Few marketing channels scale as well as content. A great blog post is a one-off investment that’ll keep piling leads into the top end of your marketing funnel for months or even years after it’s been published. The long-term rewards that you’ll enjoy from focused content marketing often justify spending some extra time and money on ensuring you get maximum results.
But how does an online retailer go about upping their content game? What are the fundamentals of taking this marketing channel to the next level?
Fortunately, the web has no shortage of knowledge on this topic. In this article, I’ll list what I consider to be the most effective content marketing tips for 2021.
1. Provide Genuinely Helpful Content
People search for content that improves their lives and helps them make important shopping decisions.
Not every prospective customer is going to Google “Where can I buy a bed frame” when they’re looking to buy one. Before deciding on a particular product, many shoppers do their research first. Taking advantage of people’s diligence is a terrific way to generate traffic and nurture leads.
One of the most effective ways of doing this is to create highly detailed references and how-to guides that help your audience make shopping decisions. What’s absolutely essential with blog posts like these is that you resist the temptation to obviously sell your products in the content. Don’t do this!
The purpose of these guides is to impart objective, helpful knowledge. If your site is well-designed and there are links to your products in the sidebar or other peripheral areas, visitors will end up checking out your wares. But do not make this the primary purpose of these posts.
Another important tip for creating excellent “guide” posts is to seriously bring value and not hold back on content volume.
People read these guides because they want to be educated. They’re not scared of being overwhelmed with information, so go ahead and make your guide at least 2500 words long.
Eachnight offers us a great example of how to educate readers without bashing them over the head with clumsy sales pitches. Their guide to bed frames sizes and dimensions provides the main information is a neat table. And then answers all the main points that readers would need in thorough, yet manageable sections. And then finishes with a FAQ section to answer supporting questions. It is thorough yet easily digestible.
image source: eachnight.com
2. People Love Listicles
Thanks to content juggernauts like Buzzfeed, listicles are an incredibly popular form of content. People love how easily digestible these blog posts are. There’s even some pretty compelling science behind this.
Aside from pleasing your readers and giving them content in a format they enjoy, there’s another extremely good reason to structure some of your blog posts as a list: virality.
There’s very little that a content team can do to guarantee that readers share a blog post on social media. But there are strategies you can use to make sharing more likely. Tactics that drive the shareability of a piece of content are called “share triggers,” and, according to content and SEO guru Rob Powell, writing listicles is one of the most effective methods of them all.
Furthermore, in a study conducted by OkDork in which a whopping 100 million content pieces were analyzed for their virality, listicles were rated the second-most shared content type, right after infographics.
Creating listicles for your online store doesn’t pose an enormous challenge. Typically, your writers need to do much less research than an in-depth treatise on a very niche topic.
What makes a good listicle is usually an interesting topic, an irreverent, quirky tone, and some eye-catching imagery. Take a look at these two excellent ecommerce listicles by Bark Post and Threadless for inspiration.
The great thing about listicles is that there’s little need for objectivity. As long as the post is entertaining and you’re not jamming your products down readers’ throats, there’s no reason why you can’t include a couple of obvious links to your store.
3. Don’t Skimp on the Visuals
What’s the average number of words that should separate images on your blog posts? Spoiler: it’s way less than you think.
Content marketing experts are increasingly noticing the importance of using engaging visuals throughout a piece of content, as opposed to just using a strong header image. Digital marketing superstar Neil Patel feels that you should use an image for every 150 words. That’s ten images for a post that’s a mere 1500 words in length.
But there’s some solid reasoning behind his assertion. Images are a great way of “chunking” posts and breaking up an inaccessible wall of text.
This tip is one of The Content Marketing Institute’s top tactics for increasing the value of a post. And these guys know what they’re talking about.
Press Fruit Juices has long been one of my personal favorite ecommerce blogs. They excel at so many aspects of content marketing, not the least of which is the amazing use of original imagery. Take a look at this post for an example. It may be short, but the images are abundant, beautiful, and fit in perfectly with the article’s tone and the site’s color scheme.
image source: press-london.com
4. Feature Your Products (Gracefully)
This may be a slightly provocative tip and one that has to be implemented with great care.
As you may know, the purpose of most content marketing campaigns is not to facilitate a direct sales pitch. Blog posts exist mostly to educate, inspire, and entertain prospective customers. Content exists to draw people into your brand and subtly nudge them towards your store. In many cases, shoehorning sales pitches into blog posts is counterproductive, hurting their credibility and objectivity.
However, there are some exceptions. Certain online retailers have found ways to elegantly feature their products in posts without making it seem awkward.
I’m looking specifically at fashion retailer Taylor Stitch here.
image source: taylorstitch.com
What the company does well is to focus blog topics away from their products, creating content that’s very clearly about travel, design, cuisine, culture, and fashion. But every single one of these posts feature beautifully shot photographs of interview subjects wearing their apparel.
Nowhere in the posts is there an obvious sales pitch. There are no prices to go with the clothing pieces and no links to their product pages. All you see is a beautifully curated selection of products that are logically linked to the post topic.
5. Feature Your Customers
While this isn’t an obvious user-generated content (UGC) play, frequently making your customers part of your content strategy is a great way to trigger emotional investment from your readers.
Seeing that their peers are getting their 15 minutes of fame on a well-respected blog creates enormous goodwill for the blog and the brand. Especially if it’s done respectfully, really giving the featured person some quality time in the spotlight.
A blog that absolutely nails this approach is Death Wish Coffee. They dedicate posts to competition winners, featuring them in all their happy glory. The site also thinks outside the box to find other quirky ways to feature their loyal customers. One of my favorites is this one – a profile on the very first person to buy one of Death Wish’s new coffee blends.
Even the intro to this awesome post makes me love this company: “Veteran, Heart-attack Survivor, First Person To Ever Purchase Medium Roast.”
Unique, adorable, and extremely memorable.
6. Supplement Your Content with Video
Video is dominating the content space at the moment. It’s been threatening to do so for years, but recent stats are pretty conclusive. A successful content marketing strategy has to include some video content.
Video is accessible, easy, and enjoyable to consume. Plus, it’s extremely shareable.
Brands that are winning in this space aren’t creating videos to go along with every single one of their posts. The overheard is prohibitive and it’s not always necessary. People still enjoy reading good content, even without the inclusion of video.
The important thing is that when you do create a video to supplement one of your posts, it should be relevant and informative. And certainly, the production quality should be high.
Men’s grooming specialists Beardbrand show us how it’s done in their post about dealing with “patchy beards.”
image source: beardbrand.com
Some Final Thoughts
Running a successful content marketing campaign requires being comfortable with playing the long game. You’re not going to see results as quickly as you would for a PPC or social media campaign.
This is something many online retailers may not be aware of. If you continuously publish great content that appeals to your target market, your blog will bring traffic to your store. It will boost your sales figures. But you have to commit and be patient.
Content marketing is not about overnight success. It’s about diligently putting one foot in front of the other, knowing that there are enormous rewards waiting for you further down the road. Embrace this, and you will be bound for content marketing success.