The right content strategy is an effective advantage in the fight to defeat the competition and solidify your ecommerce brand.
Here, you’ll find:
- What a successful ecommerce content strategy looks like
- A content strategy roadmap for your ecommerce store
- The benefits of a great content strategy (and drawbacks of a flimsy one)
- When to DIY, and when to outsource to pros
For millions of Americans today (especially if you happen to be reading this), online shopping is a regular part of life.
In 2022, global ecommerce sales surpassed $5.7 trillion. But with so many new brands hitting the market, it’s become harder than ever for ecommerce businesses to stand out.
The secret sauce to standing out? A killer ecommerce content marketing strategy.
It’s easier said than done, though. We get it.
There are numerous factors to consider, from defining your brand voice to creating content that aligns with your business goals. You’ll need careful planning and skilled execution to see results.
For this guide, we tapped expert Alissa DeGeorge, search engine optimization (SEO) manager here at HawkSEM, to guide us through the journey.
What is a content strategy for ecommerce?
A content strategy is exactly what it sounds like: creating a strategy for all of your content so that you can achieve your ecommerce company’s business goals.
You’ll use insights like age groups, location demographics, and buying preferences to create the most resonant, helpful content for your target audience.
The most effective ecommerce content is informative, engaging, and visually appealing. But are these types of content enough for business owners and marketers to gain traction?
This is where your content strategy comes into play. It gives every piece of content (product pages, blog posts, case studies, product descriptions, white papers, tutorials, and more) cohesion and a purpose.
The goal? Elevate good content to high-quality, valuable content that drives clear results, attracts potential buyers, and advances them on their customer journey.
Ready to leverage content to boost traffic and drive sales? Keep reading.
11 steps to develop and optimize your content strategy
At the heart of a great content strategy is the desire to help your audience. Use that as your beacon and you won’t fail.
Of course, you’ll beef up the strategy using analytics and data, but remember that you’re creating content for humans with real problems.
With that in mind, where’s the best place to start?
1. Define your brand voice
Your brand voice is the lifeblood of all your content, setting the tone for how you want to be perceived. It will guide the content creation process and differentiate you from competitors. This is how you stand out and establish a connection with your target audience.
Showcase your brand’s individuality with compelling content that tells your story, shares your values, and builds trust.
Begin by defining the basics:
- What values are important to your company?
- What’s the main message you want to communicate?
- Do you speak to your audience formally, casually, warmly, academically?
- What words best summarize your offering?
- What words are off-brand?
- If your brand were a person, who would they be? Create a sketch of your brand identity.
One way to keep your brand voice consistent? DeGeorge suggests creating a universal content guideline that breaks down the essentials: audience, tone, colors, and formatting.
This will ensure you seamlessly adopt this voice across all channels, from your website to newsletters to social media captions.
2. Pinpoint the best content mediums for your audience
The world of content is vast. Blog posts, videos, landing pages, product descriptions, podcasts, social media, infographics, and web pages galore.
But just because they all exist, doesn’t mean they all make sense for your ecommerce business.
Rather than reaching for every medium available, hone in on a few types of content.
For example, maybe you start with blogging and social media marketing. From there, ask yourself:
- Is your tone consistent?
- Does your audience change on different platforms?
- Does the verbiage across these content spaces accurately reflect your brand?
This is where the seeds of your strategy begin to take shape. Tailoring your content to meet your audience exactly where they’re at will create copy that pops off the page and into their lives.
Best part? You can repurpose content across various digital spaces. Take a long form blog post as an example. You can chop that bad boy up into a ton of bite-sized topics to share on social media. Voila, you just created dozens of content pieces from one meaty article.
3. Research your competitors
It’s no secret that ecommerce is booming. What makes your brand unique? To answer that, check out the competition.
“Identify your main competitors and evaluate their content to identify gaps and areas for improvement. Then, address those gaps in your content. Use the information gathered from researching competitors to provide what’s missing or find ways to do it better, thus gaining a competitive advantage.”
Analyze their content, engagement, messaging, branding, and performance metrics. Take note of their approach and find ways to do it even better.
4. Audit your own content
Just as you scope out your competitors, you should also audit your own content. Look for what’s working, and what’s falling flat. With these insights, you’ll see patterns that help you fine-tune your strategy to produce more targeted, impactful content that resonates with your audience.
Here’s what you can improve on:
- Content performance data: what’s hitting, and what’s missing?
- Swap broken or insufficient internal links with relevant, updated links
- Flesh out thin, low-quality content with comprehensive, actionable tips
- Remove any duplicate posts or content to avoid Google penalties
- Update outdated statistics with the latest figures
You might find older content that isn’t relevant to your target audience anymore. Say you publish a yearly trend forecast every January. You’ll want to update this every year to reflect industry shifts as trends are constantly evolving.
Alternatively, some content might still be relevant but could benefit from additional information, updated statistics, or more optimized formatting. Maybe you have a guide on how to create a monthly budget. What new, fresh value can you add to that piece? Perhaps you can cover new budgeting tools or apps have hit the market.
Regular audits will help you revamp old content so that it keeps working for you.
5. Tell your brand’s unique story
What grinds your brand’s gears? Are you involved in a philanthropic organization or social cause? What’s at the heart of your brand story? Why did you build this business?
These are important questions to ask that will help you build a compelling origin story. Write out your mission, values, and ethics, and communicate these through your content.
People don’t want to buy from soulless companies anymore. They want authenticity and transparency.
Deliver on that need by illuminating the values that make your brand human, and you’ll endear to their empathy.
You certainly want to publish educational, informative content like in-depth “how tos.” But don’t stop there. Every piece of content should tell a story that relates and engages.
Storytelling is the new hard sell. Meaning, you’re no longer aggressively marketing your products and their benefits to persuade people to buy. You’re enchanting people with a savory, emotional brand story that sticks out in their minds.
And this all starts with exceptional writers. Anyone can throw words on a page. A gifted writer gives those words a heartbeat.
6. Establish content goals
Not having marketing goals as an ecommerce business is like shooting blindly at a target. Sure, you might land some shots here and there… but it leaves your entire strategy up to chance.
You can do better, we’re confident about that. It’s easy to want to do it all. But try to get some clarity on what metrics you want to move the needle on.
Do you want to:
- Get more web traffic?
- Increase your conversion rate?
- Get more shares?
- Go viral?
DeGeorge emphasizes that the key to a successful content strategy is to focus on providing valuable answers to peoples’ most burning questions.
Use your content to educate and problem-solve. What are your audience’s specific pain points?
If you sell home cleaning products online, you might be targeting busy, working parents with little time to clean. Share how-to guides brimming with helpful tips on the best time-saving cleaning hacks.
Less time cleaning means more family time, and they just might purchase your supplies in the process because you took the time to help them.
The best part? Google’s “Helpful Content” update rewards this content over thrown together, hollow content published purely for search engines.
While an effective SEO strategy is essential, creating valuable content that addresses the needs and interests of your audience is ultimately what sets your brand apart.
7. Use the right tools
There are tons of online tools that make refining your content strategy easier than ever. Plus, they’re fun to experiment with.
Best place to start? With ConversionIQ ,a groundbreaking software that organizes all your digital marketing data in one user-friendly space. It gives you comprehensive data into predictive trends and the entire buyer (or non-buyer) journey, from when they first show interest to when they buy (or fall off). With all this juicy data at your fingertips, you have everything you need to optimize your digital marketing campaigns.
What other tools are worth subscribing to? Some of DeGeorge’s go-to tools for conducting research and gathering data include Semrush, Google Ads Keyword Planner, WordStream, and Ahrefs.
You might wonder if free keyword research tools stack up. They tend to have limited capabilities.
“While many free keyword research tools are helpful — paid tools like Semrush and Ahrefs offer incredibly insightful keyword and competitive data,” says DeGeorge.
The result is more efficiency and higher-ranking content.
8. Create a content calendar
We’ve all been there: scrambling to throw together last-minute content ideas just to get something published. You can avoid this by having a content calendar.
This is a clean, organized space where you’ll create content briefs, outline topics, assign content, and even communicate with your team.
It’ll also ensure you stay consistent with publishing content, letting your audience know you’re active, and search engines know you’re knowledgeable. After all, SEO is a long game, requiring consistent content creation, publishing, monitoring, and tweaking to see optimal results.
Having a content calendar saves you from quitting before you uncover the diamonds aka traffic, conversions, brand loyalty, and sales.
9. Understand clear formatting
How you format your content can vastly impact how people engage with and perceive your ecommerce business.
One study showed that people only read about 20%-28% of the words on a web page. It also found that scannable content with clear headings, bullet points, and concise paragraphs resulted in a 47% increase in readability.
Content formats can significantly affect whether people stay on your site, or lose interest and bounce away.
It’s important to ensure that your formatting is optimized for SEO as well.
- Use compelling, catchy titles
- Break up your content into sections with headings and subheadings
- Use informative title tags and meta descriptions — be sure to infuse targeted keywords here
- Include alt text for images
- Make ideas actionable and easy to read with bullet points and lists
Your formatting should be consistent and identifiable.
Take this blog post as an example. We start every article on our blog with a four-point bullet list of exactly what the reader will find in each piece. This creates cohesion across all of our blog content, and increases the user experience.
10. Break up text with relevant visuals
Who wants to read walls and walls of text? It’s fatiguing. We’re visual creatures, and we love shiny things. They compel us to share content because visuals inspire and engage us.
“Since you’re likely writing about similar topics to your competitors, it’s crucial to have some tricks up your sleeve to ensure your articles stand out,” says DeGeorge.
One way to do this? Add visuals that go beyond stock photos.
Like your brand voice, the images on your website should align with your mission and audience.
DeGeorge suggests incorporating branded infographics, statistics, or video content to increase your content’s visual appeal and make it more engaging.
“By incorporating these elements, you can make your content more memorable,” says DeGeorge..
They should also be accessible to people with visual impairments. Use descriptive alt text and captions to improve your content’s accessibility and SEO.
11. Stay in the know
Whether you’re a savvy marketer, wordsmith business owner, or ecommerce content writer, you’ll need to stay up to date on industry trends. According to DeGeorge, staying in the know helps you establish yourself as a thought leader.
Her tips for staying current? Subscribe to relevant blogs, social media channels, and other platforms that publish the latest updates and insights.
For example, if you sell automotive products, why not subscribe to Motor Trend’s blog, or YouTube channel?
Following SEO trends and Google algorithm updates is equally as crucial.
“This knowledge can help you create strong, high-performing content that resonates with your audience and ranks well on search engines,” says DeGeorge.
Alright, we’ve covered the nuts and bolts of assembling a rockstar content strategy. But let’s address the elephant in the room: why do it?
Why is strategizing content important?
We’ll pass the mike to DeGeorge to answer that question.
“One common mistake I often notice is the absence of a systematic approach to content creation,” says DeGeorge.
“Many businesses rely on guesswork, failing to make informed decisions about the topics they write about. This approach often results in content that doesn’t perform well because it wasn’t based on actual data-driven insights.”
DeGeorge stresses the importance of researching and determining the demand for topics before creating new content. Without intention behind the strategy, ecommerce content writers, marketers, and business owners alike risk publishing flat content that fails to bring traffic, potential customers, and foster engagement.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Throwing your content strategy to the wind can weaken almost every layer of your ecommerce business.
Results of a weak content strategy
- Inconsistent branding: Without a well-defined content strategy, your messaging and branding can become scattered, leading to unclear brand identity and confusion among your audience.
- Poor user experience (UX): Inadequate or irrelevant information, inconsistent messaging, and poor navigation can all stem from a lack of content strategy. This frustrates people, turning them off and potentially sabotaging conversions.
- Low SEO rankings: “It’s widely recognized that high-quality content is the number one Google ranking factor, so it’s crucial to create a robust content strategy,” says DeGeorge. Quality content and SEO go hand in hand. Ecommerce sites are no exception.
- Wasted resources: Pumping out content that does nothing to boost engagement, establish authority, drive traffic, or increase sales wastes time, money, and effort.
- Lack of engagement: Lackluster content won’t spark interest or inspire action, resulting in lower conversion rates and revenue. Not to mention losing out on new customers.
- Lack of differentiation: Without a well-defined strategy, your business will blend into the sea of competition.
There’s no silver lining to neglecting your content marketing strategy, and there’s no mistaking its advantages.
Benefits of a content strategy
Most ecommerce companies want to get more traffic, convert that traffic into customers, and keep those loyal customers coming back for more.
At the heart of these goals? A rock-solid content strategy.
Publishing informational, helpful, valuable content consistently via long-form blog posts, case studies, white papers, infographics, educational videos, and more, yields serious results.
It’s how we increased organic sessions by 200% for Honda, doubled conversion rates for Nike, and catapulted 686’s revenue by over 562%.
How can a content strategy for ecommerce generate these mega results for your brand?
- Increased brand awareness and visibility: Strategic digital marketing helps your ecommerce business reach a wider audience and gain more traction in organic search results and on social media.
- Improved user experience: A content strategy will inform a well-organized, easy to navigate, value-packed website, which is more enjoyable to scroll through.
- Higher SEO rankings: Publishing quality content on your ecommerce website or online store will help your website rank higher on search engines. If your content is packed with value, chances are you’ll convert that organic traffic into new customers. But never write exclusively for search engines, or your efforts will backfire tenfold. Always write for humans.
- Better conversion rates: When you position your brand as an authoritative, trustworthy problem solver, people trust you and feel more compelled to invest in your offerings.
- Skyrocketed ROI. While you’ll have to shell out marketing funds on labor or contractors, the fruits of that labor will flourish exponentially via more visitors to your site, and in turn, more revenue.
Content strategy? Check. Now, what?
Think of your ecommerce content strategy as a sturdy thoroughbred. It needs resources — careful planning, research, and execution — to win the race.
And champions aren’t born overnight. They’re built over time using skill, experience, and discipline.
To help get you started, DeGeorge recommends breaking down your content marketing efforts into small steps:
- Conduct keyword research and analyze competitive and trend data to find the best content ideas.
- Assemble a team. DIYing all these steps yourself is a surefire way to burn out. Instead, delegate these tasks to in-house marketers, or outsource to expert freelancers or a digital marketing agency.
- Create an outline that captures the key elements of your content. DeGeorge suggests structuring it in a way that guides readers smoothly through the information, weaving a narrative that addresses their pain points and a solution. Don’t forget to add keywords, calls-to-action, and internal and external links.
- Follow Google’s best practices for optimizing your meta title and description, image alt text, and formatting.
- Triple check that your content is error-free and appealing with even spacing, headings, and responsiveness on all devices (mobile, desktop, tablet).
- Don’t forget about social media marketing. Share your new content on your social media platforms. DeGeorge recommends social media management tools like Sprout to streamline the process.
By sticking to these steps, you’ll create a robust content strategy that supercharges your online visibility. And when that happens? Get ready for climbs in traffic and revenue.
Sounds ideal in theory — but who is going to bring all this content to life?
In-house content strategy vs. outsourcing
If you decide to DIY your content strategy, you’ll save money, but lose precious time. Conversely, you’ll spend more by hiring professionals, but free up time for other business matters. If you decide to leave the task to pros—who should you hire?
DeGeorge says an in-house team may be beneficial as they’re more familiar with your brand. You also have direct influence over the content strategy and output.
However, finding content writers and strategists with strong SEO knowledge who can develop a methodical content strategy can be a headache. The costs for in-house salaries, benefits, and expenses can rack up quickly.
Outsourcing your content strategy will be more cost-effective in the long-run, and give you access to a broader pool of writers with niche expertise and serious writing chops.
Is there another solution?
Partnering with a qualified ecommerce content marketing agency gives you the best of both worlds. They’ll have the capacity to facilitate all your content needs, from strategy to ideation to creation and monitoring, and make all that happen for a reasonable price.
Building a robust content strategy for ecommerce is hard work. It becomes a whole lot easier when you have guideposts to follow and a team to support your content efforts.
By understanding the intent of a content strategy and the risks of neglecting it, you can create a navigable roadmap for creating engaging content that drives results.
Because, let’s face it: the only thing worse than having no strategy is having a bad one — so plan wisely, create fiercely, and watch your ecommerce empire flourish.
And if ecommerce content marketing is overloading your to-do list, call in the pros. We’re happy to help.
This article has been updated and was originally published in October 2021.