Content marketing, when done right, is one of the most effective ways to draw traffic to your website. Of course, if you don’t do it right then it is a bit like spinning your wheels in the air. Worse, in fact, as some strategies can backfire, by for example damaging your SEO and leave you worse off than if you wouldn’t have written them.
But how do you do it right?
That’s the million dollar question, isn’t it? And that’s what we’re going to explore in this article. But I’m not going to start with the best content ideas. Instead, here are two warnings.
Warning one: Content marketing takes time
Whether you use content marketing to build up your SEO profile or you use it to get a bigger audience on social media, it is still a long-term strategy. It takes time for people and the algorithms to notice you and push you into a more prominent position.
For SEO, this matters as more than 90% of traffic goes to the first page’s search results. In that way, if you climb from say position 90 to position 40, you’re making big gains in their algorithm without seeing any serious growth in visitor numbers.
For social media, in the meantime, you often have to show up on people’s radar a few times with high-quality content before they go from just reading you occasionally to following you and seeking you out.
This means that it can sometimes seem a thankless job where you’re not gaining much. This is doubly true if you’re trying to have all of your growth occur organically and by not spending money. Personally, I don’t advise this strategy. It is better to fork over some dough and get some exposure through paid marketing so that people show up on your site. As an extra bonus, if done correctly this can also turbo charge your organic growth.
So the long and short of it is, just because you’re not yet seeing big changes in the number of visitors doesn’t mean your strategy isn’t working. A better strategy than looking just at the numbers is to consider your Google Webmaster tools and see if you’re slowly climbing in the rankings for your keywords. Similarly, pay attention to such things as your Alexa rating, to see if your site is making progress.
Warning two: Don’t take your eye off the ball
The reason you’re using content strategies on your e-commerce site is to draw shoppers to your website and sell your product. Everything else is basically window dressing. This seems like a pretty obvious statement. The truth is, though, that it is very easy to lose sight of that. A lot of people start off trying to sell their product and then slowly see what they’re doing morph into a popularity contest.
For these people, it becomes about getting as many people to come to their website as possible – even if they don’t buy anything. Their thinking is, if I can get enough people then obviously some will convert. The thing is, if you’re selling, say, digital TVs in the US and the audience you’re drawing in are poor people from India who can’t afford what you’re selling, well then obviously that isn’t true.
This doesn’t mean that you can occasionally drift off topic with your content. Nonetheless, make sure that you never forget the real reason your posting content – and that is to get more customers.
Got that? Okay, now let’s get on to some best practices!
Get your SEO house in order
The best source of long-term traffic is search engines. If you rank for the right keywords, then you can bring in thousands of people for free every month. Of course, that will only ever happen if your pages are optimized for SEO purposes. There is a lot written on the topic, so make sure you explore the issue. To help you get started, here are some pointers:
Do your keyword research. Keywords are the things people type into Google to find the pages or products they need. For example, if I’m buying running shoes then ‘running shoes’ are probably words I’ll use in my search. Other words might include ‘sneakers’ or ‘sport shoes’. So start off by making a list of all the words people might type into Google.
Then go to a keyword explorer and see how those words rank. How heavy is the competition? How much traffic do those words get per month? What alternative words do they suggest? Create a spreadsheet with all these words and how valuable you think they are.
Create content directed at these keywords. Think about how people will use those keywords and then write articles that answer those questions. For example, if somebody asks ‘what are the best value running shoes’ then they want a running shoe comparison. Trying to sell them one shoe is probably not going to work. If they ask ‘best price for XXXX shoes’ then they’ve moved onto the buying stage and giving them a comparison of shoes probably won’t work.
If your article does not answer the actual question users have, then people won’t click on it or if they do, they’ll leave quickly. The search engines will realize this and drop you down. So it’s important you don’t just consider the words, but also what people mean with them.
Put the keywords in the right places. To help the search engines understand what articles you’re writing for, put the words in the headline, the meta description and the image titles. Use it a few times in the text (without keyword stuffing).
Create high quality content for the most important keywords
Though really all of your content should be the best it can be, realistically that’s going to be hard. The simplest (and also requiring a budget) solution is to hire online writing websites to receive regular content for your pages.
If that’s not an option, to give you a better chance of success, focus your attention on the keywords for which you feel you have the best chance. Really focus on writing lengthy articles that add real value for the people who are typing in the keywords.
Even better, take the older pages where you’re starting to get some SEO traction and make those better. Bring in professional editors to make the page read better. Add more value. Make sure the content stays up to date and interesting.
Do this consistently and effectively and Google will notice. This will get you an extra boost, which will in turn draw in an even bigger audience. Even better, once you start getting a reputation for giving people what they want in one area, you’ll also start ranking better on the rest of your pages.
This strategy will give you far more bang for your buck – at least as long as the people coming to your page through this search are actually buying your content. Are they? That’s fortunately not very hard to figure out. If you’ve got Google Analytics installed, you can see whether people arriving to a certain page are actually ending up on the correct product pages.
To find that out, go to ‘behavior’ and hit ‘behavior flow’. Highlight people that come in through search results on the top left and see if they flow from your initial landing page to your product buying page.
This will give you an idea of whether your page actually adds value or is just adding to your popularity. In this way, you can figure out on which pages you should focus your attention and which ones you should leave be.
Continue to expand your pages
As you’re following the above strategies, don’t forget to continue expanding the pages on your website. The most effective strategy to do so is blogging. Try to add one or two new articles a month to your site (more is possible too, though then often quantity takes over from quality). Try a broad range of topics – though always do your keyword research so that you know the words relate to something that your specific audience might be interested in.
Of course, good quality is important. At the same time, if you don’t have the time or the cash to buy truly outstanding content all the time, then that’s okay. Instead, use these blog posts to figure out what content does well and what doesn’t. When you find an article that suddenly draws in a lot of people via search engines or gets a lot of popularity on social media, then go back to that article and again make it better, as I described above.
In this way, those articles which are actually getting attention are going to be the highest quality ones you have on your site – which in turn will generate more attention.
Ultimately you should only care about outstanding and good enough
Most people try to have great content across the board. The thing is, the internet doesn’t care about great. There is just way too much out there and how content is read is regulated by a power law which means a small amount at the top gets all the attention.
What you want to do is to focus on getting a few articles into that tiny percentage that gets all that attention. The rest of what you’re creating doesn’t really matter, as long as it doesn’t actually detract from your website.
Follow that rule, and your ecommerce site will do far better than the competition, as you apply your energy where it can make a difference and leave off sticking it into areas where it can’t.
Bio: Luisa Brenton is a brand developer in the past; mom, educational blogger in the present. She writes in a variety of venues – academic, business, and online marketing content. Find more on Facebook.