by James A. Martin

10 content marketing tips for ecommerce success

Aug 17, 2016
E-commerce SoftwareInternetMarketing

Digital marketing experts share their secrets designed to help you develop online ecommerce content that motivates buyers, increases sales and builds brand loyalty.

digital marketing 2
Credit: Thinkstock

Most modern brands understand the importance of content marketing. That doesn’t mean, however, it’s easy or that those companies good at it. In fact, the reality is often the opposite. 

Only 30 percent of B2B marketers believe their organizations are good at content marketing, and that number is down from 38 percent in 2015, according to a report from the Content Marketing Institute. And 55 percent of marketing professionals say it’s not clear to their organizations what good content marketing looks like, the same study says.

Quality content marketing for ecommerce sites can be even more challenging. If, for example, the content is too “sales-y,” it can be a turnoff. If it’s too subtle, it could lead to lost sales. Marketers also can’t just create a blog and check off some ecommerce content-marketing box. “Unfortunately, I’m still seeing many ecommerce businesses that think content marketing simply means having a blog,” wrote Steve Olenski, a senior creative content strategist at Oracle Responsys, in a recent blog post. “And while a blog is a great start, content marketing mastery requires much more than a handful of blog posts.”

Here are 10 ecommerce content marketing tips from digital marketers and SEO pros.

1. Differentiate ecommerce content

With an ecommerce site, content marketing should be designed to drive action immediately. “This usually involves creating compelling content that motivates the reader to purchase in the moment,” says Len Kendall, vice president of communications for creative digital agency Carrot Creative. “Non-ecommerce sites push for marketing goals that rest higher up in the marketing funnel. This would include things like brand consideration, recall and trust.” 

“The fundamental difference (between ecommerce and non-sales website content) is timing around readers taking an action,” Kendall says.

2. Help customers make informed buying decisions

How do you create successful marketing content that drives sales without being too sales-y?

Provide consumers with helpful (but not pushy) information that helps them make informed purchasing decisions, according to Marc Nashaat, digital PR manager for digital marketing agency Powered by Search. The most effective ecommerce content-marketing initiatives “typically deal with either comparing, reviewing or providing information about the types of products the brand sells,” he says. 

One way to help consumers make purchase decisions is to offer user-generated content, such as reviews, says Heather Marie, CEO and founder of ecommerce platform Shoppable. (Such strategies can obviously backfire if you receive a lot of negative reviews). Ecommerce sites should also offer their own content, such as “look books,” gift guides and curated, themed lists “to push numerous products in an effective yet highly merchandised manner,” Marie says.

3. Don’t focus only on conversions 

Converting prospects into customers with marketing content is a clear sign that your efforts have worked. “You want to understand what percentage of your new visitors landed on the content piece, and then what percentage of those visitors converted,” says Nashaat. 

However, content marketing managers should consider other important factors, as well, according to Kendall. “Email subscriptions can lead to future sales or add-ons,” he says. “Social shares indicate that the content marketing is resonating, and people want to share it with their friends and connections. 

Search ranking is crucial, Kendall says. “If your content marketing is pushing your site higher up in Google’s algorithm, that means your site will generate more leads than the competition.” 

“Another great way to measure success is whether the content earned relevant, high-quality backlinks,” Nashaat says. “This will ultimately strengthen a domain’s authority and trust signals, and that means improved rankings and increases in organic traffic.” 

Ecommerce content-marketing success depends on three things, according to Brock Murray, COO of seoplus+, an SEO firm. First is the action people take on the content, as determined by traffic metrics, social-media shares and likes, comments, and other interactions. Next, it’s the related sales figures. And reputation is the third element. “You can draw a lot of action with brainless memes, fluff content, and click-bait headlines, but ultimately, these aren’t going to give your brand authenticity or a strong reputation in the eyes of affinity audiences,” Murray says.

The content that brings the most visitors to your site won’t necessarily have the best conversion rates, because it attracts users who are in a different part of the buying cycle, according to Emily Baker, marketing manager of lead-generation SEO agency Mark My Words Media. “Ideally, that content would be linked to a series of articles on your site that provide visitors with all the information they need to make a buying decision.”

5. Content should include calls to action

Effective content marketing helps readers through the sales process by offering calls to action at the end of blog posts or other entries, according to Nathan Barber, digital analyst for search engine marketing services firm Digital Advertising Works. Ideally, you want to keep readers on your website, learning more as they click from one piece of content to another, via clear calls of action on what you want the visitor to do — sign up for an email newsletter or click through to a product ordering page, for example.

For ecommerce sites, calls to action should be closer to the sales funnel than similar calls on sites that simply aim to raise awareness, such as a website for a law firm, according to Molly Phillips, a senior account manager for digital marketing agency Greenroom. For content marketers who work on ecommerce sites, she says, the end goal is always to get readers to click the “add to cart” button.

6. Match content marketing types to customers

It’s a good idea to develop content around the topics and keywords people search for, according to Carrot Creative’s Kendall. “Unlike a media company that has a built-in audience, most brands selling merchandise don’t have lots of subscribers or followers,” he says. “So ecommerce sites must develop content marketing that’s discoverable through search and recommendations.” Kendall suggests using Google’s free Keyword Planner to find the most common search terms associated with your site.

It’s also important to experiment. “Not everything will work, so you shouldexperiment with different types of messaging and content,” says Bryson Meunier, SEO director of Vivid Seats, an online reseller of event tickets.

7. Develop a comprehensive content strategy

Ideally, ecommerce content marketers should have long-term content strategies, with content planned for a variety of platforms, including email newsletters, blog posts, guest blog posts and social media updates, according to Heather Ferguson, content manager for digital-marketing and SEO agency Main Path Marketing.

“Craft a content schedule for how often you’ll be posting and where,” Ferguson says. “Give yourself six months to carry out the strategy and evaluate your efforts closely afterwards. What was successful and what wasn’t? Restructure your strategy and start again with a new six-month plan. Don’t be afraid to fail, because that’s how you learn.”

8. Don’t go overboard

Omni channel marketing strategies are the norm for many brands, but it can also be wise to stay focused, according to Renée Clare-Kovacs, content strategist for content and branding firm Caffeinated Content. “Don’t do so many channels or platforms that you can’t manage them or tailor the content to the appropriate platform demographic,” she says. “Pick two to four platforms that your demographics use, and tailor the message and cross-promote.”

9. Tell a great story 

Innovative content that emotionally engages customers can indirectly drive ecommerce sales, especially if that content makes the consumer comfortable and confident in their buying decisions, says Jorge Medina, marketing manager at software consulting and development firm CSW Solutions. Ultimately, if you tell a great story, the customer will be more likely to engage with you and your site, he says. If you don’t, they’ll be more likely to leave.

10. Hire content marketing specialists

Google rewards quality content with higher search-engine rankings. As a result, “the bar for content quality is high, and you have to hire people with the skills you need for quality content, like video production or copywriting,” says Jason Seeba, CMO of ecommerce technology company BloomReach. “If you can’t hire, try freelancers. They’re cheaper than going through an agency and there are some incredible talents out there in video, visuals and copywriting.”