As an eCommerce retailer, it can be easy to get fixated on optimizing your store to its fullest capabilities. From optimizing your site speed or A/B testing meta information to creating categories based on search phrases, it can be a non-stop process—but how much optimization can you do on your storefront before you start to receive diminishing returns? How many of your resources do you want to put into this?
That’s not to say that you shouldn’t optimize your store—you should—but there are other aspects that you should be concerned about as well. Usually, the number-one way that eCommerce retailers acquire customers is through search engines. 81% of consumers research online before they buy a product. Therefore, it is vital that retailers are featured in the SERPs when consumers are researching.
Search engines are going to look at a lot more than just your storefront optimization. Google has said that content and backlinks are two of the top-ranking factors that they take into consideration. Content marketing can help you improve both of those—getting you placed higher in the rankings and, hopefully, increasing your revenue.
1. Content Is a Top-Ranking Factor
According to senior officials at Google, content is one of the most important ranking factors in Google’s ranking algorithm. The more relevant the content that you have on your site, the better your chance of Google ranking you higher in the SERPs.
However, you can’t just keyword-stuff a blog and expect it to shoot up to #1. Your content needs to be relevant and written in a natural voice. In a study by SearchMetrics, they found that Google evaluates content according to relevant keywords, not just the inclusion of individual keywords.
Figure 1S Screenshot from SearchMetrics
Generally, Google favors long-form content which gives users the information that they are looking for. That relevancy is important, here. You can’t just write a 3,000-word article on why golden retrievers are the best dogs and expect it to help you—when you sell vitamins. Instead, you need to write something that is relevant to vitamins.
Also, when you are developing content, make sure that it helps with the problems that people are searching for. If they are asking a question, make sure you answer it. If people are searching for “why should I take vitamin B,” you should answer that question within your content.
At the end of the day, as long as you create great content and promote it to the right channels—and users interact with it—you should see an increase in organic visibility, which will bring in new search engine traffic.
2. Content Will Help Earn High-Quality Backlinks
As we previously stated, backlinks are one of the top factors that Google uses to rank websites. You want to have a healthy backlink profile if you want to rank in the top positions for your targeted keyword phrases.
Unfortunately for eCommerce brands, it can be very hard to earn organic backlinks. Most of the time, people aren’t going to want to link to your product or category pages. Unless you have a very innovative product that the market hasn’t seen before, it probably isn’t going to happen.
This is where content marketing can come in! There are a couple of different ways that you can use content to achieve high-quality backlinks. First, you can develop offsite content on external keyword-relevant sites, which will have backlinks pointing to your product or category pages.
The link within the offsite content links here, to one of the company’s category pages:
Another way that you can attract quality backlinks is to your onsite content, which can have interlinks to your product and category pages. You can create content such as blogs, videos, case studies, and more, and then promote that content. This can help you earn organic links back to the onsite content, which can funnel authority to the products/categories pages you link to.
Both strategies follow a simple rule: Create great content that users will read, interact with, and want to share. If the content isn’t any good, Google won’t value the backlinks, which then won’t provide you with any value. Don’t create content for the sake of just creating content.
3. Content Can Improve Usability Metrics
Back in February, we did a study on FashionNova, a relatively small fashion company that has seen incredible gains. We wanted to find out how they were ranking so high for over 88,000 keywords in the course of just over a year when their competitors in the search results had been around for many years.
For instance, they rank #1 for the keyword word “fashion,” which has 135,000 monthly searches.
They also rank #4 for “lingerie,” which has 673,000 monthly searches.
However, what we found was that their gains haven’t come from traditional SEO efforts. It wasn’t their backlinks—check out their backlink profile, compared to that of Macy’s, which they beat in several keyword phrases.
So, what is making them rank so high in Google’s coveted real estate? We don’t really know. Google doesn’t hand out that information, but you can read our full findings over at Search Engine Journal.
In short, what we found was that in almost every conventional SEO metric, there was no reason why they should be ranking as high as they are. However, we did find that their Alexa rating showed they had a much lower bounce rate than their competitors, and their time on page was much higher. In addition, they had over 6.3 million Instagram followers, which most definitely doesn’t hurt.
Based on all of this, we had to assume that Google was able to tell that consumers liked their site more than their competitors’ sites, so they placed them higher up in the SERPs.
What does this have to do with content marketing? Well, content on your site can help the entire website’s usability metrics, such as bounce rate, time on page, and pages per session. If you just have product pages and category pages, then it is much more likely that a searcher will find your site and then bounce right back to the SERPs—but, if you have onsite content that engages them, you can navigate them there and increase their time on page.
In turn, when you improve your usability metrics, you can increase the organic quality score of your website, which can give you a tactical advantage over your competitors.
A great exercise for you to go through is to head over to Alexa and check your overall website usability metrics. Alexa will estimate your website analytics and compare them to your competitors. You can see this in the screenshot below:
If you find that your engagement level is lower than that of your competitors, then you can utilize content marketing to increase those statistics.
4. Content Can Help Bring Back Past Customers
Repeat purchases are everything to eCommerce companies. It costs seven times more to acquire new customers than it does to retain the ones you already have. The probability of selling to existing customers is as much as 70%, compared to just 5-10% for new customers.
Content marketing can help give customers a reason to come back to your site. It can help you reconnect with previous shoppers, build a relationship with them, stay top of mind, and, of course, the primary goal—get them to purchase again.
With great content marketing, you can take the content that you have produced and distribute it to your customer base through a variety of different means. One way that you can do this is through email marketing. Not every email that you send has to be promotional. Consumers will appreciate helpful content in their inbox.
Make sure you are focused on building a relationship and providing value, rather than just trying to grab a sale.
While partially promotional, Sephora’s emails still provide the user with valuable content that helps to educate the customer and grow the relationship between the two. Building relationships through email marketing can be very effective, and it doesn’t cost much. Companies that excel at lead-nurturing generate 50% more sales at 33% lower cost.
You can also use your content and distribute it to your previous customers through social media posts and advertising.
Now, you can post your content on social media and hope that it gets in front of the right people—but don’t count on it. Organic reach on social is pretty much dead. If you want your content to get in front of your previous customers, then you are going to need to turn to social media advertising.
The great news, here, is that social media networks have some of the most sophisticated advertising platforms out there. Facebook’s targeting abilities can rival those of anyone else in the game (here’s looking at you, Google.)
You can segment out your lists and just target customers who have purchased from you in the past 30 days or customers who have spent so much money with you in the past, etc. For the most part, social media advertising is relatively cheap. Social remarketing can double your conversions while cutting your costs by a third—#winning.
5. Content Can Reach Consumers in All Stages of the Lifecycle
In my opinion, there are generally three stages of a customer lifecycle when it comes to eCommerce:
a. Research: This is where potential customers begin with a search engine to find a product that will solve a problem or need which they have. This could also be triggered by advertising—they saw innovative products on their Facebook feeds, so they go to Google to find them or similar products.
b. Identification: This is where potential customers know the products that they want to buy, and they use a search engine to find competing products or prices. This is where they will affirm that this is the product that they want to purchase, and this is the company they want to buy it from.
c. Conversion: This is where potential customers become buying customers. You have already sold them on your business in the above stages, so this time it is more about your not screwing anything up, with your shopping cart not working, with a 10-step checkout process, or with poor shipping options, etc.
Now that we know what the stages are in a customer lifecycle, how do those translate to content marketing? Well, think about it this way. Let’s say that you have 100 people come to your site in a day. Maybe a third of them are ready to buy something from you right then (probably not that many, but let’s try to keep it simple). The other 2/3 are still researching.
Since you’ve already sold 1/3 of them on your business, you don’t really need to do much more with them. But, for the 2/3 who are researching or identifying where to buy something, content marketing can be a great way to connect with them. The more touchpoints that you have with potential customers, the stronger the chance that they will become buying customers at the conversion point. The stronger the relationship that they have with you, the more likely they will overlook any difficulties they might encounter during the conversion stage.
A great strategy to determine how to target customers who are in the research phase is to identify different keywords that they might be searching for. You can do this through a variety of tools—I prefer SEMRush, so that’s what I will use here. By using the advanced filters in SEMRush, you can locate what keyword phrases you can rank for that also have a high search volume.
From there, you can look through the list of keywords and identify any keywords that are “research query intent,” meaning people searching for those queries are looking for answers. Then, you can take those search phrases and create content centered around them.
Please note—I have no affiliation with SEMRush beyond being a customer.
Types of Content Marketing
Now that we have gone over the benefits, let’s look at some of the different types of content marketing that can be very successful, especially for eCommerce brands:
a. Blog Content
This is the most prevalent content produced for eCommerce brands and also the easiest. Produce long-form content solving a searcher’s intent, and you should see results. I suggest focusing on in-depth content, making sure you solve the vast majority of a researcher’s questions and, maybe, putting in some nice design elements to give it a wow effect.
b. Video Content
Creating video content can help SEO, as long as users watch the entirety of the video and stay on the page longer. If the video is 20 minutes, and users bounce right away, the video can hurt your rankings. When you are creating video content instead of written content such as a blog, focus on giving users in-depth information so they stay on the page longer and engage with the content. Otherwise, Google will subject your video content to the Google abyss (page 2+).
Viral videos are great, as well. I will always have a soft spot for the “Will It Blend” video series.
c. Resource Pages
Resources are groups of pages that can answer frequently asked questions (FAQs) or other research query intent keywords. These include more questions and answers about your products and how to use them. If you have a call center, I would recommend gathering its frequently asked questions to develop these pages.
From these points, I hope you can see how content marketing has a lot of benefits for an eCommerce brand. From increased keyword rankings to connecting with previous customers, content marketing can help you reach your goals and help you separate yourself from your competitors.