Many ecommerce merchants depend on search result traffic to bring new customers to their Internet storefronts. For these retailers, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategy is a no-brainer, and they may have already built strategic keywords into product descriptions, engaged in Adwords campaigns, and built traffic through social media. Yet, there is another step that can provide a leg up on the competition, and that is an ecommerce blog. It is easier than ever to start a blog, but it is both difficult and rewarding to do it effectively. Before tackling the tactic, online vendors need to consider the pros and cons, because although the return can be substantial, the investment is not inconsiderable.
The advantages to blogging are simple. According to About.com ecommerce expert Claire Condra, a blog can, "establish you as a 'subject matter expert' in your field, improve your visibility to search engines, help you connect with customers on a more personal level, provide your customers with additional product information and support, and create new ways for people to find your store."Condra also poses the logical follow up question, "If a blog can be such a boon to your business, why don't more ecommerce sites have them?"This leads to the disadvantages of blogging.
Blogging takes time. It takes time to come up with ideas for content. It takes time to write posts. Moreover, posting frequently and at regular intervals is a must when building a regular reader base.
Blogging requires valuable content. A real advantage of a blog is the chance to become a known expert, but experts have knowledgeable things to talk about. A blog is a soapbox, and a blogger has to have opinions and information to share. Not all ecommerce merchants are ready to step forward as experts in the field.
Blogging works best with communication skills. Blogs are written platforms, and making a blog post means writing a short article. An ecommerce retailer who can turn 400 percent profits simply may not have the writing skills it takes to push compelling text online.
Blogging done poorly can backfire. A blog that is set up, but never updated, is an admission that the owner does not care. Customers will not draw good conclusions from an eretailer who does not care about updating the company website. Blogging also backfires when the quality is low, or when the content is overfilled with links clearly intended to boost search engine results. According to Michelle Rodger, author of "Content is King on Websites,""SEO-led sites can often become ugly, designed for Google crawlers, with keywords, tags and links forced in, and finding the content you want can become a painfully drawn-out process. Users (and Google) will spot content that is overly optimized and just turn off. No one wants to read a site where the text is full of internal links.?
For ecommerce merchants with the skills and resources for it, setting up a blog is both easy and free. Several online service providers offer free blogging platforms that do not require a high level of technology expertise. Among those to consider are Blogger from Google, Posterous, and WordPress. The last choice also offers the flexibility to host your blog entirely on your own ecommerce site, where you have full control over look, feel, and traffic reporting. WordPress can also be somewhat more technically daunting for those who make full use of the customization features. According to Amazon's Chris Brucia, quoted on GetElastic.com, "Creating a space that customers will want to visit regularly means first and foremost that the content is very, very good."Keep the bar high on content and make sure to tackle the issues that matter to customers.
Nick Stamoulis of MarketingProfs.com suggests that writing posts about specific products is a great source of valuable content. He urges bloggers to include as many relevant specifics as possible. "People look for specific model numbers, spec sheets, instructions, etc.,"he writes. "B2B companies should want customers to look online for answers to their specific needs, because doing so eliminates phone time for customer service. It's not unusual for people to go online and search a website for answers before they call. Why not have the information waiting for them? Most general inquiries can be easily answered with a Q&A section on your website.
Peter Alexander, writing for Entrepreneur.com, offers some useful advice about blog content. "Make it useful. When you offer helpful tips and links to other resources on the web, your readers will be more inclined to tell others about your blog. For instance, have you read a new book that's relevant to your readers' interests? If so, write a short review of that book in your blog,"he says. Alexander also suggests a light marketing touch with readers, because a hard sell or blatant boosterism can alienate readers.
Readers love lists, explains David Sasson, chief operating officer of Outbrain. Telling readers in the blog post title that you are offering a list is a good way to get click-throughs. For example, try, "Five Great Features in Our New Stainless Steel Jewelry,"or "Top Ten Ways We Keep Our Online Shoppers Happy."He even suggests that lists with odd numbers of items are more likely to get clicks. Nick Stamoulis recommends tying real world events into your blog posts. Take an industry tradeshow appearance, for example. "Going to an industry tradeshow could cost you $20k for a booth, so why wouldn't you want to use it?,"he asks. Write about the show on your blog.
Bring a camera and post photos of your booth and staff. "If someone from your company is giving a speech at the tradeshow, record and transcribe it,"Stamoulis advises. "Then, use it for your content marketing strategy, and post a blog review of the conference, send your review to newsletter subscribers, and turn the PowerPoint presentation into a whitepaper."Finally, remember that your blog is a way to connect to your customers and potential customers. As Rodger recommends, "Write the best possible content in the first place and don't write for search engines or web crawlers. Know your audience and write for human beings."
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