Most ecommerce brands are heavily invested in content marketing these days, but I often see their efforts fall flat because not enough research went into the purpose of the content before it was produced, and there was no strategy behind promotion.
This post outlines some of the research and planning that should be done by content marketing teams. By knowing everything you can about these four key areas, you’ll be setting yourself up for ecommerce content marketing success.
It may be preferable to update existing content rather than create something from scratch. You may already have too many pieces of content about this topic. There are probably valuable interlinking opportunities to be found in existing content in order to help boost rankings for your new content. You may need to significantly prune your site of under performing content (e.g., old and outdated) in order to give your new content the best chance of success.
For all these reasons and more, a content inventory and audit is needed to fully understand what you have to work with, and if any SEO and UX issues need to be addressed before embarking on an expensive content marketing campaign.
Below are a few links to learn more about content inventories and audits:
Content marketing without the help of audience personas to guide the strategy is going to feel like throwing content against a wall to see what sticks. However, even if you have audience personas, they may not provide the information that could be most valuable to your content marketing efforts.
See a video of the presentation and the slide deck here: https://confluenceconference.org/2015-confluence-conference-videos/everette-sizemore-audience-personas/
Chances are many readers already have customer personas for their retail brand. If so, give them another look to ensure you have gleaned actionable information from them for content marketing. Some of the resources below discuss specific pieces of info you’ll want to include.
Also, don’t confuse “audience” with “customer.” Influencers may not be customers, but you definitely want to capture them in audience personas.
Once you have personas in place, make sure there is at least one piece of content catering to each major stage in the buyer’s journey for each persona - from awareness of their need all the way to purchase. The Persona Topic Matrix can help you visualize these gaps.
Here are a few links about audience personas for content marketing purposes:
Content marketing can accomplish many things. What do you need this content to accomplish for you? And how do you measure it? That, along with the audience, is going to inform what you produce, publish and promote on a daily basis.
What are the goals for this content? What are your goals for content marketing in general? These sound like elementary questions, but you’d be surprised how much content marketing goes on without documented goals and performance metrics. Speaking of metrics...
How do you measure the success of this content? Visits? Shares and Engagement? Purchases and Leads?
Does social convert for you? Does it depend on “which” social? For example, Pinterest does quite well for fashion and Houzz does well for home decor and furnishings.
Or should you just use it for content amplification and brand building? A large social following on Facebook and Twitter may not bring in many conversions directly, but it could mean the difference between your content flopping and going viral within your industry.
Does your audience need to be educated? For example, do you have complicated products with lots of options, features and dimensions? Are you working in new product categories, game-changers or disruptive technology? Do you sell high consideration products, such as those requiring large purchases?
Every piece of content should have its own goals. Where you choose to publish and promote the content depends largely on this.
Bottom line: Don’t fall into the trap of reporting on visits and conversions when both the medium and the message aren’t aligned to those goals. Likewise, follower counts are useless if they aren’t engaged.
Here are a few links about goals and measuring success for content marketing:
If a video plays in a forest, did anyone see it? Every audience will spend their time in different places. As discussed, personas are the best place to start. When you find out where the audience congregates online (the more niche the better), you’ll have a big piece of this picture.
Whether the influencers (to this segment) in your industry are part of the target market or not, knowing who they are and the type of content they share is important. Likewise, knowing which publications and social sites both your influencers and potential customers frequent will tell you where to advertise and promote. You may choose to target a custom Facebook ad to their followers, if the audience is large enough. Don’t be afraid of advertising on niche forums or publishing your content off-site. Always try to be where your audience is, even if that’s on another website.
By doing the research first, your content strategy will practically write itself. And with a well-informed strategy, your chances of content marketing success are greatly enhanced. By the time you’re finished with the inventory, audit, research and persona work, you’ll know exactly what needs to be written, who the audience is, when it needs to be produced, where it should be published and promoted, and what metrics to look at along the way to ensure your efforts are hitting the right goals.
Next Step: Take these efforts and apply them to your ecommerce multichannel marketing strategy. Leave comments here with any questions as you go along and we’ll answer with more details, as needed.
Bio: Everett Sizemore is Director of Marketing at Inflow. He speaks internationally about ecommerce marketing and SEO, and has more than a decade of experience in ecommerce. Everett is a Moz Associate and contributing author to Moz, Kapost, and several other digital marketing publications.