Ecommerce website content for SEO – what is it and are you wasting your time?.July 19, 2011
A phrase that you often hear being thrown about by SEOs is “content is king”, Although this is (arguably) true, I think that in many cases this just leads to commercial webmasters blindly adding low-quality content to their websites for the sake of it without really considering if it is beneficial to them in any way.
It is incredibly important to understand that different kinds of content act in different ways and using different types of content in different areas of your website can drastically influence traffic, sales and conversion rates.
The table below outlines the typical types of content that commercial websites may use and the likely impact on rankings, conversions and links.
Filler Blog Posts
What I would term as ‘filler’ blog posts are often the first thing many people produce when asked to provide ‘SEO content’. Frequently outsourced they often ask their writers to write low-quality bulk copy based around their range of products and services and then dump it all onto a blog attached to their domain.
While this kind of content by virtue of its sheer volume can sometimes produce visitors, it really is the SEO equivalent of a numbers’ game, and webmasters have recently seen Google move to reduce the effectiveness of this kind of mass produced content with the Panda updates.
This type of filler content almost always converts very poorly, it is of low quality and therefore generally results in a high bounce rate, also because visitors end up on an article page rather than a product or category page you are relying on them to navigate quite a few pages before they reach your products.
That’s not to say that keeping and writing a company blog or news pages is going to harm your site in any way, but there is a large distinction to be made between in-house staff adding knowledgeable and informed content and an external agency using it as a dumping ground for keyword stuffed articles.
Rather than picking out and linking to any sites in particular I found the example below on a paydays loans site. As you can see, it’s not particularly compelling to visitors, fairly keyword heavy along with a lack of images and calls to action. I would expect a page like this to suffer from a very high bounce rate and a minuscule sales conversion rate.
Resources, FAQs And How To Guides
Resource guides, cheat sheets and how to articles are brilliant sources of great quality content if you are an expert on a topic. Even if you’re not a fountain of knowledge you can easily research topics well enough to write an influential guide for others.
The great thing about this type of content is that it tends to attract topical links from closely related sites over a longer period of time, and because of it’s text heavy nature and the number of links that it attracts you will find that these type of articles frequently rank very well for a wide range of generic and long-tail key phrases.
However this type of content isn’t often going to convert into sales directly, but the branding a link benefits often result in secondary traffic from SEO, brand recognition or word of mouth.
Yoast – WordPress SEO
Yoast is a very well-known SEO who specialises in WordPress, he wrote the definitive guide to WordPress SEO which attracted hundreds of topical links and social shares.
The Mashable Twitter Guide Book
Social media website Mashable launched a Twitter guide book in both an online and downloadable pdf versions.With an impressive 16k Tweets and over 5,000 links to date.
Linkbait covers a wide rage of content types, and really encompasses anything that is specifically designed to elicit a link from other websites or more recently, sharing on social media websites. Linkbait can range from anything from a funny image or video, controversial views or interesting top 10 type lists.
Again SEO behaviour is very similar to resources and how-to guides, linkbait won’t often result in direct sales, but will often attract links far better than other types of content.
Will It Blend? iPad
A really clever viral video linkbait from Blendtec piggybacking onto aspirational nature of the Apple iPad, while using the shock of destroying one to send it viral.
Berocca – Blogger Relief
Berocca used a free giveaway in conjunction with a blogger outreach programme in order to directly target the linkerati themselves. Using social media to promote the campaign and the the bloggers themselves to spread the word.
Strictly speaking inforgraphics would probably fall within the linkbait category, but I think their usage is now so widespread that they deserve a mention on their own.
Infographics are an attractive, visual presentation of statistics and data, however they are often criticised for over-simplifying data and not indicating facts are clearly as possible.
Scientific they are not, but they do tend to be viral magnets, people seem to be far more willing to link to or share data presented as an infographic that other forms of information.
Profile Of A Twitter User
The Spread Of Starbucks
Optimised Product Copy
I think that well optimised product copy is one area where many eCommerce websites are really missing a trick. You see so many with short inadequate product and category descriptions, or sometimes missing altogether. It’s all very well adding 2-3 keywords to your title tags, meta descriptions and H1 titles, but given the opportunity there is a wealth of long-tail keywords that you could also have the opportunity of getting traffic from.
Of course there are often design and branding implications that often limit the copy available on a page, but it really is worth trying to work through these issues in order to try to offer more extensive page copy. Being able to answer sales queries before they arise will also improve conversion rates and reduce the time your staff spend answering telephone or email queries.
Taking a fictitious example of a website with a category page selling toasters. You may expect to have optimised the page for key phrases such as Toaster, Sandwich Toaster etc. But if you did a little keyword research around the topic you could probably pull in a few hundred other phrases that were used in conjunction with “toaster” each month. In this example the full list is over 400 phrases long.
Passing this list onto your copywriter and asking them to include these secondary phrases in the body text on product and category pages will have a huge impact on relevant long-tail traffic and sales to the site.
In terms of a financial impact, for example a website that has a modest 200 products, even adding 5 extra visitors per day to each product page will result in an extra £164,250 in increased revenue assuming a £30 average sale and a 1.5% conversion rate.
Simply one of the best product pages that I have ever seen is at Firebox. Product pages are immensely detailed, well written and optimised so each one should receive a large amount of long-tail keyphrase traffic. They have also incorporated social media voting, comments, videos and user reviews and FAQs. This is almost perfect in terms of creating a huge amount of content on normally difficult to optimise product pages.
Being first to breaking news is a great way of going viral without too much effort. Of course it’s not easy to be first to the punch, but if you have inside knowledge and the ability to publish before others you will often find that you get cited and referenced on other websites that write subsequent articles.
One of the best examples of the power of breaking news is Gizmodo managing to break details of the next Apple iPhone when a prototype was lost in a bar. The story received a massive 245,000 Facebook likes and almost 10,000 links.
UGC And Reviews
UGC content for eCommerce sites is really a no brainer for most sites these days. Being relatively easy to implement on most eCommerce platforms and easy to promote using reminder and follow-up emails to recent customers.
Where UGC really comes into it’s own is in competing for long-tail search phrases. Often your customers may use non-industry terms and phrases that you haven’t included in your original page optimisation.
Argos along with most large online retailers have been encouraging user product reviews on their websites for some time. Users as well as being able to leave star ratings for products are encouraged to leave more detailed text descriptions and reviews.
Widgets and Badges
Although widgets and badges tend to fall far more into the off-site SEO remit I think they’re an important enough part of a promotion stratgey that they can fall into both on and off page strategies.
Often these can be used in conjunction with other content strategies such as generating top 100 lists of industry sites and asking those in the list to link back, or producing infographics with easy embed codes.
AdAge Digital produce a “Power 150” of the top 150 worldwide marketing blogs. Members of the list can of course download versions of the badge to use on their blogs and Facebook pages.
Link Acquisition Rates
The graph below shows the typical link acquisition rates that you would expect to see over time from different types of content. The vertical axis represents the level of activity (links and social shares) and the horizontal axis the phase in the content cycle.
Content types such as infographics tend to attract a lot of links very quickly as they usually perform well on social bookmarking sites and get embedded on related blogs. This activity usually tails-off over time.
Compare this to content such as resources and how-to articles, which if well written then often sharing activity increases over time, and in the long-term can be a stable source of good quality links.
The main takeaways are that although content is vital to eCommerce websites, it has to be the right kind of content used in the right way. The best content strategy is one that is diverse and encompasses many of the above methods rather than focusing on one particualar one.