There is a prevalent thought that content does not have a place in ecommerce. The typical arguments against content are that it impedes and distracts from a sale, that it does not fit nicely into the site architecture, or that it is a marketing “issue”. I would argue that content is an absolute necessity to a successful SEO strategy for any ecommerce business.
Content allows you to connect with your target audience earlier in the buying cycle.
The typical ecommerce website is comprised of mostly category pages and product pages. In the context of the buying cycle, the intent of the content for these types of pages are ‘research’ and ‘purchase’, respectively.
Category pages would be considered research content, as the intent of people arriving on these pages from an organic search is to browse, research, and compare products. As such, they are optimized for relatively high-level keywords.
Product pages would be considered purchase content, as the intent of people arriving on these pages from an organic search is to buy. People will find these pages through organic search by searching for specific product names.
As we can see in this graphic, most ecommerce sites use content to properly connect with people further along in the buying cycle. Unfortunately, this content does not allow for you to connect with people earlier in the buying cycle. People in the ‘awareness’ stage are an untapped opportunity for most ecommerce businesses, as they are a relevant audience that will become buyers in the near future. So why not get in front of them before your competitors do?
Cast a wider net by discussing your broader market
The common misstep many sites make with ‘awareness’ content is to produce content focused on your products. Mistake! Remember that the goal of this content is to educate and to increase brand awareness. Producing content that only focuses on your products is viewed as a sales push and will be dismissed by your target audience.
Instead, write about your broader market. Engage with the topics that your target audience cares about. If you sell running shoes, talk about local races, fun trails, healthy meals to eat before a run, or apps to use for tracking your runs as well replace the cigars with the vape pens. In this way, you will create a natural opportunity to communicate with your target audience, increasing your chances for social engagement. Additionally, you will be able to target a broader set of keywords and topics that will drive more traffic to your website.
Content expands the reach of your brand and products to earn links and social engagement
One of the most important factors in performing well in organic search is inbound links and, more recently, social engagement. This was confirmed during the recent analysis of 2013 ranking factors from Moz, where 47% of the factors were found to be link or social related. Unfortunately, earning inbound links and social engagement is very difficult for ecommerce sites, given that category and product pages are not the most linkable or sharable content. In other words, people are more likely to share an interesting piece of research, opinion piece, or video, as opposed to your category spill page.
For the better part of the past decade, it has been enough to optimize category and product pages to succeed in ecommerce. However, these types of content only connect with people further along in the buying cycle. By creating and distributing awareness content, there is an opportunity to reach a broader audience. Additionally, you create the opportunity to generate inbound links and social engagement.