The Pursuit Of Relevance: Episode #3

How To Create an Effective Ecommerce Content Marketing Strategy

Henneke Duistermaat Interview

Are you maximizing your site’s potential with content marketing?

Content marketing for ecommerce is much bigger than product descriptions and un-engaging blog posts. Your content should attract customers at every point during the buying process. It should also help you establish a long term relationship with your best customers. In this podcast interview with Henneke, we discuss how ecommerce sites can use content marketing.

In this 26 minute episode, Henneke and I discuss:

  • How to attract shoppers searching for information.
  • How an ecommerce blog can be used to build customer loyalty
  • How to prioritize your content marketing effort
  • How to get more shoppers on your email list
  • Tips on outsourcing content
  • How to use storytelling to write persuasive product descriptions

Show Notes

Episode Three Transcript:

Darren: Welcome to the Pursuit of Relevance. I’m your host Darren DeMatas.

This podcast is for entrepreneurs looking to make their online business more relevant to search engines and – more importantly, people.

Today, I have Henneke back to talk with us about ecommerce content marketing. She knows a thing or two about blogging.

On the last episode we discussed how buyer personas can make your marketing more persuasive. We want to build on that topic and dive a little bit deeper on creating an effective content marketing strategy for your ecommerce site.

I’ve seen too many bad ecommerce blogs that look like a product catalog. The purpose of a blog is to build up an audience, get natural links and educate buyers at the top of the sales funnel.

On an ecommerce site, you’ll have people who are just there to shop for products. They don’t really care about reading content. I get that.

But then you also have your ideal buyer. The person you can really connect with who wants to learn more about your business and why they should should buy from you. How can you build up that audience without distracting the other folks who just want to buy products?

How To Attract Shoppers Searching For Information

Henneke: One thing to think about is your reader or your web visitor if they are ready to buy or not. A lot of searches are not transactional. They are for gathering information. People are not ready to buy yet but they are doing their research. The blog is a fantastic tool to get these people on your site.

What you can do on your blog is not treated as a promotional tool what many people do and just share product reviews but really share information about how to choose products. How to choose a bicycle for commuting to work, or how to choose the best mountain bike for your kids, or the top ten lady bikes new out this year. You know?

Darren: Yes.

Henneke: Things like that are fantastic content. One, to be found in searches by people who are not ready to buy yet, but you can raise brand awareness with them and maybe get them on an email list so that you can start promoting to them and they might buy in a couple of weeks. Secondly, this type of information is really good for link building. You might get other websites linking to your buyer’s guide if it’s comprehensive or fun or really well-designed, then you get links from other websites. That’s how you can go up in the ranking with your whole sites and get found by people who are ready to buy.

Darren: That’s interesting. I think that is a problem with a lot of ecommerce sites is that even they mix their transactional content, their conversion content with their blog, they treat their blog as a sales tool versus an audience building tool. It’s an interesting point that you talk about the transactional searches. People looking to buy versus informational searches. People looking to be entertained or to learn more about products.

Henneke: Yeah. One of the searches that are often very useful for ecommerce are the people who want to compare two different products. They might want to compare the latest iPhone to the latest Samsung phone. They will Google iPhone 6 versus Samsung Galaxy, whatever the number is at this moment, I’m not keeping up.

Henneke: These are searches that happen a lot and they are useful in almost any industry. If you’re selling ovens then people might be looking for electric versus gas ovens. Any industry you can think about things that people want to compare: this brand versus that brand, this type of product versus that type of product, this model versus that model.

That type of information is fantastic to write a good review when comparing two products. That can rank quite quickly. This is useful information. You’re not selling but you do get these people to your website that then might buy.

Darren: So the blog is really a tool to just build some credibility and help, as you say, with your link building and overall search traffic. I think that’s a problem ecommerce site owners have is that they create these really transactional focused websites and they can’t get any traffic to it because people aren’t linking to it, just product pages or category pages.

They link to engaging blog content. It’s really important to have that engaging blog content on your ecommerce site. So many people just ignore that.

Why Blogging Is A Smart Long Term Ecommerce Marketing Strategy

Once you have some good blog content, people aren’t necessarily going to buy. I think that’s a big reason why ecommerce site owners don’t invest in content marketing, don’t invest in blogging, because the return is not instant. You invest in a blog post and it’s not going to result in sales tomorrow. I think that’s a barrier that a lot of them, that makes ecommerce site owners kind of reluctant to invest in that.

How can ecommerce site owners, who typically have thin margins, how can they take a blog and use it in a long term strategy to get people who are there to learn about products and learn about what you could potentially sell, but also get them to sign up for an email list without necessarily offering discounts? I know you can say, “Hey, sign up now and you get 10% off.” But if you’re in a business that has thin margins, you want people on your email list if you’re going to invest in a blog but you don’t want necessarily to give away products or give away deep discounts in exchange to get that email address.

Henneke: Yeah. People also sign up to keep up with the latest trends or to get inspiration or to, I don’t know, maybe to download a buying guide or something like that. It’s not only about money. If you build your strategy around a very clear target audience then it also becomes easier to increase your margins because it’s not just about comparing your price to another person’s price. It’s like, “I like these guys and I want to buy from them.” It can be a good strategy to have a blog and to have a good copy on your side to be able to increase your product prices as well. But yes, it’s true. It’s usually not something that will pay off within a week or a month. It might take a few months, six months to twelve months to really see a return on that investment in a blog.

Darren: Yeah, it does take some time. When it comes to ecommerce blogs, where do you draw the line between promoting your products and being too promotional. Because if we’re talking about, you know, buyers guide which is a great tactic to have, where do you draw the line between all your publishing is just buyer’s guide versus trying to publish something that a little bit more engaging to people who are not necessarily buyers?

Henneke: I think a buyer’s guide can be very engaging and very informative. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it. I think what it’s about, the attitude with which you write and the intention you have. If you write as a salesman then think about, “Oh I’m going to sell this product, and this product, and this product.”

Then it comes across as a piece of sales material and nobody will link and nobody will share with social media and nobody will be interest in reading it. If you do it from the viewpoint as an advisor and helping people to make the right choices then you can create really engaging buying guides that are incredibly useful for people.

How To Get More Shoppers On Your Email List

Darren: I think REI does a really good job of that.

I want to go back to something you said earlier about the email opt-in. Because email opt-in is such an important part of ecommerce. And yes, you can have it where it’s in a transactional type environment where they enter their email and get 10% off. But for a blog, you said something that was really interesting and something that I’ve honestly never have thought of.

Where you talked about get the latest trends and if we’re talking about a persona and things that they are interested in that maybe go beyond the scope of your products, do you have any examples of sites that are really tapping into that trend of lifestyle, keep up with the latest trends in this type of lifestyle? It almost makes it easy for people to stay up to date in not just your email updates but actually the trends of that lifestyle.

Henneke: I think Zappos does something like that. Not on their main site, but on Zappos’ Glance, Glance is probably what you would say. If you click through to that microsite, you get a pop-up and I’m pretty sure it’s about getting information about the latest trends.

Darren: I see that. I’m taking a look at that right now. It says, “Don’t miss out on the latest trends and exciting fashion finds from Glance.” Yeah, that’s a really good call to action for email opt-ins for ecommerce sites. I really like that a lot.

Henneke: I think J. Peterman does something similar as well.

Darren: That’s something that I’ve, as someone who’s marketed a couple of ecommerce sites, that’s something I always struggle with to be honest with you is you have this blog and what are some good call to actions to get people to sign up. With Zappos, they’re going with, “Don’t miss out on latest news and exciting trends.” The language they’re using is very enticing. It’s exciting. I mean they’re using the words exciting and it’s creating a feeling and how can you figure out what types of words to use in your call to action for specifically for signing up for an email list?

Henneke: That goes back to your ideal persona again, “What is it that they’re interested in? Do they want to keep up to date with the latest trends or do they want have tips on how to dress better or are they only interested in discounts? Do they want to make sure that they have the latest products so you can tell them when new products are coming in?” It really depends on your audience.

Darren: So once you find out what they are looking for, you figure out what type of adjectives and trigger words would be appealing to them and put that in your call to action?

Henneke: I mean J. Peterman has seen good things happen. Being a J. Peterman enthusiast has its advantages; sign up for emails and receive word about impromptu web sales and secret codes.

Darren: So that’s almost like you’re getting something that no one else is getting?

Henneke: Yeah.

Darren: So they’re kind of hitting both sides. That’s good information and I think I’m going to take that to work and put that information to work on some of the sites that I’m working on right now. Because I think that’s something that I can put to use right away.

Henneke: Great.

How to Prioritize Your Content Marketing Effort

Darren: I want to switch gears a little bit. We’ve talked a lot about copy and when you first left the corporate world to focus on your writing business, you really underestimated the time it took to do copy projects. I know for me, I always underestimate the time it takes to create content, to create the strategy, to create anything. It always takes a lot longer than I think.

I think most ecommerce site owners are not assessing the amount of copy that they actually need in terms of sheer persuasive copy. You need value propositions, you need a strong about page, you need engaging blog content, you need good buyers guides, you need good product description. Even if you go upstream you’re talking about PPC ads, how can ecommerce site owners really understand the amount of copy that they need?

Henneke: Yeah. I mean it’s difficult. I would like to look at it from prioritizing points of view rather than trying to tackle everything in one go. It’s usually works better to approach it as a running project and look at the pages that are most important. The checkout process is key in making sure that is as smooth as possible. Because if you have the wrong wording down then that’s definitely going to lose your sales.

Then look at the most trafficked pages which would be usually your home page, your about page. And then some of your product category pages and your most popular products. It depends on what your portfolio is. If you’re very niche then you might be able to write good copy for each and every product. But if you have a big size then you might need to focus on the products that generate the most profit to you first.

Tips On Product Descriptions

Darren: I think that’s a good segway into the next topic which is product descriptions. The kind of cardinal sin with product descriptions on ecommerce sites is just copying the manufacturers description and pasting it over. It creates a ton of problems. Not just with SEO, where you have duplicate content issues, but it also creates issues where it’s not necessarily in the style or tone that you’re trying to convey.

How can you approach writing product descriptions in a way that you’re having a consistent style? Because you have some many different products and obviously you want to start with your high margin products, but how do you go from there in terms of injecting personality and style into that?

Henneke: That’s really about going back to your ideal reader and imagining having a conversation with that person face-to-face and what sort of words would you use and what sort of things would appeal to them. Then it’s good practice to create maybe a few example product descriptions so you might have very expensive products and very cheap products on your sites.

Now the expensive products will probably have a longer description with more information and more details. The cheaper ones are often shorter. Depending on how you want might want to create two or three different examples or maybe only one if it’s a small product range. Then just refer back to that one to ensure that it still feels the same tone, talking to the same person.

Tips On Outsourcing Copy

Darren: I know that you’re a lot like me in terms of coming from a corporate background. I know that when I did marketing in a corporate environment, we used brand guides and messaging matrix that were developed at a corporate level. Is that something that you think a small business owner who has an ecommerce site should consider creating if they’re going to be having a lot of products and possibly outsourcing some of the content creation for product descriptions?

Henneke: Yeah, if you outsource a lot and to different people then it would be useful to have messaging guides where you explain exactly what is right and what isn’t right. It usually describes things as it’s formal but not boring, that kind of thing. Then give examples of what would be a right product description and what would be wrong. I think if you’re just a small ecommerce site and one person writes most of the product descriptions then I wouldn’t spend a huge amount of time on that. I would agree simple description of the ideal buyer and then agree one or two examples that feel right then get going. You can spend a lot of time on creating guides and guidelines but that is mainly used for if a lot of different people get involved.

Darren: Okay. I think that’s pretty good advice. A lot of times, there’s product descriptions that are, like I said before, just duplicate content. People have these massive sites that is just filled with duplicate content and that creates a problem where the site can’t get ranked. So you have to be able to rewrite these product descriptions. That’s like a necessary evil in terms of ecommerce marketing. You have to rewrite those product descriptions. And so how can you do that without sounding too redundant? Because that’s a problem I face a lot of times. As if I have 50 products that I’m trying to rewrite, how do you do that without sounding so redundant?

Storytelling In Product Descriptions

Henneke: It’s looking for synonyms often and it’s thinking about short introductions. Like J. Peterman, they have nice stories on their product descriptions. You don’t have to go that long, this is especially for a more expensive product. That’s a great way to create unique content. Almost catch a little scene of, I don’t know, where the product was found, or how you imagine somebody using it. Things like that can be a great way to inject some personality in a different wording, different phrases into your content. If you keep it to just a few bullet points with benefits and features then it’s more difficult to differentiate yourself.

Darren: So you’re saying that it’s almost better when you have these important products to really go into, not just talk about the features and benefits, but really go into some sort of story about how the product can be used and how the ideal person will interact with the product in real life.

Henneke: Yeah, because that way, you make the product also more aspirational, more interesting. You don’t sell just a product anymore but you sell the whole experience of using the product. And there is some research into when people, this is more of a face-to-face situation, but when people hold their products in their hands, this is why car salesmen want you to test drive. As soon as you hold it in your hands then the desire to buy the product increases or go to a jewelry store with your wife and you’ll notice that the salesmen always want your wife to touch the product. That’s because desire increases. That online, the closest we can do to that is to show really good pictures and let people imagine using our products.

Darren: Wow, I…

Henneke: So talk about it, what it feels like to you to wear your t-shirt or your hat or how to cycle on your bike.

Darren: So if your target audience is watch lovers, for example, people who’s spending thousands of dollars on watches, you can talk about the heft of the watch and how it feels on your wrist and…

Henneke: Yeah, yeah.

Darren: That’s something I need to be thinking about myself. I want to end with the…

Henneke: Yeah, sensory details with something like that is very important if you can talk about the texture that people feel when they touch the watch, or the weight they feel around their wrist or even the cold of the metal because it’s real metal, not like a plastic cover. It feels real. So many things and just the feeling of pride you feel from wearing that.

Darren: So sensory words are almost the life blood and juice of creating really persuasive product descriptions?

Henneke: Yeah, because if you appeal to the senses then the product becomes more real when people read it. There is research that shows that when people read sensory words that actually they experienced, the area in their brain gets activated as if they really see or feel or smell it. They have more impacts than just ordinary words. If you say good, that’s not as strong a word to use as when you say dazzling, or sparkling or soft, or fluffy, or words like that.

Darren: That’s a really good tip to kind of inject those sensory words into the product descriptions. I just want to wrap up and thank you so much for joining us today. I know that we went over a lot of different things: product descriptions, blogs, and value propositions, and persona. What would you say to someone who is listening and trying to absorb all this information? Where should they start in terms of putting this into action for their ecommerce site?

Henneke: The first step would always be to write down who is your ideal client. If you can’t agree on that then it becomes really difficult to create a strong tone of voice. That is really your starting point. Deciding who is your favorite customer or your buyer persona. Think about having a conversation with that person and why they’re interested in your product. Go search for some information online to see whether you can bring that person more alive when you read some product reviews. I would say it’s sometimes easier to start with a couple of products descriptions before you get into your home page and your about page.

Darren: It almost sounds like the starting point would be to figure out who your persona is, how they describe products that they buy online, and almost look for those sensory words that they use and take those sensory words that they use when they’re reviewing products and put them into your descriptions.

Henneke: Yeah, that would be a great way to do it.

Darren: Well thanks again for your time and you can learn more about Henneke and her website And be sure to check out her books on Amazon. We’ll see you on the next episode. Thanks again.

Henneke: Great to speak to you. Thanks, Darren.

Darren: Bye-bye.

If you enjoyed todays interview then I ask you to take a minute and subscribe to my show on iTunes and also leave a review. Thank you so much and I’ll see you on the next episode.


Darren DeMatas

Darren DeMatas

Darren has an MBA in Internet Marketing, but hangs his hat on 10+ years of experience in the trenches. Follow him on TwitterLinkedIn to learn ecommerce.

6 thoughts on “How To Create an Effective Ecommerce Content Marketing Strategy”

  1. Very informative podcast! I gotta say it’s very helpful especially for a beginner like me. It’s nice you had the podcast in text, which makes the talk a lot clear for me. Thanks a lot mate

  2. I really enjoyed this episode guy. I’ve have listened to it a few times now and passed it on to a few others who need to get ‘schooled’. Nice work.

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