There’s endless talk in the marketing world about the importance of content marketing to drive sales and boost Google rankings, but much of this advice is aimed at businesses offering professional services like consulting or copywriting, rather than retailers. For a company selling shoes, sweets or bedding, it can be harder to know how to go about creating meaningful content that goes beyond mere descriptions or sales pitches. Effective content builds trust in your brand, establishes your expertise, and boosts both search engine ranking and retention rate, but what does effective content look like for these kinds of online retailers?
1. It meets your audience’s needs
The core of any marketing approach is knowing your customer. When it comes to digital marketing, there is a wealth of information available to help identify you're demographic and understand their needs deeply: who they are, what their questions are, and where they are looking for answers. Digging into this data allows you to create content that is valuable to them because it answers the questions they are searching better than other content available online. Done right, this will bring your audience to you.
Once you have identified what your audience wants and needs, you can move beyond descriptions of your products or sales pitches (although your products should definitely have descriptions!) and offer information that actually connects with people.
For retailers, this centres around your product, but should not always be promotional in tone. For example, for one of our e-commerce clients, Manchester Warehouse, the most successful content has been offering information our customers are seeking out - how to best care for their linen sheets, what is trending, and how to best style different bed linen - not from simply promoting their own products. Giving away your specialist knowledge for free can feel uncomfortable but it is the key to creating content that works. The more specifically geared to your audience, the greater its effects will be.
2. It Offers Something New
Effective content stands out because it offers something new. It should, of course, be completely original, never lifted from somewhere else, but it should also take a novel approach to the topic. This can seem intimidating, particularly if you’re offering content on a topic that has been covered endlessly. Sometimes there really is nothing new to say!
There are three main ways to offer something new with your online content:
Answer questions nobody else answers or meet needs nobody else meets. This is where the data comes in handy, allowing you to identify niche areas that haven’t been addressed thoroughly. That can mean nailing down into the details of a topic most sites only provide an overview of, taking a different perspective or making it applicable to a different audience.
Present your answers in a different way than anybody else. If competitors are only offering articles, consider including an infographic, a video, or a tutorial to help you stand out. This is a great way to make content that is both engaging and shareable.
Have better quality content than anybody else. If there are fifty sites online already talking about your topic, make sure yours is better. How high the bar is will vary by topic. Use better photos, hire a talented writer or editor, and offer more comprehensive, clear, user-friendly information than your competitors.
Retailers who find ways to create content that is original and engaging will yield the best results.
3. It’s Written for People, Not for the Algorithm
A surefire way to undermine your efforts at content marketing is to put too much focus on trying to hit every keyword or write in a way that is easy for a computer to navigate but ignores the human reader. There are a number of ways your content will suffer if you fall into this trap. As people get frustrated trying to read what you have written, your bounce rate will go up, and customers can even leave with the impression that your site is scammy or unprofessional. Search engine algorithms are getting smarter all the time, and increasingly reward well-written, complex material and penalise keyword stuffing and unreadable content. There is no benefit trying to game the system in this way.
Many retailers still rely on stuffing content that was never designed to be read at the bottom of product pages to try to bring in search engine traffic, but this is no longer effective. Winning content is designed to be both helpful and readable, and is posted in places that it is useful and user-friendly.
4. It’s Part of a Consistent Strategy
Creating one killer piece of content is a great start, but it’s not enough. Effective content marketing requires consistency. Creating new content and keeping existing content updated demonstrates to both your audience and to search engine algorithms that you are active, up to date, and relevant. A new piece of content posted within a web of other great content will always perform better, especially if strategies like internal linking have been employed effectively.
For online retailers, this typically means creating a back catalogue of evergreen content, then shifting focus to new developments and current trends. For example, information about sizing, materials and different types of bedding are always relevant to our Manchester Warehouse customers, so our evergreen content includes pieces on how to choose a linen quilt cover or care for linen fabric. For our fresh, ongoing content, we write more about timely topics like Autumn colour palettes, trending bed linen (Australia specific works best), or collaborations we have been part of.
Online retailers who prioritise creating consistent content that is original and that meets their audience’s needs will see the most success from their content marketing strategy. The content itself may look different from the content provided by sites offering professional services, but the principles remain and the results can be just as significant.