items for summer vacation etc.
- Evergreen support content is something your support department will write, which answers questions related to you products quality, tutorials on how to use your products to the fullest potential, technical installation instructions and advice in general.
- Extracting content ideas from the site search data is something you should do often. Look at your site search report inside Google Analytics. See if there are any new terms that people search for within your website but you still don’t have a page that would answer that query. Write that page!
- “Steal” ideas, but don’t steal content – there’s nothing wrong with taking an idea from someone else and making it better. That’s done in business every day, it’s how the world moves forward and technology advances. So, there’s nothing wrong with “stealing” and idea, as long as you just use the idea to write your own stuff, not steal the content itself.
4. Types of content
When we say content, most of the people instantly imagine text. Text, however, is not the only form of content. In the modern web, we use several types of content to succeed in our content marketing efforts, so don’t forget about other types of content:
- Text – long, short, technical, artistic, all kinds of textual expressions go into the content marketing mix.
- Video – product demo video, screencasts, animations – any kind of video that brings value to your users should be in your content marketing mix.
- Images and infographics – lately, infographics have proven to be “the next big thing” in content marketing. Presenting boring data in a beautiful illustrated picture where it can be visualized and easily understood by your customers can be the difference between no one reading your content and thousands of people sharing it!
5. Interactive & Downloadable content
Technology nowadays allows us to get really creative with our content marketing strategy and create interactive content:
- Quizzes could help you better understand your customer needs, or if done in a fun way, entertain your customers.
- Browser games could help you with your content marketing strategy as well, especially if your target audience (or part of it) is the one playing online games.
- Offering downloadable content can be a great way to reuse some of your existing content and repackage it into whitepapers, instruction manuals or similar. You can make downloadable text content as well as downloadable videos, pictures and more!
6. It’s not just writing new content, it’s improving the content you have!
Whenever you’re out of ideas for writing fresh content for your content marketing efforts, use that time to improve your current content! Search for out of date articles published on your site with deprecated information and update them to reflect the current state. You can add data to existing articles and make them even more useful.
Another great thing to do is work on your product descriptions. There can be an amazing ROI potential in improving your product descriptions, read this case for example.
It’s not just text that you can improve, it’s images as well. Images you took years ago are probably uploaded in a poor resolution. Today, people have much faster internet connections and customer’s expectations for enlarged image view is becoming higher every day. If necessary retake the poor product images and upload new high resolution versions.
7. ROI is not just in sales!
E-commerce businesses tend to look at ROI through product sales. Although content marketing will work for that, it’s not the only way it provides the return for your investment.
You need to also account the reduced need for support as support questions are answered by your content instead of support agents.
Some ROI of content marketing also has to be attributed to the fact that you’re becoming the industry leader – the go-to-place for your niche – the knowledge and news hub – which will make it much easier for you to push new products to the market as investment in advertising that product will be much less since you already have a very visited website in your niche.
8. Don’t give up too early
This is one of the most common reasons I see companies fail at content marketing. We’ve built Inchoo on content marketing from a 3 men operation to one of the best known companies in the world of Magento implementation with offices in 3 countries. All of that – content marketing! Now we’re building ICG the same way, and the article you’re reading right now is one of the roots of our marketing efforts.
Content marketing takes some time to gain momentum and start bringing results, but once it starts, it’s an unstoppable force generating amazing ROI for your organization. With each day passing, you know you are closer to having an ultimate marketing strategy and an unfair advantage over your competitors as you build content for your users and they find you organically.