Blogging 101: Our Guide to Producing Great Content For Your E-Commerce Site
Thanks to the democratization of retail, businesses will need to start connecting with consumers on a personal level if they want any hope of earning their trust, loyalty, and buying power.
A great way to build a community is by telling your brand story. But as a brand owner, where do you disseminate that story? As it turns out, one of the most common (and easiest) ways these days is through a blog.
We’ve mentioned before how great content can catapult your brand into the forefront of a consumer’s mind. Brands and retailers can get into what we like to call the Millennial “friend zone” by creating a complete brand experience rather than attempting to build a relationship simply through transactions. For many successful businesses, an equally successful blog is the key to that.
First things first: Who’s your audience? What questions are they asking? What conversations are they having? These are all questions you should be answering in order to ensure you’re providing quality content that is relevant to their interests.
Of course, one way to go about this is by doing your research. With the help of Google Analytics, you can decipher what specific keywords or search terms your consumer base or industry is the most interested in. That gives you a good jumping off point when it comes to topics you can cover and tie back to yourself and your brand story.
Consider how timely you’d like your blog to be. Will it be a regular snapshot into your life or company culture? If you’re a food brand, will it be your favourite tips, tricks, and recipes? Another way to look at it is to ask yourself if you want your content to be topical or evergreen?
Topical content is of-the-moment, usually relating to current events. The biggest advantages of writing topical blog posts are that your consumers are likely searching for that content in that moment. This is great for achieving a temporary spike in traffic, but that spike is just that – temporary. At least until you move on to the next newsworthy subject.
Evergreen content is always relevant. The key point in difference here is that these pieces will not look dated if someone happens upon them months after the fact. This type of content is actually necessary in order to be found online by search engines.
STEP ONE: Keep it simple
Getting words out onto paper can be a daunting task if you don’t consider yourself a writer. Once you’ve come up with your subject matter, transfer all your thoughts and notes onto a document. It doesn’t matter how messy it is, this will be your rough draft.
You may be thinking that this is an obvious step to take but it’s important to really think of your initial draft as just that – rough. Too many people attempt to get it right from the jump and in the long run, it will make churning out a great piece of content that much harder.
Once you have all the elements, you can start fitting them into an “image” for your readers. Think of your rough draft as the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, strewn about after being dumped out of their box and this step is you putting the edges together.
See what I did there? That’s what I mean by “creating an image.” If you’re telling a story, it’s a helpful way to guide your reader’s thinking so that they’re following you on a journey, rather than trying to take in a ton of disjointed information and coming to their own conclusions.
Make the complex simple
Aside from building a story and creating an image, you need to ensure your post is easily digestible. Consumers are inundated with media on a constant basis – it won’t help you to present them with a simple wall of text.
One way to look at it is to “reward” your readers by breaking up chunks of text with fun and engaging visual content. Or perhaps your sub-headers tell a story that can be easily skimmed and understood, regardless of if they actually read the whole post or not.
No matter how you choose to break it up, remember what your English teacher taught you. A written piece of content should generally comprise of three parts: a beginning (introduction), middle (body), and end (conclusion). Without those three components it just seems, well, wrong.
Take a step back
Once you think you have a post down pat, remember to take a step back and look it over. It’s extremely easy to get stuck in one’s head and fail to see the forest for the trees, so to speak. Does the post flow well? Do you think readers who have not been in your shoes would still be able to follow along? These are all questions you must ask yourself while building a second draft.
If you find yourself having trouble self-editing, you should definitely have a fresh pair of eyes take a look at your work and give you feedback from their perspective.
STEP TWO: Watch your tone
When writing for the public for the first time, many people make the mistake of trying to sound the way they think a writer must write and sound. False. What will keep readers the most engaged is reading things from your perspective with your unique voice.
If you’re having trouble getting out of your head and “sounding natural,” one bit of advice I give to everyone is to stop writing and just talk… into a recording device. There are a few reasons for this:
- You’ll get to know what you really sound like
- We often think of things differently/explain concepts differently when we talk as opposed to when we have to write them down
- To the above point, concepts and stories will likely be structured in a more naturally sounding way
- Recording it all means you can cheat! It may be a bit rough at first, but eventually, you should be able to get that voice recording transcribed, clean it up (remove all the hemming and hawing) and have a pretty valuable piece of written content. At Hubba, we use Rev for such services.
Another great step towards finding the right tone for you and your blog is by simply reading what other people around you, whom you admire, are writing. I’m naturally humorous and conversational when I speak and wanted to bring that into my writing. As research, I would pore over the pages of Man Repeller because I felt like the writers there sounded exactly how I aspired to sound like. Remember, the goal here isn’t to copy someone else’s style but rather see a piece of yourself within someone else and understand what they do that is so appealing to you, the reader.
As a business owner, you should also be looking at trade publications and other site blogs within your industry to get a feel not only for what conversations your peers are having but the overall tone that seems to resonate with consumers.
STEP THREE: Have empathy
Remember who you’re writing for. Your readers are people. People tend to be pulled in by storylines that make them laugh, cry, or experience other strong emotions such as FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). How does your content tap into that?
You must also remember your readers are just that – your readers. What do they care about? Why do they care about you, your content, or your product? Make sure that any content you post is relevant to your readers, and not just an exercise is listening to yourself talk (figuratively speaking).
STEP FOUR: Continuity is key
Consistency is key when pushing content out into the world. This is in everything you do from keeping proper grammar, to keeping a proper posting schedule, to making sure you’re touching upon similar, relevant content matter for your faithful readers.
One way to make sure you’re doing this is to ask yourself, ‘Does my post make sense when looking at my blog as a whole?’ The answer should be a resounding YES, unless you’re looking to do a complete content overhaul. If you’re just one of many contributors to the blog, is your voice consistent with the overall voice of the blog? If the other contributors have a friendlier, conversational tone but your posts come across as dry and informative, you may find your pieces getting a smaller and smaller slice of the readership pie.
An editor (or again, just another pair of eyes) will play a key part in keeping content consistent as they have an overseeing eye to keep things in check.
Like it? Put a ring on it – engage!
Sharing is caring! The best thing about blog posts is how easy they are to disseminate. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram – whatever social media platform you choose, be sure to share. And don’t forget the appropriate hashtags either!
But sharing starts within the blog post too. By the end of your post, you should already know what journey you want your readers to have gone through. It can’t just be for them to have read your post – after all, you have a business to run! Do you want them to head over to your e-commerce site? Buy a product you’ve been promoting? Share your blog post or otherwise give feedback? Bring them there with a ‘Call to Action’. Whether in the form of an eye-catching button or otherwise, this needs to pop as it’s the last thing they’ll see on the page.
Sharing isn’t always about you either. If you’ve borrowed something from the internet – either an image or a tid bit of information, make sure to cite the source very clearly in your post to avoid headache. This is also a common courtesy that you will definitely want extended to you in the future in the form of link backs.
- Google is your friend, seriously – don’t ever say anything you’re not 100% sure on without doing your research first
- You know who else is your friend? Your actual friends! Reaching out to writers and/or designers within your network can never hurt
- If English wasn’t your favorite class in school than Grammarly and the Associated Press Stylebook are both great resources to ensure you’re doing your best writing
- Make MS Word work for you (rather than the other way around) by making generous use of the settings starting with spellcheck. Those green squiggly lines are not meant to be ignored, they mean something is off with your sentence. And autocorrect is a Godsend for those words you just can’t seem to spell right no matter how hard you try. Are you Canadian writing to an American audience? Set your keyboard to US and those royal ‘U’s will be gone in no time.
- Knowing which words to capitalize in headlines can be tricky, use this nifty title capitalization tool to get it right every time
- If you make generous use of stock images but don’t have the budget for a full creative suite, Pexels, StockSnap, and Creative Commons’ Pixabay all have thousands of options to choose from
Don’t forget, this doesn’t have to be a one-way conversation! Get your customers going in the comments! Better yet, crowdsource from them what they’d like to hear from you. Anything to get consumer feedback which, as a business owner, you should know is powerful stuff.
Found these tips helpful? Want to take your blog to the next level? Be sure to check out our post about getting your content syndicated!
Follow her at @D_isforDayana