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Content marketing for ecommerce businesses: A simple guide to engaging customers

Content marketing for ecommerce businesses: A simple guide to engaging customers

Ryan Murtagh
Ryan Murtagh

Content is more than simply the words on a page. While these are very important, there is a wide variety of content types that eCommerce businesses can take advantage of.

Content is important in every business.


- Video is particularly effective for online shopping. Customers are unable to hold and touch the product for themselves, so video adds a layer of experience that written descriptions can’t capture. Seeing how a dress moves or sits, the sense of weight a product has, and its manufacturing quality, are all easier to understand when seen in the context of a well-made video.


Videographer filming an event.


- Interactive content can encompass anything from 360º images that users can manipulate to see a product from all angles to surveys and games that provide deeper brand engagement. Interactivity promotes increased time on site and brand recognition, which are important SEO factors.

- Written content is the bread and butter of what a user sees on a website. The shift from the SEO tactics of even two years ago to a more content-focused approach has meant that businesses have started to dedicate more resources to the creation of high-quality writing.

- Audio is becoming a popular way of promoting engagement with customers and making an eCommerce site more than simply a place to buy something. Business owners are discovering the value of their site and brand as a resource for people who are interested in the industry. Establishing yourself as an authority on a topic and in a market is a big part of the content marketing picture.

- Graphics encompass everything from cartoons and drawings, infographics and pie charts, to gorgeous, original photography. Images are some of the most important content as they are eye-catching and engaging, without using large amounts of precious mobile data like a video can. It allows businesses to create specific brand styles quickly and easily through the use of colours and fonts, adding recognition value in a way that writing can struggle to achieve on its own.

SEO and high-quality content

Why it matters

Content is a vital rankings factor for websites. Websites that have large amounts of content consistently rank better than those that are thin. However, with eCommerce in particular, ensuring the content is engaging at a user level is vital for other ranking signals.

What types work

For all its whizz and bang, Google is still a simple beast in the way it crawls a site. It has become incredibly adept at understanding the semantics of language, recognising well-written content from the bad, and assessing the value of a piece of writing to the industry as a whole. However, it isn’t so good with video and images, and audio doesn’t even register as a blip on its radar. These things will change as their video and image recognition algorithms improve and technology advances, but until then, the written content is still king.


Writing content on typewriter.


That said, not all written content is created equal and words for words’ sake are becoming less and less effective. Five years ago, a website could whack 250 words of barely coherent writing on their site, cram it with keywords and phrases, and it would do a good job of helping it rank. Five years before that, a list of keywords in the footer of the page was equally effective. In 2016, quality content means something entirely different. The proliferation of blogs and articles means that good and unique content is no longer the aim for sites. They need to look past writing for the search engines and look at the user experience. Google has gone beyond simply crawling what is on the website itself, to assessing the value of content through a range of other factors. These include the sharing statistics of content and the time on site of users. These numbers tell them how engaging a piece of content is and how much it contributes to the industry. This isn’t to say that they don’t read the content themselves, but now they look a range of indicators more complex than just keyword density and duplication.

How marketing fits in with website content

Content is vital for marketing. It can be minimalist and clean or frantic and exciting, but it is important for conveying the business’s ethos, values, and convincing the customer that they align with their own. Complicating the equation is the need for the content to factor in the SEO elements of website content. Often when a business devises their brand and tone of voice, it can be at odds with the need to hit certain keywords and phrases in their written content. This is a delicate balancing act between creating content that is a pleasure to read for the user, conveys the brand image and product benefits to the customer, and encompasses all the necessary words that the search crawlers will use when indexing the site.

The kind of content an eCommerce website needs

As already established, the idea of “quality content” is always evolving. At this moment in time, it means content that is original and valuable. It has to project the authority of a brand, showcase its knowledge, and encourage others to share it. This means that just having good product descriptions is no longer enough. Of course, they are still important and writing your own keyword optimised originals that focus on the user and the benefits is always better than using manufacturer supplied text or having none at all, but they aren’t engaging in the same way as a well-written blog.

Blogging, despite its origins as a way for anonymous people to vent their heartache to the world, has become a powerful tool for businesses in every industry. Every day on networks like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and more, people are promoting their articles, sharing those of others, and trying to ramp up the engagement of users with their content. So, while your product descriptions are important, creating content that is shareable and offers users something beyond the purchasing experience is equally so.

The future of website content

As with most internet innovations, the direction of content will be shaped by three factors: the uptake of different content forms by businesses, the acceptance and adoption of these forms at the user end, and the importance powerful companies like Google place on them. Add to this the evolution of computer hardware, new devices we haven’t conceived yet, and trends like mobile computing, and the future becomes murkier still. The one trend that seems to be indicative of the immediate future, however, is that the user experience will continue to be the foremost indicator content’s value. Since their inception, Google’s guidelines have always stated that they value sites that are aimed at the customer rather than the crawler, and as the algorithms improve, they become more capable of making this a function rather than just a philosophy.

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