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The Advanced Guide to Content Marketing For Ecommerce

If you’re not putting out relevant content in relevant places, you don’t exist.That’s a direct quote from Gary Vaynerchuk—an entrepreneur, hustler, and truth-teller who has a lot to say about marketing, business, and the relationship between today’s consumers and the companies they choose to do (or not do) business with.

In true Gary Vaynerchuk fashion, it’s a fairly simple, yet painfully honest and strikingly blunt claim intended to drive right into the hearts of every entrepreneur and business owner currently fighting for the attention of online consumers in 2016.

If you’re not putting out relevant content in relevant places, you don’t exist.

In order to build a successful ecommerce business today, you have to be able to understand and take action on this statement. Why? Because the playing field has been leveled, the old tactics no longer work, and consumers expect more from you and every other business they give their money to.

As a business owner, you’ve likely already started taking action on Gary Vaynerchuk’s warning by investing a little bit of time and money into content marketing.

But the problem is, so have all your ecommerce competitors. They all understand what content marketing is, they all have a blog, and they all create content for website visitors and social media followers to see.

Here’s the good news:

Most of them have no idea what they’re doing, what to focus on, how to get real ROI, or how to scale.

Most of them are just going through the motions and doing the bare minimum they can get away with in order to meet the expectations of the consumers who land on their website.

You can be better. You can go above and beyond to use content marketing as a tool to exceed expectations. You can use content marketing to effectively differentiate from competitors (no matter the size), build brand loyalty, leverage your brand or yourself as a thought leader and value provider in your industry (no matter how new you are in the space), and drive more sales for your ecommerce business.

This guide will help you do it. It’s got everything you need to advance your content marketing skills in order to fuel growth at your ecommerce business.

Feel free to scroll directly to sections you think will be most helpful to you based on your current situation. This guide was written in a way so that you do not necessarily need to read from top to bottom. In other words, skimming through or skipping sections entirely is OK 🙂

Important Terms

There’s more to content marketing than just blogging every week. In order to take your content marketing efforts to the next level, you should become familiar with the following terms:

Analytics – The organization and evaluation of data in order to identify trends or patterns, uncover opportunities, track progress on goals and performance, and better understand user behavior. For example, a tool like Google Analytics can tell you which blog posts are sending the most people to your product pages and/or driving the most sales.

A/B Testing – Also known as split-testing, this refers to the action of creating two different versions of a web component in order to influence behavior. For example, you can use a tool like KingSumo Headlines Optimizely, or VWO to test different blog post headlines or opt-in forms on blog post pages.

AB test blog content

Buyer Persona – A report that details the personality, demographics, hobbies, lifestyle and objections of a typical customer. You can use buyer personas to come up with better blog post ideas. For example, you might write a blog post that addresses a specific pain point that you know most prospective customers have when deciding whether to buy your products.

Content Promotion – The act (and art) of sharing your content with new and current audiences on various places around the web in order to boost traffic, brand exposure, leads, and sales. Most people promote content on Facebook and Twitter, but you can also promote content through email, in industry forums, and with the help of partners who have similar audiences as your own.

Content marketing follow up email

Content Engagement – The opportunity to drive your followers or website visitors to engage some sort of activity, such as commenting on a blog post, sharing it on social media, retweeting a blog post, etc.  

Key Performance Indicator – A metric to define success. For example, you can scale your content marketing efforts by setting goals relating to pageviews, time on site, click-through-rate on emails, bounce rate, engagement rates, and sales.

Lead Generation – The act of looping a prospective customer into your sales funnel. In content marketing, this can be done by offering rich content like an ebook to visitors in exchange for their email address.

lead gen for content marketing ecommerce

Link Building – The act of attempting to earn high-quality links from other websites that send new traffic to your website and influence your ranking in search results. You can earn links by developing compelling, original content and convincing other people and blog managers to share a link to your piece of content on their website.

Marketing Automation – The suite of software tools that one uses to streamline tedious tasks, scale effective tactics, and automate processes. For example, you can set up an automatic email drip campaign that gets sent to each person who opts in to download an ebook or other resource offered on your blog.  

Segmentation – To develop a specific strategy or specific content for a select subgroup within your customer base. For example, an outdoors ecommerce shop might decide to create a separate lead nurturing email drip for customers who like hunting vs. customers who like hiking.

10X Content – The idea that every piece of content you create and publish on your blog should be 10 times better than anything else that currently exists online about the same topic (more on that here).

10x content for ecommerce

To look through an expanded list of content marketing terms and definitions, I recommend going through this comprehensive glossary from Copyblogger.

Best Practices

To get more ROI from content marketing for your ecommerce business, take these best practices into consideration:

  • Don’t expect results right way. Keep in mind that content marketing takes time. It’s not a get-rich-quick scheme. You have to be willing to spend at least 6+ months investing consistently in blogging, paid advertising, promotion, and lead gen in order to start seeing any sort of results.
  • Do be willing to spend good money for high-quality content. You get what you pay for. If you’re not willing to spend top-dollar on writers, don’t expect to get good content. Resource for finding writers:
  • Don’t be spammy. Your goal as an ecommerce business is obviously to sell more products, and people know that. When it comes to content marketing, don’t go overboard with including special offers, coupons, and deals. At the end of the day, if you can provide value and position yourself as a resource that people can trust, the sales will come in.
  • Do Facebook advertising. Facebook Advertising can be an incredibly useful platform for promoting content and connecting with the right audience. There’s a lot you can do with segmenting down to your exact target audience. Resource to look into:
  • Don’t try to do everything yourself. If you want to scale your content marketing efforts and continue to boost ROI, you have to be willing to delegate tasks and use tools to boost productivity. Scroll down for recommendations.
  • Do listen to customers. Use tools like Intercom, Google Forms, or Facebook Polls to find out what kind of content your customers want to read on your blog. It’s a lot better than assuming you know all the questions your customers have about your products and industry and creating content that does not help or interest them.
  • Don’t be like everyone else in your space. Don’t copy your competitors. Be original. If you can Google your blog post idea and find more than 3 blog posts already covering your topic, it’s probably not worth writing about—unless you are confident you can make your blog post 10x better than anything else that exists.
  • Do create personas for your content marketing. Take the time to learn more about your ideal customer and organize information into buyer personas and blog reader personas. Resource to look into:
  • Don’t over-automate. It’s important to streamline tasks with tools, but be careful not to come across as too robotic in your blog posts, social media updates, and emails. At the end of the day, your customers still want to feel like they are doing business with a human being, so make sure to keep a good amount of personality and authenticity in your content.

 

Best Resources

The best way to advance your content marketing skills is to learn from the experts—people who are pumping out fresh content, new ideas, and proven tactics each and every day. Here are some great resources to start with:

Why Good Unique Content Needs to Die – Rand Fishkin, Moz

Rand Fishkin Whiteboard Friday Content Marketing

In this video, SEO master and content guru Rand Fishkin introduces the idea of “10x-ing” content. It’s a great presentation to watch in order to understand how SEO has changed and why meeting the minimum expectations in terms of content quality just doesn’t cut it or benefit you at all anymore.

100+ Ways to Promote Your Content – Sujan Patel, Content Marketer

Most businesses are investing in content marketing and blogging, but few are actually dedicating resources to content promotion. In this blog post, content marketing expert Sujan Patel outlines 100+ proven content promotions tactics and sources that you can use to boost brand exposure and bring more potential customers to your website.

How To Boost Conversions by 785% in One Day – Brian Dean, Backlinko

In this blog post, SEO guru Brian Dean introduces the “content upgrade,” which is an incredibly effective lead gen tactic that you can incorporate into the content on your blog in order to capture subscribers and move them through your sales funnel.

I Just Deleted Your Outreach Email Without Reading. And NO, I Don’t Feel Sorry – Tim Soulo, ahrefs

Blogger Outreach Tim Suolo ahrefs

In this post, Tim Soulo outlines exactly what you SHOULDN’T do when you promote your content over email in an effort to build links and presents tips that you can use to write better and more effective content outreach emails.

Why You Need a Growth Model For Your Blog (And How to Create One) – Devesh Khanal, Grow & Convert

If you’re really interested in figuring out how to scale your blog in order to drive sales, then this blog is definitely worth diving into. It’s heavy on data and metrics, but incredibly useful and informative. In it, CRO expert Devesh Khanal lays out a framework for fueling blog growth.

Here Are The 101 Catchy Blog Title Formulas That Will Boost Traffic By 438% – Nathan Ellering, CoSchedule

This blog post will teach you how to write better titles for your blog posts. In it, author Nathan Ellering will teach you how to use the four pillars of awesome content in your blog titles, how to use psychology to increase shares and clicks, and how to use the best words to capture your audience’s unique interest.

101 Ways to Source Content Ideas – Dayne Shuda, KISSmetrics

If you need help coming up with content ideas in general, take a look through Dayne Shuda’s post on the KISSmetrics blog. In it, he presents some great ideas about where you can go online to find blog post ideas that are perfect for your audience.

Building a Content Team: Hiring In-house vs. Outsourcing vs. Hiring Freelancers – Benji Hyam, Grow & Convert

Grow and Convert Benji Hyam content team

In this blog post, author Benji Hyam presents the pros and cons of hiring in-house content writers vs. hiring freelancers. It’s a great post to go through once you start experiencing some initial traction on your blog and want to start preparing to scale your efforts.

How to Exceed 100,000 Blog Visits Per Month – William Harris, Search Engine Journal

This blog will give you the strategy that I used with Rob Wormley to help When I Work grow their blog from 20K to 100K pageviews in less than a year.

How the Pros Track Conversions and ROI with These Content Marketing Metrics – Aaron Agius

Aaron walks you through how to calculate a few of the top metrics for interpreting the success of your content marketing. You evaluation needs to go beyond page views and social shares – and include things like your customer lifetime value, and revenue per page view.

24 Juicy Tips for Ecommerce Content Marketing from Inbound Marketing Pros – Desmond Chua, ReferralCandy

Desmond Chua content marketing for ecommerce

In this infographic-style blog post, Desmond Chua presents 24 helpful content marketing tactics for ecommerce businesses. He sources the tips in his blog post from some of the best and brightest internet marketing professionals in the business.

Best Influencers

To level up your content marketing skills and constantly stay ahead of the game, read content from and follow these content marketing influencers:

Sujan Patelgrowth marketer, author, entrepreneur, and founder of Content Marketer.

Brian Honigmancontent marketing consultant, author, and founder of Honigman Media.

Joanna Wiebemaster copywriter, blogger, and ‎Creator of Copy Hackers.

Jay Baer – Digital marketer, author, speaker, and President of Convince & Convert.

Camille RickettsHead of content marketing at First Round Capital.

Neil PatelInternet marketing guru, entrepreneur, content marketing blogger, and Founder of CrazyEgg.

Rob WormleyHead of content marketing at When I Work, author of the Content Marketing Playbook and 100 Days of Growth.

Jayson DeMersContent marketing consultant, author, and Founder of AudienceBloom.

Brian DeanSEO guru, content marketing blogger, and founder of Backlinko.

Rand FishkinSEO master, content marketing blogger, and founder of Moz.

William Harris – Growth marketer, entrepreneur, content marketing blogger – and author of this post 🙂

Best Tools

If you want to focus on advancing your content marketing skills and increasing ROI, you have to start outsourcing tasks and adopting tools. Here are a handful that you can start with:

Content MarketerThis tool helps streamline content promotion, outreach, and link-building. There are three components of the tool. One component helps you easily find anyone’s email address (Marketer tool), another component helps you write and send outreach emails when you’re ready to promote content (Connector tool), and a final component scans your post, finds people who are mentioned on Twitter, and pre-populates tweets that you can send to them notifying them that they’ve been mentioned in your post.

content promotion tools for outreach

TrelloTrello is the best tool available for managing a team of writers. It’s a visual-focused project management tool that makes it easy to plan out your entire content calendar and work with blog posts from idea all the way to the final published product. You can use the tool to create to-do’s, communicate with freelance writers, attach documents, assign due dates, and integrate with other tools like Google Drive, Dropbox, and more.

CoScheduleCoSchedule is a powerfully simple editorial calendar plugin that runs on WordPress. It’s a great alternative to Excel spreadsheets and other clunky solutions. With CoSchedule, you can collaborate with your team through the use of comments, tasks, and customized workflows.  You can also create content from within the tool, or you can work from within WordPress or another tool like Google Docs or Evernote. When you’re ready to publish the post, you can use CoSchedule to plan and schedule social media updates to promote the post.

CoSchedule tool for content creation

BufferBuffer is my go-to tool for sharing content with my followers on social media. With Buffer, you can write and schedule posts for later, track engagement, conversions, and trends, and collaborate with your team members. It’s a simple, yet powerfully effective tool that you should be using to promote your content.

CanvaCanva makes it easy to create original graphics to use in your blog posts. It’s the perfect tool for non-designers who want to add more flavor and personality to their content without having to hire an expensive designer, or use cheesy stock photos. I use Canva to visually summarize or feature sentences in my blog post that I really want my readers to see and understand. I also use the same images in social media updates when it comes time to share the post on Facebook and Twitter.

Canva tool for graphics

Facebook AdsAs mentioned earlier, Facebook Ads can be an incredibly effective tool for getting your content and products in front of new people who fall within your target audience. You can use Facebook Ads to automatically promote relevant products and content to website visitors, current customers, and look-alike audiences. To get started, check out these resources:

BuzzsumoBuzzsumo is a content discovery and research tool that you can use to come up with better blog post ideas. The tool allows you to quickly analyze what content performs best for any topic or competitor online. You can also use the tool to find influencers and highly active social media users who can help you get the word out about your content and products. You can even use Buzzsumo to track competitors.

ZemantaZemanta is a paid content distribution tool. It’s a service that you can use to place your content on other popular sites and blogs around the web in order to reach more people who might be interested in reading your content or buying your products. Like Facebook Ads, it has powerful demographic and segmentation tools that allow you to really zero in on the right group of people.

Zemanta paid content marketing tool

Google Keyword Planner – This is my preferred tool for doing keyword research in order to come up with new blog post ideas. When you create blog posts based on specific long-tail keyword phrases that people are typing into Google, you have a better chance of showing up in results. To learn more, check out this fantastic guide from CoSchedule.

SumoMeSumoMe is the best lead generation tool you can put on your blog and throughout your content. It’s a suite of tools that make it incredibly easy to design and launch email opt-in forms on your website. For example, you can use the tool to create a form that blog visitors can fill out in order to gain access to an ebook or worksheet you put together. You could also use the SumoMe Welcome Mat to start building a list of subscribers that you can email each time you publish new content on your blog.

Sumome CRO content marketing tool

Quuu – I’ve been experimenting with Quuu for a few months now and I’m crazy impressed with the kind of promotion I get from them.  Instead of relying on the overcrowded big guy (like Facebook and Twitter), you can get more traction from digging into an aggressive newcomer for content promotion.  They recently put out an article comparing stats for promotion and they make a compelling case.

Putting It All Together

So you’ve got the tips, tools, and resources needed to advance your content marketing skills and start making changes to your content strategy—the question is, what’s the best way to kick things off? I put together a quick resource that can help. It’s called the 7-Part Checklist for Scaling Content Marketing At Your Ecommerce Business. In it, I outline the best steps you can take now to scale your content marketing efforts and boost ROI. You can download it for free:

What other information is missing from this blog post? Got a favorite tool or tip that would help someone else who lands on this post? Share it as a comment below!

William Harris William Harris is leading content at Sellbrite and is also the Founder & Growth Marketer of Elumynt, LLC., VP of Marketing and Growth for a top 700 online retailer and former head of Marketing for When I Work, a VC backed SaaS company. William is also a contributor to leading publications like The Next Web, Search Engine Journal, Social Media Today, and Sellbrite and a speaker at industry events covering topics such as marketing strategy, search engine optimization, content marketing, digital marketing, social media and personal branding. Follow William on Twitter (@WmHarris101), LinkedIn, and Google+.
  • Thanks for including me in this insightful piece William, I appreciate it. Keep it up. ?

    • Anytime, Brian – I’ve been following your work in content marketing for a while. You’ve been a big inspiration.

  • Thanks for including me in this insightful piece William, I appreciate it. Keep it up. ?

    • Anytime, Brian – I’ve been following your work in content marketing for a while. You’ve been a big inspiration.

  • Thanks for including me in this insightful piece William, I appreciate it. Keep it up. ?

    • Anytime, Brian – I’ve been following your work in content marketing for a while. You’ve been a big inspiration.

  • Really great piece, William! Tons of actionable takeaways here.

  • Really great piece, William! Tons of actionable takeaways here.

  • Really great piece, William! Tons of actionable takeaways here.

  • Have to put relevant content in relevant place. Nice write up.

  • Have to put relevant content in relevant place. Nice write up.

  • Have to put relevant content in relevant place. Nice write up.

  • Aaron Orendorff

    Stellar summary, Will. So many helpful tools and definitions. I’ll be coming back to this one for sure.

  • Aaron Orendorff

    Stellar summary, Will. So many helpful tools and definitions. I’ll be coming back to this one for sure.

  • Aaron Orendorff

    Stellar summary, Will. So many helpful tools and definitions. I’ll be coming back to this one for sure.

  • Awesome to be included with such esteemed company, and in such a useful, thorough list! This is great.

  • Awesome to be included with such esteemed company, and in such a useful, thorough list! This is great.

  • Awesome to be included with such esteemed company, and in such a useful, thorough list! This is great.

  • Great piece of writing!!Content is the King It was true and It will true forever. Thanks for giving this amazing article.

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