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The core of your e-commerce site might not actually be the products you sell, but your content. We tend to put so much emphasis on what we’re selling (which is important too) but often we overlook how much good content can facilitate conversions.

Content includes, of course, the products that are being sold but it’s also much, much more than that. Dictionary.com defines content in this context as: “information made available by a website or other electronic medium.” This includes the information about your products on your site, the photographs or illustrations of the products, the descriptions, and so forth. Beyond this obvious type of content, there are blogs, podcasts, videos and other media items that offer relevant information about your industry, or subjects of interest to your customers or potential customers— for free. This type of informative, free content is usually shared on social media and used as marketing, making it, in many ways, the center of your brand.

Why Does Content Matter?

Good content is generally thought of as content that drives traffic to a site, engages the user and in the end results in conversions (i.e. sales). Search engines are quite sophisticated in how they rank sites and in determining which sites make it to the top of a search. They use several criteria, one of the most important being engagement. They see how often people visit a site and how long they stay there. The more visits and the longer the duration, the higher the SEO. Social media also looks at the same metrics when making recommendations. So SEO alone is one very good reason you want to have content on your site.

SEO aside, content gives customers another reason to visit your online store other than just shopping. A client might not be ready to make a purchase, but he or she is interested enough to engage with your articles or videos. And this interaction is sufficient to keep the potential client interested and perhaps even trigger a sale a little later. As with a brick and mortar store, sometimes clients simply want to read labels, or learn about a designer’s new collection or have a chat with a salesperson about what’s trending in the industry before they’ll even think about making a purchase. Offering them space to “browse” and to engage with the brand without the pressure to purchase is invaluable to both the client and the brand. This type of no-pressure, non-sales interaction helps build trust, loyalty and gives the visitor the sense that the brand is interested in them, and quite possibly can help them solve their problems.

Product-related Content

For the purposes of this article there are two types of content: product content and marketing content. Product content should be easy to read or view (if it's in the form of an image), clear and detailed so as to answer questions. For example, if your e-commerce site is selling patio furniture, you’ll want to have all the information about each piece accessible: the size, dimensions, color, weight, materials used, photos, etc., should be quick and easy to find. This will enable a client to make an educated decision about the purchase and if it will be the right fit for his or her needs and environment. The check out process should also have clear language and instructions. This is the bare-bones minimum content an e-commerce site needs to function.

Content for Marketing

So what about information that’s meant to inform the visitor about more than the essentials of a product? There are some specific criteria that make for good content.

Be Diverse

First off, you’ll want to diversify the type of content that you offer. So don’t exclusively post videos or only write blog articles. Mix up the mediums you use to get your message across. The human mind can process images 60,000 times faster than words, and 90% of information transferred to the brain is visual. It’s also a good idea to offer shorter snippets of content interspersed with longer format ones. What attracts one person might not have the same pull for another so it’s best to cast a wide media net.

Be Valuable

There’s a lot of content already floating around on the internet, so you’ll want to offer information that is: useful, interesting, and easily accessible. What this really means is that in a crowded market place you have to add value.

First, you’ll need to know what your customers are interested in. What areas of information are they most likely to engage with? Using analytics might come in handy here. If you’re still unsure, ask your clients what they’d like to learn more about, or see on your site. How can you continue to be of service to them beyond the products you offer? How can you connect with your consumer outside of making a sale?

Consider offering instructionals or tutorials on how clients or potential clients in your industry can improve (after all, you’re the expert in this industry, you didn’t get to where you are without some experience.) Interview a guest who is an important figure in your industry, or ask he or she to be a guest blogger. But whatever you do, one of the best recipes you can use for success is to go above and beyond the average content that is on the web for your industry. Do your research, see what kind of content is out there already in your industry or area of expertise, and then do better than that.

Keywords

What about keywords you ask? Yes, they should be there; and if your content is accurate and engaging, the keywords will organically appear. This means that when someone types a keyword into a search engine such as Google, your site will rise to the top. If you’re unsure of what keywords or topics to address, you can try a site like Keyword Tool that helps find popular keywords.

Be Interesting

But just because you’ve nailed the keywords doesn’t mean that your content can be dry or boring in the least. It’s got to be enjoyable to read, listen to or watch. To keep your audience’s attention, be creative with the way you write, think, and interact with them. What would you want to read/see/hear about in your industry? The article that you’ve written has to be engaging enough to entice a reader. Keep in mind, content asks a lot of your audience; we’re all busy with loads of distractions coming at us.

Be Accessible

Last but not least, your content, no matter its format, should be easily accessible. Make sure that your website can support the technology you’re using and that information can load and be digested quickly. Nothing kills great content faster than a website that is slow to load.

Using content for SEO optimization is work and the returns are generally slow. But you’ve got to stay the course and be consistent in your content and posting to see rewards. Once you’ve figured out a rhythm of posting content that draws an ever-expanding audience, and decent SEO returns it will only continue to grow and you’ll be able to turn your attention toward expanding your e-commerce business.

Sharing Your Awesome Content on Social Media

So once you’ve got some awesome articles, videos or podcasts, it’s natural that you want to shout it from the rooftops and share it with your friends and followers. This is where social media comes in. You’ll want to know which social media channels your audience is most likely to interact with. You can easily find demographic information for platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and so forth. A good strategy is to post short snippets of an article or video to your social media accounts with links to your website encouraging further engagement and interaction with the full article, video, podcast, etc. Social media is a great way to get people talking and sharing their interest in your online content.

Social media is also an ideal place to interact with your audience about your content. You’ll know right away if you’ve created something that resonates or adds value by the feedback you receive online. You can track shares, likes, comments and so forth. Social media is a space where you can also ask questions to learn more about your audience, find out what they’re looking for, and learn what niches your business can fill. You can build brand loyalty and trust with honest and thoughtful engagement in the social media sphere.

Final Thoughts

Content or information is an amazing way to raise your business profile online. But not just any old content will do. Your content has to be well-thought-out and provide value to your customers and audience. As such it will organically help increase search engine results and the optimization of your e-commerce site. A general rule of thumb is that content should be engaging, fun, and easy to access. There’s a demand for creativity and multi-media within posts to entice the maximum number of visitors to your site. You can also leverage social media to guide customers and would-be-customers to your site to partake in your content. Content builds expertise, trust, and eventually sales. It’s a multi-tiered approach that’s a slow burn, but once it takes off, you can sit back and focus on expanding your e-commerce site while your content works for you.

CTA: What kind of content drives conversions? Read on to learn more about content marketing for your e-commerce site.

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