When it comes to putting together a digital marketing strategy, one of the components that you will want to be sure to include is content marketing. When used properly, content marketing is an incredible way to connect with your audience, provide valuable information in your space, and ultimately drive more organic traffic to your site.

So what exactly is content marketing? What are your different options in this space, and how can it be used to drive success? Lucky for you, we are going to cover all of this and then some in this robust guide. This will get you started down the path to building out your eCommerce content content strategy!

Table of Contents

What is Content Marketing?

Create a Content Marketing Strategy

Content Audit: Take Inventory of The Content You Have

How to Document Your Strategy

What Does Your Content Calendar Look Like?

Where Will You Share Content?

Understand the Buyer’s Journey

How to Optimize Your Content for Rankings

Content Analysis and Reporting

Scaling Your Content Marketing

What is Content Marketing?

Simply put, content marketing is the process of creating and distributing valuable information with a specific audience in mind. For eCommerce businesses, it should be used to inform and educate individuals and then used to drive those individuals to purchase. When used and implemented correctly, content marketing can be an incredible tool for communicating your online brand to your customers. 

Every landing page, email sent, product description, and ad you publish are all examples of content. The question is, “How can you use content effectively in your marketing to amplify your brand and ultimately grow the business?” 

Content marketing is a crucial part of the SEO puzzle. Without content, there would be nothing to optimize for your ecommerce SEO strategy. One of the purposes that content serves on your website is to help Google understand what your business has to offer and what keywords your business is related to. That way you can show up for information Google displays when someone searches for a specific product or when researching products they will consider buying. Even sites linking to other resources are aimed at helping people to find what they’re looking for. And it always points them back to, you guessed it, content. It’s incredibly powerful!

“Many people hear content and immediately think of blog posts or videos. This thinking limits marketers. Content covers anything that shares a message – the images you choose to use, the font and the design, as well as any long-form content.”

-Laurel Teuscher, VP of Services, Stryde

This is the essence of content marketing- creating a space where words, images, videos and more can be shared to serve your audience, whether it’s directly or indirectly related to your products and helping improve your conversion rate 

What’s the difference between content strategy and content marketing?

You may notice that the terms “content strategy” and “content marketing” are used often, and perhaps even used interchangeably. However, they are not the same thing. For our purposes, you can safely assume that when we reference a “content strategy” that we are talking about “content marketing strategy.” Here is a quick diagram to show how to think about the two. 

You’ll find that content marketing focuses on execution. The process of creating, curating, and editing content that has been creating specifically to be used in marketing efforts falls under the umbrella of content marketing. It ranges from blog posts to FAQ pages, and is always created with the goal to build trust between your company and your customers. It’s more than simply creating content that people want to consume- it’s about guiding them through the buying journey to ultimately make a purchase.

Create a Content Marketing Strategy

So now that we understand the purpose that content serves, let’s dive into how we can most effectively put together a content marketing strategy. Having a plan in place is crucial to your success in executing on your content marketing strategy. It helps you better understand where you want to be and what you are going to do to drive the business forward. 

But where is the right place to start and what should your focus be in putting together your plan for moving forward? To start, you need to understand what your goals are for the business such as driving down the cost to acquire a customer, improve ROI on marketing, increasing repeat purchases, etc. Different KPI initiatives to consider include:  

  • Hitting an average order value (AOV) target
  • Reducing shopping cart abandon rate by X%
  • Working toward a customer acquisition cost 
  • Targeting a gross profit margin 
  • Improving your site’s conversion rate  

Like any marketing initiative you need to have a defined goal you are working toward in order to measure how effective you are with your marketing initiatives. Businesses often struggle to know what goals they should put into place so they measure things like overall revenue and site traffic growth.    

Key Takeaway: You have to be very clear about how you plan to use marketing initiatives to make money for the business. Before you think about hiring an agency, you need to have a solid KPI in place so that the agency is very clear on what they are trying to accomplish from the marketing efforts. DO NOT rely on an agency to set your goals for you. They do not know your margins or what ROI is needed for marketing campaigns to be profitable.   

What Are Your Goals?

Before you do anything, sit down and determine what your goals are and what you would like to accomplish in your content marketing efforts. Whether you’re flying solo or wanting to brainstorm with your team, set aside a portion of time to consider what you’d like to accomplish. Here is a list of questions you could use as a starting point while you work to define your content marketing goals: 

  • What would determine success for us? 
  • Where are the content gaps on our current site? (FAQ, product pages, category pages, etc.)
  • Are we looking for more subscribers, or perhaps an increased amount of backlinks?
  • Is our content marketing designed to increase brand awareness?
  • Is creating content going to help our audience understand who we are?
  •  Is it going to establish trust? Things like reviews, testimonials and social proof? 
  • Do we need to focus on educating our customers about our products and the positive influence the brand can have on them? 
  • How can we use various content pieces across our marketing channels? 
  • Do we want our content to drive more customer engagement- asking for opinions, experiences, and general engagement to help customers to feel like they’re interacting with a person instead of a brand. 
  • How can we measure the ROI with our top of funnel content marketing? 

Asking good questions is the start and should help as you consider if content marketing is right for the business in generating revenue. Like any initiative, you should set goals centered on various aspects of content marketing. Record your goals. You might even consider displaying your goals in a place where you’ll commonly see them to help you stay focused. If content marketing is a good fit, you need to understand who your audience is and their content needs and makes sure the brand lives at the center of it all! 

Define your Target Audience

Determining who your target audience is will work wonders in helping you to maintain laser focus on achieving your goals with content marketing, and will make it much easier for you to brainstorm and create content to best serve your customers. 

Before you move forward with a content marketing campaign, it is imperative that you understand who your audience is and what best speaks to them. If you don’t have a clear picture of who you’re targeting, you won’t see the success that you’re looking for with your content marketing efforts.

To start, consider these aspects of your target audience:

  • Age
  • Location
  • Gender
  • Habits
  • Likes and Dislikes
  • Spending habits

Identifying these details will help you to really hone in on who you best serve, and will do wonders in helping you to create an effective content marketing strategy. Don’t fall into the trap of defining your target audience too broadly. 

Key Takeaway: By focusing on generic content, you will be attracting the wrong traffic to your site. You may be thinking to yourself, isn’t all traffic good? Truth is, that’s not always the case. What starts to happen is you get a broad range of traffic to your site but these individuals are not taking action on your site leading to a higher bounce rate. The end result is your traffic looks great, but every other metric suffers!

Some business owners or marketers, when asked who their target audience is, use overarching phrases such as “everyone is our target audience” or “all parents” or “people who like to exercise.” The way you target a mother is different from the way you would target a father, and the way you would target a 65-year-old female swimmer is different from how you would target an 18-year-old male football player.

This is why defining your target audience is so crucial to your strategy. Understanding who you’re targeting will determine what content you decide to use, your phrasing, your content placement, etc….this will truly determine the overall direction of your content marketing plan.

Something that many find helpful is creating a buyer persona. A buyer persona is a detailed description of someone who represents what you’ve defined as your target audience. Keep in mind that this is not a real customer- this is a fictitious individual who personifies your ideal customer. For help creating a buyer persona, feel free to check out some of these resources:

  • Buyer Persona Profile from Epic Content Marketing
    • This quick one-page worksheet from Epic Content Marketing allows you to create a snapshot of a buyer persona, their job description, priorities, and challenges.
  • 5 Rings of Buying Insights Template from the Book Epic Content Marketing
    • When used in conjunction with the worksheet above, the 5 Rings of Buying Insights template will help you glean additional insights around the journey of each buyer persona.
  • How to Create Detailed Buyer Personas for Your Business from Hubspot
    • Hubspot provides a great step-by-step post and downloadable template to support your buyer persona creation initiatives.

As you build out your buyer personas you will want to start mapping some basic keywords to the persona in order to understand how they would search for information related to your products. No need to go in-depth right now (we’ll cover how to do keyword research later in this guide) but you should start to get a sense of how a consumer would start to search for products related to the business. Use this keyword research for additional information about the different personas you create. 

Here is a quick chart as an example of how to create personas based on consumers looking for health-related products: 

Some find it helpful to give their buyer persona a name or even find a stock photo that they can associate with the person. The goal is to personalize the experience between your marketing team and this persona – it provides the ability to cultivate a more substantial and targeted marketing experience for your target audience. 

Once you define your goals, establish a content strategy, and create your buyer personas, your next step in the process is to do a content audit. A content audit will help you understand what content you have to work with. This process is designed to make sure your site content is aligned with your buyer personas needs.      

Content Audit: Take Inventory of The Content You Have

One crucial step in perfecting your strategy is performing a content audit. An effective content audit provides an in-depth look at what content you already have on your site. 

The purpose of the content audit is to:

  1. Identify the pages that are driving revenue to ensure they are the right pages
  2. Identify new content that needs to be created in the middle of the funnel to improve the consideration phase
  3. Identify new opportunities for top of the funnel of content (some of these opportunities may have been identified while doing keyword research 

A content audit is part of your content strategy and you need to. understand that a content audit is a crucial part of your content strategy, but does not comprise your entire strategy.

1. Take Inventory

The first step in your audit is to take inventory of what content you already have on your site. You can do this by using Google Analytics data or you can look at site crawlers, such as Screaming Frog. This will give you a list of URLs from your site and is a great tool for helping you to get the ball rolling. To do this start by crawling your entire website for content. 

Using ScreamingFrog to Crawl Your Entire Website for Content

Screaming Frog is able to ‘crawl’ an entire website (crawling is a fancy term for ‘pulling all data e.g. – metadata, URLs, the word count of a page, CSS, and other data from a website). Once you’ve crawled your whole site, simply filter the data by HTML pages. Example below:

This will remove all JavaScript, Images, CSS, and other files that you don’t need for your content audit. Then export the data. The exported CSV file will give you a TON of data for each URL. We suggest only worrying about the URL and Title tag, which will be used for further analysis. If you don’t have Screaming Frog you can also use Google Analytics to collect URL data. 

Using Google Analytics to Collect Content Data 

If you have Google Analytics installed and are gathering data you can use that information to do a content audit. If you don’t then we suggest installing Google Analytics to start collecting data for your business. Make sure you set up eCommerce tracking to collect revenue, AOV, conversion rate, and other data useful to your eCommerce shop. 

Check out our Guide on how to do this if you are using Shopify

If you have Google Analytics installed and are gathering data, use this process to do a content audit in twenty minutes or less! 

Log into your Analytics account.

Select ACQUISITION > CHANNELS

Set the primary dimension as the Landing Page. 

Note: Make sure you have selected at least a year’s worth of data if you have it. 

Sort by revenue (highest to lowest revenue-driving pages) and then export the top 250 URLs as Excel (XLSX).

NOTE: If there are not 250 URLs that drive revenue, then look at the top 50-100 pages. If there are only 5-10 (or some small amount), then export what you have to a spreadsheet. 

Next, look at the top pages based on unique visits. Export that list and add to the original spreadsheet (the one with the revenue URLs). Sort and remove duplicate URLs before continuing to the next step.

Keep the following columns in the exported Excel sheet from Google Analytics and delete all other columns: 

  • URL
  • Empty column 
  • Users
  • Transactions
  • Revenue

Check all URLs and remove any URLs that have campaign IDs (cid) or use any of the following in the URL:

  • /checkout/
  • /cart/
  • /account/

Take the domain and add it to the cell to the left of the Landing Page URL in the spreadsheet (don’t include the trailing slash on the end)

Add a new column to the right of the Landing Page column so there are 3 total columns before the user metrics. Use the following formula in “column C” to combine the partial URL in the “Landing Page” column with the domain: =CONCATENATE(A2,B2) 

As you copy and paste that formula, it will combine the domain with the partial URL. For example, 

Once all URLs are complete, then copy the entire column, and select “Paste Special” and “Paste Values Only”. This will replace all URLs with the complete URL.

You can then copy and paste the information from the Excel sheet into the Google Sheet to pull in title tag data in another column. 

To find the page title, use the formula:

=ImportXML([cell number], “//title/text()”)

Example:

=ImportXML(A4, “//title/text()”)

This should automatically pull in the title tags for each page. 

2. Organize, Tag Your Current Content

Take the time to organize your content. Here’s some criteria we recommend describing your existing content with:

Topic

Identify different “topic buckets” that your content might fall in. What is the content about? Does it talk about your products? Does it teach readers about your brand? Create a list of different categories that covers what you talk about within your content. This will help you to get a better handle on what you have a lot of, what you need more of, and what is driving the most traffic. It will work wonders for helping you know where to start with your strategy.

Length

How long is the piece of content? Does the length have an effect on how it’s viewed? Is it easily shareable? Some audiences prefer long, in-depth pieces of content while others prefer content to be concise and to the point. Where does your audience fall and are you delivering the content that they’re looking for?

Tone

What is the tone of your content? Does it lean toward humor, professionalism, or somewhere in between? Are you effectively reaching your audience with the tone of your content? This is another spot where it’s a good idea to come up with the descriptor buckets to help you more effectively organize your content and see what is producing the most success.

Relevance

Are your content topics directly related to your business and who you serve? Does your content highlight your products and services? Or are you finding that a lot of your content is irrelevant to what you provide and who you’re targeting?

Datedness

Earlier, we touched on Evergreen content. While some content is made to last forever, other content is not. Keep an open mind and understand what content can stay and what other content has served its purpose and can leave.

Content Type 

What extra features are included in your content? Do you have images, videos, maybe some infographics? What speaks most to your audience in terms of these additions? Are you checking off all of your SEO boxes (title tags, headings, meta descriptions, etc.)?

Buyer Stages 

Add a new Column in the document and begin to identify the buyer stage

  • TOFU – Top of Funnel
  • MOFU – Middle of Funnel
  • BOFU – Bottom of Funnel

Here’s how that would look:

  • TOFU – Blog posts
  • MOFU – FAQ pages, Informational pages (how it works, etc), Category Pages
  • BOFU – Product pages

As you do this, you should start to see a pattern of which pages are driving traffic and revenue. TOFU pages should have more traffic, but BOFU should have more revenue.

You may also notice that there are not a lot of TOFU pages (blog posts).

3. Analyze The Data

Keep an eye out for trends in your data so that you can see what is bringing success, as well as what content needs some adjustments. Keep an eye out for gaps in your content, as well. It’s quite possible that the content you need the most, the content that will drive traffic, isn’t on your site yet. This is where your inspiration will come when it’s time to start brainstorming new content. Keep an eye out for duplicates- do you have 12 posts about getting ready for back to school? Time to consider how you can condense those down. This is why analyzing your data is such an important step in the process.

Once these groups are separated out you can start to understand the traffic and revenue impacts of each URL. After you’ve analyzed how each URL influences potential customers at each stage of the journey you should have a massive content audit spreadsheet that looks something like what we did for Stryde: 

When all of the content is tagged, you should do an inventory based on the buying personas and stages in relation to the number of resources that correlate. Filter your large content audit spreadsheet by persona first and then by each buyer stage to get an idea of how much content you have for each individual. As you work your way through each persona you should build out an additional spreadsheet to connect the number of content pieces you have to the stages of the buyer’s journey. This will give you a quick snapshot of where you are. Here is an example of what this look like for Stryde:

You can quickly tell which parts of the buyer’s journey are not being addressed. By creating content for these holes we can create a more fluid journey and eventually give customers all the information they need when buying products you offer. 

4. Competitive Content Audit 

It’s a good idea to look at competitors in the space to see what you might be missing. You don’t need to go as in depth with the audit you do for competitors but it will help you understand your company or product’s place in the market. You should identify why competitive pages are performing well in search, on social media platforms, hits a target persona, answers questions, etc. Mostly, you need to identify what need it is filling within the buying cycle. This is perhaps the most important step in the competition audit because it helps you understand how and why the competition is successful.

The content audit process is key to your success. By taking the time to really research owned and competitive content, you can develop a holistic content strategy. Content marketing is one of the most useful tactics to leverage for a successful online presence. Your customers are looking for information online, usually via blogs and other content resources, to help them make an educated decision on what products to buy. By utilizing a content audit process you can develop content ideas that will add to your current visibility and truly make an impact on your potential customers. 

Once you have all of this insight, you need to figure out what your content voice, style and guidelines are going to be. That way you can align internal and external resources to keep content consistent with the brand voice.  

Line Up Your Brand with Your Style

One major part of your strategy is going to be nailing down how you can line up your brand, style, and voice. It’s a good idea to document all of this so that you can refer back to it over time.

Make sure everyone on your team is in the loop on these details. Depending on how big your team is, you might consider creating a resource that reminds your writers which parts of your brand need to be capitalized on. Include personas, guidance on what tone to use, and even some advanced copy editing guidelines to ensure that everyone is on the same page on how your content should be created.

Keep in mind that you don’t want to go overboard with these guidelines. It’s important to find the balance between describing what your tone and style are and giving your writers the ability to freely create. Find the points that matter most to your company, such as AP style guidelines, and include those in your guide.

Branding Guidelines: 

  • Brand name 
  • Positioning 
  • Color Scheme 
  • Fonts 

Tone/Voice: 

  • Tone/Style of voice 
  • Descriptive Words for the Brand 
  • Language 
  • Formatting 

Content Style: 

  • Blog Post Length 
  • Advice on Writing 
  • Title/Meat Data Structure 
  • Content Structure 

Brand Imagery: 

  • Image Style 
  • Image Format/Guidelines 
  • Poor imagery examples 
  • Good imagery examples 

How to Document Your Strategy

Your content marketing strategy, much like the guidelines you set for your brand style, should be concise. You want to document it in a way that covers things that are likely to come up and explains your strategy well but also doesn’t require various days of deep study to read through and understand.

To help you more effectively jump into creating your content strategy, we’ve put together some of the main points you should hit when considering what to include. This is something that you and your team will find yourselves turning to again and again, so be sure to set aside the time it deserves so that it can best serve you.

This section will cover the following:

-Content Ideation

-Content Freshness

-Providing Value

-What can Make or Break Your Content

Content Ideation

If this is the first time building a content marketing strategy, the steps before this should have helped you create a documented strategy, helped you audit your content to identify gaps, and directed you to look at your competitors to see what they are doing. Now, you can hit the ground running and start coming up with even more topics to write about in the ideation process.

Simply put, content ideation is the process of identifying the most relative topics to your brand and your audience. Putting time into content that doesn’t apply to either of these will prove to be a waste of time and resources, and holds the potential of turning your audience off. You want to maintain credibility with your content creation, so taking the time to determine which topics will have the most impact on rankings and revenue is an important step in the process.

All of this considered, it can feel pretty intimidating when you consider the idea of coming up with topics for your content. But finding those surefire ideas doesn’t have to be challenging! Remember- pegging down those awesome content ideas will bring results.

How to Successfully Brainstorm

When creating content for your site, your initial goal should be centered around answering questions that relate to the products you sell. For example, if you sell baby carriers, your content could be answering questions such as:

-How do I keep my baby comfortable in a baby carrier in the heat?

-When can I transition my baby to forward-facing in a baby carrier?

-How long does a baby carrier last?

In the example chart below, we used the simplified version of the hub and spoke content organization model as we went through and brainstormed content ideas. Others talk about creating a skyscraper piece of content, cornerstone content, and numerous other models when figuring out how to organize and create content. 

However you look at it, the point is you should brainstorm and organize topics to address the questions and concerns your audience faces when trying to find a solution that your product(s) solve for. The content brainstorm needs to be very focused around this, otherwise, you will start to go down a path and brainstorm ideas for all kinds of things. 

If needed, gather your team together for a brainstorming session. This is very useful when you have been doing content creation for some time and have built out a lot of content over months/years. Using a basic shell of an outline, like what we stated above,  you can help them open up and get things rolling in the same direction? This is a great way to get everyone comfortable and talking as you get into the brainstorming session.

Make it a point to stay open to your team’s concepts but be clear that you want to stay focused on the core topics you have outlined. As you get into it and stay focused on a core topic or set of topics, ideas of one person can easily spark inspiration in another, which is why it’s crucial to keep the conversation focused so that as ideas can come more freely you don’t get off-topic.

In these brainstorming sessions, put someone in charge of recording every idea and concept. Whether you’re scrawling them on the whiteboard or saving them in a google doc, it’s always important to have something to refer back to. No matter how out there or crazy the ideas are, write them all down for future reference.

Sean Sweeney, Director of Digital Marketing here at Stryde, advises the following when it comes to brainstorming with the team:

“Behind every piece of polished content is a messy brainstorming session. One of the only rules about brainstorming is that there are no bad ideas. Nothing kills the momentum of creativity more than someone saying, “That won’t work!” If your goal is to write something that hasn’t already been written, you’re going to have a hard time without that creativity. So don’t squash it.

Another helpful tip is to brainstorm content ideas without doing any research on what is already published. After you’ve exhausted your ideas, then go out and find what has been already written. Doing this after the first round of brainstorming will help you avoid getting trapped thinking about the same things that have already been written while still giving you the benefit of finding missed opportunities.”

Competitive Research: What’s working for others?

It’s common and even advised to keep an eye on your competitors’ content and consider what’s working for them and what’s not. If you’re not already doing this, we highly recommend it. However, there are some ways to take a deeper look at what your competitors are working on to help sculpt your strategy.

Before we jump into that, let’s talk about competitors. You most likely have two different types of competitors, especially when you consider SEO and content marketing. You have your traditional competitors. For example, if you own a French bakery in downtown Chicago, your traditional competitor is going to be the nearest bakery also specializing in French pastries and treats. 

The other competitor type you have is the one that you’re battling it out on the SERPs with, the one that is currently ranking for “Best French Bakery in Chicago” for example. 

The search results not only have local listings but popular sites like Yelp and foursquare that list the top bakeries and pastry shops in Chicago so even competition online is high for very targeted searches.

You may find that there can be overlap between these two types of competitors, but they are both important to consider in your competitive research.

Here’s what you’ll be looking out for in your research:

  • What is getting backlinks?
  • What kind of content are the leading brands writing?
  • Who is following my competitors and what are they sharing?
  • What is currently trending?
  • What keywords are currently ranking for the top traffic earners?

Google offers a lot of insight in the search results to help you understand what people are looking for. Take the “Best French Bakery in Chicago” example above. If you look further down the page you will see there are additional things showing up in the search results that can give you insight into the type of content users and competitors are looking to use in their content strategy. EX: 

People are looking for even more specific things like “Where can I buy macarons in Chicago?” and doing related searches for “best french baguette in Chicago” and “french bakery in old town.” This is a quick and free way to gather insights into competitors. 

Consider what tools you have available to find this information. AHREFS is an incredibly helpful tool when it comes to checking out which pages on your competitor’s sites are getting the most links, as well as who those links are coming from. 

For example, let’s say you sell house dresses and you’re looking at Dwell and Slumber as one of your competitors. AHREFS will show you something like this:

This site is generating valuable links from various blogs and sites sharing postpartum kits, made in the USA directory listings, affiliate sites like dealspotr and more. This will give you insights into how others are using content to build backlinks. 

SEMrush is perfect for identifying which keywords your competitors are ranking for and comes in handy as you determine what is trending and what you can focus on. This is also a great way to find new concepts to use for content on your own site. 

For example, if you sell boutique throw pillows and your competitor has “how to spot clean throw pillows” as one of their top keywords, you can gain this insight quickly in SEMRush. Simply add their root domain into the “Organic Research” section of the tool. 

From there look at the keywords they rank for and what kind of content is ranking for those keywords. In the example below, you can see this site ranks for terms like, “how to spot clean a pillow” and “how to clean throw pillows”.  

You might consider writing a blog post centered around the best tips for cleaning throw pillows if you don’t have that content already. This information is something people are searching for and will help your audience discover your brand for a keyword related to throw pillows.

Keeping Your Content Fresh and Applicable

Something to consider when putting together your content strategy is how you can maintain a balance between timely content and evergreen content. While some companies will prioritize basing their strategy on exclusively responding to the most recent news, this might not be what best serves your audience. More often than not, you will want to explore both current and long-lasting content ideas, or content that is consistently fresh, current, and helpful.

Let’s consider the health and wellness industry. A good example of timely content might be a recent study on coconut oil, its effectiveness, and its overall value. This serves your audience and is something that you know they are interested in. On the other hand, you want to include evergreen content, as well. For this, you might consider a healthy recipe that incorporates ingredients that are readily available all year round. Having an equal balance of these two types of content is a great way to build up your portfolio, as well as reliability with your audience. Plus, Google is showing a mix of these types of content in the search results. There are the latest studies on the benefits of coconut oil along with questions people have asked. 

Stumped on how you can come up with timely content ideas? Take a look at when your content will be going live and consider what might be happening around that time, for example season changes, holidays, or major events. If you sell children’s clothing, back to school is something you should definitely be considering. However if you sell niche home decor, this might not make it on your calendar since no one buys furniture when thinking about kids going back to school, unless it is during a pandemic. Then kids need desks to sit at while at home: 

Consider your industry and audience and how world events impact how people search for things. 

Providing Value for Your Audience

The best way to ensure you’re providing value for your audience is to research your audience. How can you give them what they need if you don’t know who they are? If you haven’t already done some audience research, go ahead and schedule some time to hunker down and study up. You might consider creating some personas to better shape your ideas and focus, or let the ideas come to you before conducting audience research and narrowing down your options.

It’s not enough to know that your audience is interested in something- you must also understand what their needs are to more fully serve them. You have to know what their intent is with searching a particular topic. Are they shopping? Are they conducting research? Understanding this will help you to create a content marketing plan that drives conversion. Take for example, a business that sells matcha face masks. You could build a basic chart for each persona to start to identify how they would go about researching and purchasing these products.

Look at your customer interaction on your social media accounts and customer surveys to find out more about your audience. Start a Facebook group and invite select customers to join the group and start a discussion on possible topic ideas. Reach out to customers that follow you via Instagram and ask them for feedback. There are numerous ways to collect some data and use that feedback to provide more value to your current and future customers. 

What Can Make or Break Your Content

So what does my content need in order to drive the results I’m looking for? Matthew Brown of Moz gives us some helpful insight:

  • Your content should be relevant and recent
  • Your content should be long-form
  • You should be targeting a specific persona
  • You should be creating evergreen content
  • Your content should be customizable- allow your users to control their experience
  • You should create content that is personal and relatable

Now that your ideas are flowing and you have put together a list of topics you want to start creating content around, you need to build out your content calendar so you can stay organized. 

What Does Your Content Calendar Look Like?

Since you’ve determined who your target audience is, it’s time to make a schedule of when you’ll create content, what you’ll be sharing, and on what platforms you’re planning on sharing your new content. The key is to create a system that helps you to stay focused, organized, and consistent.

Developing a content calendar with your content topics, publish dates, and all other important details will help you to maintain that focus with your content marketing goals and plans. It will also lend a hand in keeping you motivated and on track so everyone knows what they are accountable for in the process.  

Whether you create a separate calendar for content creation on your Google Calendar or you decide to keep track of everything on an ultra-organized spreadsheet, consider what will be most helpful in keeping you and your content team in the loop with everything. . You can even consider a more robust solution such as DIVVY, Contently,  or ClearVoice. Regardless, you need to have some way to manage the status and flow of content you plan to produce and use for your marketing initiatives.

Find a system that works best for you and will keep you organized. 

Once the content is organized you can start the creation process. Something to keep in mind when creating content is to create quality over quantity. 

Quality over Quantity

Mediocre content will hurt your cause

More often than not, less is more. While this shouldn’t be the reasoning for only posting once or twice a month, it should serve as a reminder to be mindful of how often you’re posting and what you’re posting about. If you posted on Monday about “How to Exercise at Home with Baby”, you shouldn’t be publishing a post on Thursday titled “At Home Exercises with Baby”. Stay intentional and strategic.

Editing

Once your content has been written, it should go through at least one editing cycle. This should not be done by the original author- where possible, having someone on your team dedicated to taking care of editing is a good way to go. If not, getting another set of eyes on the content to make sure everything is in tip-top shape needs to be a priority.

We understand that getting the content published is exciting and often time-sensitive. You might find yourself tempted at times to skip over the editing process. But remember- quality is our first priority. Looking over the first draft of a piece of content will ultimately make it more valuable and more helpful to your audience, and the editing phase is not something you want to overlook.

Where Will You Share Content? 

If you have a website with a blog, that is a fantastic place to start in terms of sharing content. If your website doesn’t have a blog, we highly recommend getting one set up and publishing some content stat! Your site’s blog can be an incredibly powerful tool (we’ll get into that later!), not to mention it’s quick and easy to publish content this way.

But what other channels can you take advantage of in distributing your content? 

Organic Content Distribution 

It’s always a good idea to share your content on your company’s social media platforms- Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn is a great place to start. Encourage your team to share links to your posts on their personal LinkedIn accounts- not only will you be able to collect those invaluable backlinks, but it’s a great way to spread the word on your company, what you do, and who you serve. 

Commenting On Blogs and Forums 

You might also consider looking into guest blogging. This is a great way to boost your search engine rankings with some high-quality and useful content, not to mention you’re building more backlinks for your site. 

For example, someone inquired on Quora about what should be packed in a diaper bag. 

PR and Outreach 

Something else to consider is earned media- this typically involves reaching out to media and bloggers and pitching them what you’d like them to write about you and your company. With both media and bloggers, you will want to do some research ahead of time to find out what their platform is and what they’re interested in. If you’re reaching out to a blogger that focuses on fun activities to do with children and you sell health supplements, you might want to do more research to find someone that is in the same space as your company.

In most cases, the person on the other end will want something in return for talking you up. This typically involves some kind of special deal or free product. Media and bloggers often have submission guidelines- find them and research those before approaching them. Something you might consider is looking into HARO- this is a fantastic way to get links for your site, and they are frequently looking for quotes and resources to mention in their articles.

Paid Media Content Promotion

Paid promotions cover a variety of tactics and is a great direction to consider when choosing where you will publish your content. This covers things like display ads, Pinterest ads, and paid social media, and often fall under the paid acquisition umbrella. Again, you’ll want to start by identifying your target audience before jumping in. This will ensure you get the greatest return on your investment. 

The best and most effective place to turn for up-to-date data will come from social media platforms that we use the most. This tells us so much about our target audience, what they’re looking for, and what they value. Budgeting some of your ad spend for promotion on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest is definitely a good way to go. Most of these platforms provide ways for you to target individuals for your ads, which is a major game-changer. If they recently searched for kids cardigans, an ad will pop up in their Facebook feed. Simple as that.

Understand the Buyer’s Journey 

When it comes to determining your content marketing plans and goals, which content to generate, and how to implement it, you’ll want to match the buyer’s journey with your content marketing funnel. This will be very helpful in guiding you through your strategy.

At the top of the content funnel, you’ll find content centered around awareness. This is a great opportunity to start catching a wide variety of viewers and visitors with your content. This includes content such as:

  • Blog posts
  • Quizzes 
  • Infographics
  • Social posts 
  • Downloadable assets 
  • Intro and New Product Videos 

Content at the top of the funnel should be focused on building brand awareness at this stage of the buyer’s journey. The content should be educational and often serves as a great way to establish your brand and create a touchpoint for potential customers. Content at the top of the funnel is typically used to create interest and curiosity in what you do. 

In the middle of the content funnel, you’ll find information that is focused on evaluation. At this point in the funnel, a page visitor or customer is starting to consider looking at your brand and products as a solution to the challenge they’re facing. This is a great place to start presenting content that will help them to have a deeper understanding of your products and what you have to offer. Content in the middle of the funnel often includes:

  • Blog posts 
  • Education resources (fit and sizing guides, product style guides, etc.) 
  • Quizzes
  • Special offers
  • Collecting Email
  • Videos (product reels and highlights) 
  • Product Descriptions

Use these resources to tactically teach and inform customers about what your products and services are capable of. Present yourself as a valuable resource that they can’t pass up. Whether you’re presenting the opportunity for a new customer discount or you’re offering free downloads that pertain to your brand and products, this vital aspect of the funnel is one that is deserving of your time and energy.

At the bottom of the content funnel, you’ll find content that is centered around conversion. Your goal with the bottom of funnel content is to get that transaction and turn the visitor into a customer. You’ll notice that this is the most narrow part of the funnel- this is because you’ve filtered out all of the other visitors that aren’t ready to take the plunge and you’re left with those that are right on the cusp of making the purchase. Content at the bottom of the funnel typically consists of:

  • Social proof (customer testimonials, reviews, etc.) 
  • Comparison/spec sheets
  • Product videos 
  • Landing page copy
  • Email workflows  

You might throw in some customer reviews that share a positive experience with your brand and product, or you may consider putting together a comparison sheet to show how your product measures up to competitors in your field. However you decide to manage your strategy for this part of the funnel, know that giving your customer that extra little push could be just the thing to get them to make a purchase and that this is the perfect spot in your content funnel to incorporate this information.

How to Optimize Your Content for Rankings

Creating content and getting it out into the world is important, but perhaps just as crucial to your content marketing strategy is ensuring that your content is properly optimized to attract as many visitors as possible. Taking a little extra time to incorporate some on-page SEO, conduct some keyword research, and build some useful backlinks will take your content from doing nothing to driving organic search traffic. 

On-Page SEO

Make sure you’re checking all the boxes in terms of on-page SEO. Be intentional about your titles, meta descriptions, and H2, H3, and H4 tags. Include keywords and make sure they’re optimized to help page visitors easily understand and navigate your content. You want to make sure it’s readable and accurate, so take the time to look at your content from the point of view of the customer.

One easy way to make your content more readable and manageable is to break up your text. You want your content to be well structured, but you don’t want it to appear overwhelming. Breaking up the text and including the right kinds of header tags, incorporating images, videos and graphics is a great way to accomplish the balance needed for a successful piece of content. A good example of this is STITCH FIX. They create high-quality guides and use both text and visuals to address the pain points of their consumers while optimizing for search queries. 

Keyword Research

A keyword is a word or phrase entered into a search engine to help the individual find what they’re looking for. Understanding what keywords you’re ranking for, as well as what keywords you would like a higher ranking for, will drastically improve your content marketing strategy. Conduct some quick keyword research and build your content around what you’re able to find.

Keyword research is also a great way to help you to better understand your customer. While you might refer to your product one way, you may find through your research that your customers are using a variety of different terms to help them find what you have to offer. 

For example, if you sell organic muslin baby swaddles, people might search for “baby blankets”, “soft baby blankets”, “stretchy baby swaddles”, “baby swaddlers”, “organic baby blankets”, and a whole slew of other terms! Knowing this will not only enhance your content, but it will help you to better understand your customers.

Backlinks

One thing that Google loves seeing is backlinks. It’s important to consider what links you can use in your content, both from your own website and from external sites and sources. When you link to other pages on your site, you’re building out your site structure. When you link to outside sources, you’re showing Google that you are a reliable and thorough resource that deserves to be acknowledged.

Looking for more details on SEO and how to best optimize your site? Check out our ultimate guide to SEO!

Different Types of Content Marketing

So now that we’ve covered our recommended approach to content marketing for eCommerce websites, let’s take a deeper look at some of the types of content that you can incorporate in your content marketing strategy. With so many different options to choose from, it’s important to understand what all your options are.

Before we dive in, keep in mind that not every type of content is going to work or be applicable for all of your campaigns. The kinds of content you use will change depending on who you’re targeting, what platforms you’re planning on sharing on, and what your overall goals are for your campaign. Let’s take a look at the different content types and give you examples of each one.  

Blogging

If you’re ever feeling overwhelmed at the prospect of content marketing, we always recommend that you start with blogging. While it may not always be the most popular and lucrative form of content marketing, you’ll quickly find that it works wonders for your eCommerce business in terms of SEO.

Let’s look at an example. Ergobaby is a company that sells baby carriers, strollers, and a handful of other high-quality baby products.

In this recent blog post published on their site, they answer a commonly searched question- can my baby sleep in the stroller?

So if someone is turning to Google to address the inquiry of whether or not it’s safe for your baby to sleep in the stroller and the pros and cons of their options, this post will pop up and easily answer their question. It’s important to note that people can easily navigate to the main website from their blog.

As an eCommerce business, it’s crucial that you understand that you’re competing with a slew of other brands. Banking on individuals going directly to your site to make a purchase should comprise a very small percentage of your digital marketing plan. Investing time in a blog is a great way to build a stronger, more prominent presence online, and is a great way to drive more traffic to your site.

Note how Ergobaby chooses to end their blog post:

There are two items here that are especially noteworthy. The first word in the paragraph, Strollers, is linking to their stroller page. In addition, there is a CTA centered around stroller safety, and a bright button also linking readers back to their stroller page. This is a simple yet very effective approach in content marketing and one that is certainly easy to mimic for your own blog posts.

Photos

One of the biggest roadblocks of selling items online is that your customers don’t have the ability to touch and feel what it is that you have to offer. This is often a huge selling point for individuals purchasing something in person, and online marketers have been finding ways to satisfy this need in other ways.

This is where visuals come in. Customers rely heavily on being able to see a product from every angle possible before jumping in and making the purchase. Having the right kinds of photos on your category pages are a must, but keep in mind that photos can be used in other places and other ways, as well.

One example- you’ve conducted some research and found that a good portion of your target audience is primarily using Instagram as a shopping outlet. You could take some lifestyle photos of a model styled completely in clothing from your shop and share it on Instagram as a shoppable post.

In addition to sharing your photos on Instagram and other social media channels, you can include images in your blog posts, use them for paid ads, and incorporate them in your email campaigns. Make it a priority to continually take photos of your products- you will always find yourself in need of product images.

Video

Following the same idea as before, customers love to see their product and envision it in their life before making a purchase. While images can certainly be effective, they are limited. This is where video content steps in. With video, you can tell a story around your product, what it does, and the problems it can solve for your customers.

The great thing about video content is that it’s easy and effective when shared across various platforms. Social media, your blog, even product pages and email campaigns are all great places to share video.

When it comes to results, video content seriously delivers. 64% of customers say that they’re more likely to make a purchase on an item if they can see a video of it first. Video has been proven to boost click-through rates and increases conversion rates and should be a component of your content marketing strategy.

Email Marketing

If you’re looking for a way to consistently keep in contact with your customers, email marketing is a fantastic option. Not only is it a versatile tool for keeping your customers in the loop, but it’s extremely useful in sharing some of the other content that you’re generating.

Bed, Bath and Beyond provides a wonderful example for us of how to use email marketing to your advantage. Not only do they provide emails when you’ve abandoned your cart or when something you previously looked at goes on sale, but they send it daily emails with information relevant to their customer base. From discounts to decorating tips, they have found a way to provide value through email marketing.

Start with some essential drip campaigns. Whenever someone makes a purchase on your website, they should be put into a specific drip campaign to help keep them in the loop on their order.

  • Order confirmation
  • Shipping notification
  • Package delivered
  • Follow up/ ask for reviews

These kinds of emails are a great way to build trust and reliability with your customers. It shows them that you’re on top of things and that you make it a priority to keep them up to date on their purchase.

Email marketing is a great tool for driving conversions. Use your drip campaigns as an opportunity to give customers discounts codes, or show them product recommendations based on the products they’ve already purchased. 

Customer Experience

Are people still paying attention to customer reviews before making a purchase? The resounding answer is YES! In fact, most customers will look for reviews from others as a determining factor of whether or not the product they’re looking at is worth the expense. Because of this, collecting reviews and compiling positive customer experiences should be a big part of your content marketing strategy.

There are a number of ways that you can collect customer experiences and use it to your advantage:

  • Reviews
  • Testimonials
  • Customer videos 

Customer experiences can come in a number of different formats. Whether they’re in text format, images, videos, or even blog posts, it’s all valuable and it’s all worth sharing on your site and on your social media accounts.

Consider the content marketing funnel that we talked about earlier. You’ll see that customer experiences are heavily used  at the bottom of the funnel, defined as one of the factors that is going to either make them buy or bounce. ..

Content Analysis and Reporting

No matter how perfect and flawless your content marketing efforts may have been, know that there will always be room for you to change and improve. You’ll find that some content is outrageously successful and drives fantastic results, while others seem to fall flat and deliver very little. Use every opportunity you can to analyze what you’re doing and improve your strategy.

As a content marketer, it’s important to understand how to track your efforts and see what is driving success and what is bringing challenges. 

What do I analyze?

Now you know you need to analyze your efforts, but what should you be focusing on? The task can feel overwhelming. There are many different directions you could go, but we recommend sticking to some core metrics, metrics that are frequently used to measure success. 

Traffic metrics

One of your main goals is to drive traffic to your site, right? That’s one of the reasons you’re creating and publishing content. Measuring how effectively your content is driving traffic is definitely something you will want to keep an eye on, and often brings with it a lot of helpful details, such as:

  • page views
  • Average read depth
  • Visitors to specific pieces of content
  • Time spent on page
  • What the bounce rate is
  • Conversion rate

It should be clear from above that in order for a customer to research, consider and purchase a product online, they need content all along the journey to help them make a decision on what to buy based on their needs. 

However, you’ll find that there are also some key benefits to content creation that will show tangible results. These are both satisfying and will be easy to measure. 

Here is a good example of what good content can do for the traffic to a website: https://www.verywellfamily.com/ 

Verywellfamily has created thousands of pieces of content on their site ranking from topics like baby girl names to best pack-n-plays. The content they produce has grown their website traffic from thousands of visitors to millions of site visitors. According to SEMRush, they rank for 100,00+ keywords in position 1-3 and over 150,000 terms in position 4-10. That is over 200K+ keywords on page one of Google that are able to drive traffic to the site. 

Scaling Your Content Marketing

You’ve established your goals, published some content, and seen some good results. Now it’s time to consider how you can scale your content marketing for even more growth. This doesn’t mean that you go from three blog posts a week to 30, but it does mean that there is some space for growth that you should take advantage of in order to see an even greater ROI.

Scaling your content marketing might look like hiring freelance writers and editors to create more content. It might mean hiring some full time employees to expand your content marketing team, or perhaps hire specialists to explore new kinds of content. It’s important to maintain momentum with where you’ve seen success, but also to maintain an open mind and look for areas where you can explore new ideas. 

Keep in mind that scaling your content marketing doesn’t necessarily mean looking for more opportunities for traffic. While this is important, it shouldn’t be your sole focus. It should also be about getting more content and more high-quality content, as well as consistently improving on the content and resources that you already have readily available to you. Here are some ideas you might consider when looking to sale your content marketing:

  • Hire out specialists- individuals who excel in their niche can be an incredible asset for your team. This could include everything from writers to video content creators!
  • Go back and check your previous work- make sure your links are up to date and that your anchor text is still high-quality. Double check your keywords. Make sure it’s all in good shape
  • Take some time to reassess your brand voice- is your team keeping this a priority? Is there anything that needs to change since you last evaluated everything?

I Don’t Have a Big Budget or Team- Can I Still find Success in Content Marketing?

Don’t fall for the misconception that you need an unending bucket of resources in order to be successful. You can still create success for yourself! If you don’t have the resources to create content on a regular basis, we recommend focusing on something known as “evergreen” content.

Evergreen content is content that stands the test of time, and is always applicable and helpful to your clients. It’s not quite as timely as other content, and often requires a minimal amount of upkeep to maintain relevance over time. You may find that you intermittently need to add a little here and there to evergreen content, but you will also find that these are pieces of content that drive traffic and success on your site.

And let’s look on the bright side! In a way, you’re forced to create and target your content a bit more carefully. When you don’t have the time or money to explore every single content option, you’re able to more fully focus on what will be most effective. The end result is content that is more impressive, focused, and results-driven.

At the end of the day, the most effective tool to help people find what you have to offer is your content. Every touchpoint is an important part of the process, and discovery-level content is often far from the last touch before site visitors take the plunge and make a purchase. More on that in our section detailing the content marketing funnel.

Let’s look at an example. Presley Couture is a business that sells little girl clothing, ranging from princess dresses to everyday outfit essentials. They have created a blog that covers a wide range of topics in their specific space. Some of their posts are more pointed toward their products, highlighting cute outfit ideas and how to put together a back to school wardrobe. 

However, they also boast blog posts talking about playdate ideas and birthday party planning. Does this directly relate to little girl clothing? Not necessarily. Could it be useful for a mother making a purchase on the site for her little girl? Absolutely it could.

An Opportunity for Growth

Content marketing has proven time and again to be an essential part of running a successful eCommerce business. When looking for ways to increase click-through rates, up your conversion rates, and ultimately build rapport and reliability with your customers.

Looking to take your eCommerce business to the next level? Check out how we helped Utah.com consolidate old content to fuel their SEO grow after a major site redesign.  

I left Florida for Utah’s mountains in 2007. My passions are making pizza, mountain biking, skiing, and making movie props (ask me about my helmets). My tips for being happier include drinking more water, eating more vegetables, sleeping 7-8 hours, and finding opportunities to exercise outside. I love accountable, responsible marketing. I’m not happy until I get results or answers for my clients.