Should Ecommerce brands have a blog?
Yes, although it requires a strong commitment – don’t take it lightly. There’s nothing worse than a blog that gets deserted and left to die. Some brands only publish a new post occasionally, and that’s fine if the content is really compelling. In fact, the opposite can be much worse – posting every single day, just for the sake of it. People think that posting daily is great for SEO, but it’s just not. When it comes to blogging, Quality is definitely more important than Quantity.
In terms of blogging frequency, it depends on your audience and whether you’re B2B or B2C, a huge industry or a very small niche. So try to look at what your competitors are doing as well in terms of how regularly to push out content. But you don’t have to just copy everyone else. The best thing to do is just give it a go and see how many times a month you can manage to write an amazing piece of content. Maybe it’s weekly, bi-weekly or only once a month.
Should companies outsource content production?
Well, definitely don’t outsource to cheap SEO content writing services, such as Fiverr or TextBroker. Your blog is the soul of your company. It needs to show passion and knowledge for your products, give your customers value. By reading your blog, your readership and your customers are giving you their time, which is a very valuable thing to them. So in exchange, you need to give something back to them. You need to give this knowledge, humour or insight to them. So blog for your customers and not for search engines. Don’t just create a list of keywords that you want to rank for and tell someone to include that keyword in each of the blog posts. You should be writing for your customers as a primary objective, and then the search traffic will come off the back of that.
This can be a conversion factor as well. You want to make sure that your brand’s voice is something that people really want to get behind and want to buy your products. Try to get the person that knows the most about your products within your company, to write the articles. See if they’re able to write once a week to start off with. Don’t get the office junior or intern to start writing this content, because it’s going to be just as bad as if you bought it from someone in India. You want the real product expert to be writing this information so that people do get value from it.
If your product is very technical, consider having two blogs, or two categories within your blog. One which is for the technical geeks, the people that really love the nitty-gritty, the numbers, the background information. The other blog for the top-level information, for the people that just love the product but don’t care about the technicalities. You could get your CTO to write all the technical posts and then the CEO or Head of Product/Retail to write all the high level information. Topics like making the products, selling the products or how your ethics affects the way that your business runs.
If you don’t have any spare time to write the blog in-house, you can go for a third-party option, but if you’ve got enough revenue to justify it, maybe even consider hiring a dedicated full-time content manager, whose sole purpose is to write the content for your blog, but also for your product pages and category pages.
There’s definitely enough work to justify a full-time role there. And this person should sit in the middle of your company as well. If you’re back in an office environment, this person should easily have access to every single department and be able to talk to anyone from the person on the factory floor, up to the CEO, and be able to get the answers needed, to put this content together. If they can’t do that, you might as well use a third party.
When outsourcing, look for the top industry experts or published authors/journalists in your niche – don’t scrimp on budget. If you sell beer online, for example, go to the association of beer writers (which does exist in the UK) and contact the people that you see on TV all the time or published in newspapers and industry publications. These people are usually freelancers and they do take on extra work. So, they could be the voice of your company.
If you can’t have your own voice for the company, another tactic that a few brands have gone for, is to get comedians to write their content for them. Sometimes it’s less about looking at the technical details behind your products or more about having a humorous approach to things, the lifestyle that you’re promoting, or the products that you’re recommending, or just to have something that brightens up people’s day.
Another option is to find your biggest fans, your top customers, and ask if they can write for you. Some of these people would be very happy to do so, in exchange for free products, or preview products, which they get to talk about. They can become your unofficial ambassadors. As I said before, don’t scrimp on costs for this because it’s the voice of your company – the soul of your company. So it’s not something to cut back on
What if you just resell other people’s products, or are in a very boring niche?
It’s a problem that a lot of us face, unfortunately. If you’re an artist selling paintings or craftsman selling a one-off woodcarving, there’s limitless content opportunities there. Every single post can be unique. It’s interesting because it’s original and it’ll be visually beautiful as well. So it’s going to be easier to blog about, share and talk about it.
It’s much harder for other niches, especially in B2B, where maybe they’re selling screws, bolts and washers for other products. One example of a brand that took a different tact is Zappos, a huge shoe website in America, which was eventually bought by Amazon. They sold exactly the same shoes as everyone else, the same as Walmart and a hundred other stores. They didn’t make the shoes. They didn’t have any really unique selling points apart from a good returns policy and they kept their prices low. So there’s no real value or a product to talk about there. So instead, they had tremendous talking about running their company. The way that they run their warehouse, the ethics behind it, the marketing, the technology, the work practices. Things like when you start working at Zappos, no matter what level you start at, you always start on the warehouse floor. So you can get to know how the company really works. Because they had these interesting ideas about how to run a business, they had a very successful blog, which drove a lot of traffic, a lot of media attention. They got to talk about the footwear fashion side of things as well, but it was taken seriously because of the business side of things.
There are two main routes for blogging in difficult niches. The first is to talk about your business or write about related brands or happy customers, rather than the actual product. Try to think of different angles. The second option is to just embrace the boringness and the geekiness of that product. There will be very few people that read it, but those few could become your brand ambassadors. It’s not going to get a million people watching your YouTube videos or visiting your blog. But those few people that do consume your content, will become very loyal customers and will be shouting about you to everyone they know.
If you’re a carpenter, a furniture maker or a home renovator, you might be interested to know like what type of screw to use for a certain type of furniture. Why should you choose a screw that’s coated in a zinc alloy, or when should you use a sunken screwhead? These things sound very boring to most people, but talking about the intricacies and the differences in types of metal screws, is interesting to the people that use them every day. So there is a market out there for this content. You won’t get millions of Facebook Likes, but you could become the go-to expert for this very specific topic and create a very loyal customer base.
If you sell something basic, such as Wood Glue, you can produce a monthly YouTube video about making different pieces of furniture with this wood glue and embed that video into a blog post, with the text transcripts of the video. So that becomes a monthly blog post for you.
If you sell someone else’s products, interview the founders of those product manufacturers – the people that make the products. There’s a very popular podcast called “How I Built This”, and that is literally just a person on NPR, interviewing the creators of things. You could do the same on your website, about the people that make the products for you as well. You don’t have to be a manufacturer of a product in order to offer this kind of interesting information.
You can also talk about how your business is doing. It’s very fashionable at the moment to have an “Open Startup/Business” where you share your revenue and profit numbers openly to the public, so they can see how you’re doing. It makes people feel like they’re part of your journey, that they’re part of your company and like family. You could even share your future goals, so that people can get behind you and try to get you to your targets.
Where should you host your Ecommerce blog?
Ideally, you should host your blog in a
/article/subfolder of your main website. So if your website is
example.com, you’re going to host your blog on
example.com/blog/. Try not to use a subdomain or a different domain name, otherwise, your blog won’t help your Ecommerce store with SEO (authority) and vice versa. So if you start a brand new blog, put it in a subfolder and it’ll get all of the same value and authority and trust that your Ecommerce store does. If you put it in a subdomain, you’ll be starting from the beginning and it won’t have any of your main website’s authority. There are of course reasons why people do use subdomains still, such as using an Ecommerce Platform that won’t allow you to create a subfolder. WooCommerce obviously supports blogging really well, because it’s based on WordPress. So you’ve got all of the power of WordPress behind it. And with Magento, I usually find the best thing to do is for people to install a copy of WordPress in a subfolder within the Magento installation. So you don’t have to use the Magento admin to create blog content pages.
How about Medium.com and the other content platforms?
Medium can be great for attracting new readers and customers, because if they’re reading a related article, it might suggest your article to them to read next. It’s a bit like putting content on YouTube, you don’t get any SEO value really behind it, but you do get the traffic and the exposure because of it. Medium does allow you to add a canonical tag to articles now, pointing back to your own website, which can help solve duplication issues. It means that you could post an article on your own blog and then the same content to Medium, with the canonical tag pointing back to your original blog post. You still get that SEO value from your blog, but whether you want to do that is questionable. It depends on how much traffic you’re really going to get for Medium.
Consider any platform that’s not on your main website as a PR or Social Media exercise, not a content or branding exercise, because you don’t have any control over it. Just treat it as a piece of exposure, rather than something to build a brand on. Use them to get new people to your website, not to give your company a voice. Perhaps publish industry opinion pieces on Medium, or any content that doesn’t fit the main voice of your blog. If your blog is talking about the sustainability of trees and you’re a furniture creator, then an article about how chairs evolved over time might not fit in with your original blog content. So if you don’t want to create a whole new category or whole new blog about it, perhaps you could post it on Medium and have it as a different way to drive traffic to your site from there.
So should every Ecommerce website have its own blog?
I would say yes, but it doesn’t have to be like everybody else’s. You could publish just once a month, but that one article could have 3,000-5,000 words and it could be a game-changer for your industry or customer base. It could be a week’s worth of research into a topic or data, that people would quote all the time. Or you could post daily with short soundbites, such as pictures and stories about how your customers are using your product. If you sell furniture, you could blog about how your furniture is made or the varieties of woods that you can get, to build furniture with. High resolution photography of those specific types of woods, with different varnishes on. Maps of where the wood is grown and where it originates from.
You could even interview everyone in your own company and tell their life story about how they got to where they are, why they love your company and where they think the future of your company/industry is. Where they think your products will end up being. If you dropship furniture and have no employees, offer big discounts to existing customers, in exchange for them taking photographs of their furniture in their home. Your blog could almost become an interior design website. Ask them to tell you about why they chose that specific furniture, where it’s used, who’s it used by and what they love about it. And if they’re planning to use any other furniture from your site or other sites. You could become a style guide in your own right.
Does a blog help with SEO?
Definitely, especially if you put a lot of valuable content on it. It can drive long-tail traffic to your product pages, which could possibly never rank for those terms otherwise. If it’s a search term where someone is doing research, your product pages would probably struggle to rank for that term, just based on what their user intent is. It also captures people at the start of the buying journey, rather than a lot further down the line in the comparison/buying stage. You have the ability to request their email address within the content and then send a discount to encourage conversions. So if they’re not an existing customer, they can become a member of your newsletter and then convert into a customer. If the person doesn’t know your brand and they see your blog, they can see that you’re a real company. That you have a passion for your products, it adds trust. The reader can start to feel that they know you, because they’ve listened to you through your blog. It also helps with Google Personalized Search as well, where readers are more likely to see your pages higher up in the search results, just because they’ve been to your site before.
How come people promote their blog content?
Well, if you have an existing customer base, the best thing to do is to send your content out to them. If you have their email addresses, send only a few paragraphs from each article to them. It means that they get fed into your store, while they’re reading the whole article. Website links are shared a lot more than emails. People do forward emails, but usually only to a few close friends, as it’s a private medium. Remember to put your social buttons on your blog articles, so your content can be shared with “Like” and “Share” buttons – it’ll generate more traffic and more social attention.
If you’re just starting out, you really should consider putting a small budget into a paid social media campaign. You can boost a Tweet or a Facebook post announcing your new article for as little as $50 and get thousands of views as a result of that. So have a look into that as well. You don’t have to spend big money, the option to boost or amplify your posts is actually quite cheap. Try to do it as cheaply as possible, just to drive that traffic into your blog slowly and get those regular visitors. Also try and find every related blog and news site, plus industry associations, offering to Guest Author for them. You can then link back to yourself from those articles. Ask if they need an expert opinion or soundbite on something that they’re writing about in their next article. These will boost your blog and site’s SEO value, plus attract new readers, that you can then convert onto your email newsletter as well. Make sure that you prompt users as soon as they visit one of your blog articles – ask them to join your newsletter.