But that’s not the worst part, oh no…
The worst part is that most ecommerce sites have no freaking clue that their content marketing strategy is a giant time suck, a black hole they throw money into, and sometimes even a slow-kill for the entire business.
Why? Because they’re blindly following the hype around content marketing? Because they’re a bunch of rookies? Because THEY suck and YOU rock? Not really, no. The truth is that it could happen to you and me, hell, maybe it already has!
And, no, that’s not bullshit or fear mongering. You see, most of the 13 ecommerce content strategy deathtraps that generate a bad ROI or even slow-kill an ecommerce site aren’t obvious at all. They’re downright misleading…
Misleading because they’ll fool you into thinking you’ve achieved success with content marketing for ecommerce, while it’s only the 15 minutes of fame before everything comes crashing down.
And that’s EXACTLY why I wanted to write this blog post: so you won’t be deceived the way I was at various stages of my internet entrepreneurship. Yes, that’s right: all of the deathtraps I’m about to reveal to you got me and got me good… and I’ll be damned if I let you get caught in them!
So, consider this to be a reality check for your content marketing strategy that’ll help your ecommerce business do the best content marketing it can possibly do.
Here come the 13 deathtraps. Ready?
Ecommerce Content Strategy Deathtrap #1: Ruined by Nigerian Royalty
If you think you can get away with selling products online with ZERO personality as a business, think again. Because you know how it makes you look? Like one of those shady Nigerian princes, uncles or whatever who promise you great, shiny rewards… if only you give them your money right away. Nobody likes a faceless corporation these days, pal!
People want to buy from other people, especially if those people are like them and they’re familiar with those people. Trust and similarity are at the core of many a sale and if they’re not there then, well, “fugget about it” as mobsters would say.
In other words: if you DON’T show who you are and what you stand for as an ecommerce business and if you DON’T show you understand your audience, then you’ll have a tough time getting sales online (or anywhere else for that matter). I mean, do you REALLY think anyone would be comfortable giving you their money if you’ve given them no reason to trust you and/or no reason to get to know you?
And here’s another brutal truth for you:
A lot of companies that are having trouble competing online are in trouble because they assume they can only compete with products or prices. So, when they’re selling products another company made, they think they can’t compete because their products aren’t unique. And when competitors match their prices, regardless of whether they make their own products or not, they think there’s no longer any way to compete.
THAT is why so many ecommerce sites fall into this deathtrap: they think they’re one of many stations instead of a destination. You need to be the destination… and that means not HAVING unique products or HAVING unique prices but BEING unique, as a company. Show your true self, damn it!
A solid ecommerce content strategy helps your bizz leave anonymity behind. It’ll help humanize your brand and your products and establish that level of trust and familiarity that’s needed to A) spread the word about your company and B) get those precious sales. And isn’t that exactly what you want?
And in case it wasn’t obvious yet: content marketing for ecommerce is a way for you to stand out in a sea of competitors. It’s a way to compete online. Yes, even when you’re not a big brand, don’t have unique prices and don’t have unique products.
- Be personal: content writers should use their real name, NOT the company’s name
- Be real: a recognizable photo and an author bio shows people a writer is a real human being
- Be opinionated: be vocal about what the company/employees stand for, like, and dislike
- Be consistent: write content regularly. To gain someone’s trust, you need to show up!
- Talk like you’d talk to a friend because, frankly, your ideal customer should be your BFF
- Don’t always be selling: trying to hard sell products in every piece of content = being a SALESman, not a HUman
Deathtrap #2: Annihilated by Anarchy
Making a little content here and a little content there… that’ll do the trick, right? WRONG! Letting anarchy reign supreme in your ecommerce content strategy is a mistake.
A big, big mistake.
Ecommerce companies that do content marketing for the sake of doing content marketing are planning to fail because they’re failing to plan.
Without a good ecommerce content strategy in place you could send the wrong message to your audience, attract the wrong audience, make it unnecessarily hard for yourself to compete because you didn’t do your homework and are jumping on less than ideal opportunities… or all of the above.
Why make life so hard for yourself? Creating random content so you can say you’re doing content marketing might be good for the ego, but it’s not good for the company.
In order for you to reach your ideal customer in a way that establishes or strengthens a relationship between him/her and your brand, you need to have a strategy in place. Stop being Random Randy. Preparation is half the work and you can’t do the best content marketing you can do without a plan.
- Be a sniper: take the time to find a good target (audience), aim for the head (topics that audience cares about), then shoot to kill (kick butt with content of the highest quality)
- Search, prioritize & follow the plan: look for content opportunities, prioritize by sales or viral/branding potential, make a content schedule… and stick to it as much as possible.
- Be different: different people respond to different things, so use different content angles. News, controversy, tips/tricks/advice, lists (e.g. top 10), myth busting, you name it.
Content Marketing for Ecommerce Trap #3: Killed by Communism
Having a strategy in place when you’re doing content marketing for ecommerce is better than working in absolute, utter chaos, but sticking to a strategy will only take you so far… and then it’ll take your ass down!
Consumer preferences, technology, the economy. It’s all changing. The world around us changes pretty quickly and the online world changes REAL fast. So, guess what happens when you create a content marketing strategy based on today’s reality (at best)?
The more time goes by, the more the gap between your plans and reality widens. And the wider that gap becomes, the more difficult it’ll be to achieve results for your ecommerce business with your content. If you do not regularly adapt your ecommerce content strategy to the circumstances you find yourself in, then your content marketing efforts will go off the deep end and cost you more time and money than they’ll generate. A LOT more.
So, don’t be like communism. Don’t blindly follow your planning, ignore the changing nature of the world we live in and be outcompeted, okay?
- Be data-driven: regularly check what kind of content on your site performs the best in terms of social media activity (branding) or sales and adjust your content schedule accordingly.
- Be a spy: what are people on social networks talking about in terms of your market? What kind of content does well on competing sites? Adjust your schedule accordingly.
- Don’t believe the hype: there’s a BIG difference between changing course and changing ships! To lead your market, you must not follow it. Always adapting = anarchy.
Deathtrap #4: Deaded by Data Dumps
Many companies in- and outside of the ecommerce world base decisions about their online marketing efforts on assumptions, gut feelings, and emotions. Meanwhile, potential customers don’t give a crap about what you THINK they want. They only care about what they ACTUALLY want.
Too much money is left on the table by people creating an ecommerce content strategy (or ANY kind of strategy for that matter) because they ASSUME they know potential customers better than potential customers know themselves. These people have XYZ years of experience in their industry, sold XYZ products or did such and such, so their opinion is worth its weight in gold, right?
No, no, no, no, and no.
Assumptions and opinions about what works best that haven’t been confirmed by data (your website statistics and CRM/shopping cart data) will be the death of your ecommerce content strategy. Mark my words.
What’s almost just as bad is not having ENOUGH data: making big decisions about content marketing based on an unreliable amount of data. A too small amount of data is just as misleading as the opinions of the most experienced or highest paid person in the room.
So, ignore or misinterpret the data your website’s visitors and customers are providing you and your content won’t contribute to your company’s bottom line in any way, shape or form anymore before you’ll know it.
- DON’T shoot first, ask questions later: let site, social & cart data steer your content strategy into a certain direction, not the other way around (unless you like financial woes?)
- Be patient: you might wait longer than you want to in order to get enough data to draw conclusions, but waiting beats flushing money down the toilet because of shitty data
- Be prepared: they ain’t called cold hard facts for nothing. Data may surprise you or even hurt your ego, but don’t take it personal. It’s just business. So, regroup and act on it.
Content Marketing Strategy Trap #5: Death by Repeating Rome
At a certain point in time the Roman empire was so big that its resources were spread too thin. Its military had to be everywhere, so it was strong nowhere and vulnerable to attack. And Rome fell.
I’ve seen many ecommerce sites crash and burn not long after they got their first taste of success with their ecommerce content strategy or in general. Why? Because they couldn’t resist the urge to expand, expand, expand at the first sign of success… not knowing that uncontrolled growth weakens a company instead of strengthening it.
Simply put: if you focus on everything, you’re focusing on nothing. And trying to be everything to everyone leaves many chinks in your armor, weaknesses more focused competitors can and WILL exploit. It’s quality over quantity, baby!
Keep this in mind when you’re doing content marketing for ecommerce: showing up all over the place (on all social networks, for example) in your market with all kinds of content, a.k.a. having something for everyone, is a show of weakness. It’s NOT a show of strength.
- Build on your strengths: it’s better to be really good at creating one type of content (e.g. news) than to produce mostly average content of all types.
- Make enemies: you can’t be everything to everyone. Embrace it. To make one type of person (i.e. your ideal customer) love you, you must often make another type of person hate you.
- Be selective: not every piece of content should make the cut without revisions. Hell, not every piece of content should make the cut point, blank, period.
- Fortify instead of expand: the best content marketing is done by those that improve existing content and do more of what works, not by those that try new (unproven) things
Ecommerce Content Strategy Deathtrap #6: Smothered by Skynet
If you’re looking to turn your shopping cart into a ghost town, then by all means go ahead and only be concerned with the search engine bots and SEO when you create your ecommerce content strategy.
Because listen… Google, Bing, Yahoo, Ask, and all them other search engines aren’t the ones buying your products. People are. So, if you or someone else in your company got the bright idea to assume SEO comes first and human beings come second then your sales numbers are in for a big surprise!
You need to cut that shit out. SEO is a means to an end, not an end to reach by any means.
Robots don’t rule the planet (yet), so you’d better make sure SEO isn’t hurting your site’s usability or ability to sell. Can SEO hurt website usability and conversion rates? Why, I wouldn’t devote a deathtrap to it if it couldn’t now, would I?
- See the big picture: content marketing for ecommerce is about more than writing great, SEO-friendly content. It’s about growing your business by humanizing your brand with content, interacting with your audience through content & more.
- Compromise on text length: having tons of optimized text on product (category) pages might be great for your rankings, but it might also be a nightmare for your sales numbers
- Accept the counterintuitive: focusing less on the technical side of SEO like keyword density and whatever and more on the quality of your content will often get you better SEO results
- Be social, go viral: SEO isn’t the only “free” way to get MASSIVE amounts of visitors. Mentions by niche authorities and viral content are still being made and still work just as well.
Trap #7: Put to Rest by the Popularity Contest
Content marketing isn’t about making you popular, because popularity doesn’t pay the bills. Money does. That’s why the best content marketing takes into account more than vanity metrics like website traffic, likes, shares, and followers.
I’m going to give it to you straight here: you can have thousands upon thousands upon thousands of website visitors, Facebook Page likes, Twitter followers, and so on without ever selling much of anything. That’s because not all website traffic, likes, and followers are created equal.
Put simply: if you want to sell more products online, you shouldn’t be out there trying to gather a BIGGER crowd. You should be out there gathering the RIGHT crowd with your ecommerce content strategy and all your other marketing efforts. So, instead of thinking about how you can get more, and more, and more people, think about how you can get better, and better, and better people to your site, social media profiles, you name it.
Does that mean ecommerce marketing isn’t a numbers game in which you need to get more traffic to get more sales? Nope. It IS a numbers game for sure, but getting one visitor who’s looking to buy is still better than getting 1,000 visitors who are just looking for information or looking to be entertained.
Content marketing for ecommerce is a numbers game for sure, but it’ll only work in your favor if you attract the right kind of people more and more.
And does that mean branding won’t do your business any good? No. It has its advantages, in the long run, but you need to survive until the day comes that you can enjoy the fruits of your labor. So, don’t let the urge to get more traffic consume you, swallow you whole, and spit you out!
- Be proactive: use content to address objections to buying, to boost your credibility by interviewing experts in your niche, to share relevant stories people can relate to so you can gain their trust and show them you understand them. All these things help boost sales.
- Be on top of your game: sales & leads come before website traffic & likes/followers all day, every day. All traffic generation & no conversion optimization will hurt you, badly.
- Do your due diligence: think things through in terms of what kind of crowd content will attract. A social media contest in which participants can win XYZ might sound great, but will it attract fans of XYZ or people who could buy from you somewhere down the line?
Ecommerce Content Strategy Trap #8: F*cked up by Funnel Tunnel Vision
Funnel tunnel vision: people who suffer from this ecommerce disease have a tendency to think in terms of black and white, traffic and sales. As a result, they’re flushing money down the freaking toilet without them even knowing about it.
Pardon me for sounding like a chick for a second, but the truth of the matter is that there are 50 shades of grey when it comes to sales. Thinking in terms of black and white is oversimplifying things.
You see, whenever someone makes a decision to buy something, 9 out of 10 they don’t immediately go from no to yes. People go through multiple stages before and after buying something:
Not everyone will go through all of the above mentioned stages of the buying process, but that’s not the point. The point is that your ecommerce content strategy needs to take more stages of the buying process into account than “I’m ready to buy right now!”
- Work your way up the funnel, not down the funnel: when creating content, prioritize based on how easy it is to get someone to buy. Start with loyal customers, end with people who are in the dark
- Play the numbers game: focus on getting the right people in your sales funnel (i.e. your ideal customer) and more input WILL mean more output. Pump up the volume!
- Cover all your bases: ideally, you’d want to create multiple pieces of content to cover every stage of the buying process for every unique type of product you’re selling.
- Don’t go overboard: the best content marketing finds a balance between traffic and sales, going viral and getting paid. Don’t focus too much on sales or too much on popularity.
Content Marketing for Ecommerce Trap #9: Gutted by the Get Rich Quick Gang
Be honest: how patient are you really? Are you patient enough to wait it out and give your ecommerce website enough time to grow? Or are you nipping any shot at success it has in the bud when it doesn’t generate results as fast as you’d like to by chasing the first shiny new object (opportunity) that crosses your path?
A successful ecommerce business is built on the backs of strategy, patience, incremental improvements, and systems and processes. Lasting success has NEVER been built on the backs of chasing the dragon and “omg, I MUST have this one, that one, and that one”.
That’s just consumerism for entrepreneurs:
Chasing one opportunity after another, paying for one book or training after another, and never really sitting down and deciding what needs doing on a daily basis to get where you need to go.
Get rich quick schemes don’t work when it comes to content marketing for ecommerce, hell, they never work in general. Don’t let your ego get to you and believe that you should’ve achieved this or that already. It’s a one way ticket to the Failed Companies Graveyard.
- Look in the mirror: if content marketing’s not working for your business, it’s you and not content marketing. Don’t abandon ship at the first sight of a storm. Try and try again.
- Take everything with a grain of salt: what works well for someone else in their market won’t necessarily work for YOUR business, even if you’re in the same market.
- Ignore the minutes on the clock, but not the years: don’t ask if it’s the right time to do XYZ or how long it’ll take before bla bla bla. Ask where you want your business to be 5 years from now and what you need to do better in terms of content to get there.
Ecommerce Content Strategy Trap #10: Assassinated by A.D.D.
What separates the rookies from the pros when it comes to the execution of an ecommerce content strategy is HOW created content is promoted.
You see, rookies have an extremely short attention span when it comes to content promotion. This micro attention span manifests in one of three different ways:
1) They promote a piece of content only once via their favorite social media profile
2) They promote a piece of content only once via ALL their social media profiles, but they’re copy pasting the exact same message onto every social network
3) They promote the same piece of content for days on end in a very similar way
But listen, YOUR favorite social network is not someone else’s favorite social network (so #1 = fail), some people are on multiple networks and different social networks have different features you should take advantage of (so #2 = fail), and if appeal XYZ does work for Joe but not for Anita today then it’s very likely Anita STILL won’t find it appealing tomorrow (so #3 is = another fail).
Now you know this, STOP being that guy (or girl). Quit your content promotion A.D.D. cold turkey and think things through, because you know that? Your business is worth it.
I mean, why go to the Moon when you can go to another galaxy altogether?
Be strategic about how, when, and where you promote your content and content marketing for ecommerce will take you much, much further than you thought possible.
- Be the chameleon: promote the exact same piece of content multiple times but while appealing to different emotions. Use curiosity, fear, greed, pride, guilt, optimism, laziness, etc. in different messages.
- Respect the stage: have a unique message for the social network you’re sharing something on. You’ll look like a fool when you share “Dear Facebook friends”… on Twitter!
- Get off your soapbox: talk WITH people via social media, not AT people. Don’t slap a link in a status update and call it a day. Describe, emote, invite discussion, reply to comments.
- Be proud: ain’t nothing wrong with sharing the same thing twice, especially if you do it in different ways and/or to repeat successes (reshare content that got a reaction out of people)
Are you enjoying yourself by learning about all these juicy new ecommerce content strategy ideas by the way? Good! Because more are coming right up.
Content Marketing Strategy Trap #11: Butchered by the Broken Record
Another mortal sin when it comes to content marketing strategy is making the whole content creation process too much of a routine. We already talked about the obsession with planning deathtrap (see trap #3), but we really need to take a moment to address the situation where you’re making your content producing life too easy.
Because you know what? Creating content that puts your target audience to FREAKING SLEEP is just as deadly as doing no content marketing AT ALL. In fact, it could be an even more dangerous deathtrap because bad content can work even more against you if you’re looking to get more sales than being a faceless corporation.
Why? Put bluntly: if your content blows, why wouldn’t a reader assume your products blow just as much? Your content is a reflection of who you are as an ecommerce site, just like your products are, so you absolutely have to make the company look good.
Bring your A-game, do the best content marketing you can do. Don’t get sloppy with the execution of your ecommerce content strategy because it will cost you dearly.
- Be the kid in the candy store: when you’re creating content that makes your heart beat faster, you’re doing something right. If no one’s bragging to their friends, you have a problem.
- What box? Dare to take risks and throw best practices out the window every once in a while. Best practices are based on averages, but do you want to be average or be the best?
- Don’t reinvent the wheel: no one said you have to do something NEW every week. There’s a difference between new and exciting. Existing content explained in a different way/emotion can be exciting too, you know, because different people respond to different things.
Trap #12: Wacked by World War III
Remember how we were talking about how boring content can be a major problem for your ecommerce business just a minute ago? Well, the other side of the coin’s not a pretty sight either. What’s the other side of the coin? Being an attention whore.
When you always try to get people’s attention and/or stir up some shit with extremist views, there will come a time when no one will take you seriously anymore.
When that time comes, people will ignore your content or troll it (respond to it in a bad way) and you might even have a hard time selling because people have lost all respect for you. Many a sale is made based on trust and familiarity and starting fires can alienate people and, therefore, hurt your sales.
Many websites, especially publishers, that have been doing content marketing for a couple years unknowingly find themselves starting World War 3 with their ecommerce content strategy because they get too excited. They care too much about attention (their headlines are clickbait) and too much about popularity (website traffic, likes, followers).
I’ve seen it happen in our world as well with ecommerce sites that enthusiastically embraced content marketing for ecommerce, made a name for themselves, and then made a bad reputation for themselves…
- Keep your eyes on the prize: Attention should lead to Interest, Interest to Desire (to buy), and Desire to Action (a sale). If you don’t know what AIDA is, Google it. NOW.
- Let the blood flow, but don’t drink it: blood can be good for business, as long as you spark controversy to expose bad people or practices in your niche. Being bloodthirsty, though, is never a good thing.
- No means yes: sometimes you can stand out by not standing out, especially in very competitive markets where everyone screams for attention with their content.
Ecommerce Content Strategy Trap #13: Crushed by Cavemen
The Gutenberg printing press was invented in 1450, the radio in 1897, TV in 1926, and the mobile phone in 1973. And, yet, more ecommerce sites than I can count have never gotten past 1450 and never produce anything BUT text-based content.
Why? Whyyyy … (falls on knees and raises fists at the heavens in disbelief)
Is your company really future proof when it has to survive on text-based content alone? In a world where everything’s increasingly on the go, mobile, interactive/social, and visual, probably not. Let’s face it: you’ll need to move out of your cave in the Stone Age and get with the program sooner or later or risk being outcompeted by more innovative competitors left and right.
You need to start thinking about using different forms of content as part of your ecommerce content strategy: text content AND… audio, video/visual, mobile, and interactive/social content.
Don’t take my word for it, though. Here are some statistics to back up my claims:
- Audio: the iTunes Store has surpassed the 1 billion podcast subscriptions mark, while audio platform SoundCloud reports it has 250+ million active listeners.
- Video/visual: YouTube is the second largest search engine after Google, even when taking competition like Bing and Yahoo into account. It processes 3 billion searches a month.
- Mobile: the number of mobile subscriptions in the US (345 million) is bigger than its population (313 million) and more than 129 million people in America have a smartphone.
How you like THEM numbers bro?
Still think audio is “niche”? Still think it’s a good idea to wait with creating a mobile or responsive ecommerce site? Still think video SEO is something you can postpone? Yeah, I thought so.
- Go small or go home: phones & tablets have smaller screens than computers do and so your content needs to adapt to this to prevent infinite scrolling. Make some mini blog posts!
- Be quick about it: nobody says long videos or audio don’t work, but since consumers are more and more impatient and on the go, keeping video/audio short and sweet can’t hurt
- Don’t play to stay, play to win: moving on from text only content marketing for ecommerce is great, but being everywhere while you’re rarely seen when you’re there is NOT good. If you don’t have the resources to use all alternative forms of content, just use one really well.
Final Thoughts on Ecommerce Content Strategy Don’ts
I wrote this blog post for all you ecommerce business owners and marketers out there who’ve spent a couple years getting past the startup phase, past survival mode, and who are now in growth mode and ready to get serious about their content marketing (among other things).
And if the contents of this post scared the crap out of you because it made you realize that your content marketing strategy is far from perfect, then I can die a happy man.
Because regardless of whether you’re doing content marketing or some other kind of online marketing for your ecommerce business, you need to stay on your toes if you want to do better than your competitors. THAT is how you get serious about your success, because comfort is the enemy of success.
- Do any of the ecommerce content strategy deathtraps I mentioned today sound scarily familiar to you? If so, why?
- Are there any other content marketing don’ts for ecommerce sites in your opinion? Do tell!
Make sure you leave a comment below if you’d like to share your thoughts, because I’d love to hear from you.
With kindest regards,
- Dennis MiedemaFounder/owner of Motriz MarketingDennis Miedema started his first ecommerce site in 2008 with no funding, no knowledge, and no skills. He grew it into a successful business, sold it for lots of money, and went on to do consulting for ecommerce companies from all over the world and in many different industries: fashion, nanotechnology, consumer electronics, digital content, software & more.
Likes: dogs, movies, coffee, video games, self-improvement, and the occasional rant
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