Ecom­merce is the present and the future.

Per­haps the clear­est reminder of this hap­pened recent­ly when Sears filed for bank­rupt­cy.

As more brick-and-mor­tar con­glom­er­ates bite the dust and online sales con­tin­ue to climb, the abil­i­ty of a small­er ecom­merce brand to stand above the crowd will deter­mine its life or death.

As many busi­ness­es know at this point, con­tent mar­ket­ing is the cru­cial ingre­di­ent for this task.

The land­scape of con­tent mar­ket­ing is chang­ing like crazy.

As the stan­dards of SEO, web design, writ­ing, etc. con­tin­ue to evolve, busi­ness­es from all indus­tries are con­tin­u­ous­ly forced to refine their approach­es.

The harsh real­i­ty is that some strate­gies can work like mag­ic one day, then be com­plete­ly obso­lete the next.

Nowa­days, the scope of what defines “good con­tent” for ecom­merce busi­ness­es is a lay­ered con­cept that involves many ele­ments.

Let’s dis­cuss five ways ecom­merce brands can estab­lish them­selves as a force to be reck­oned with.

1. Prioritize E-A-T Score

One the most impor­tant recent changes to Google’s search qual­i­ty rat­ings guide­lines involved E-A-T score (Exper­tise, Author­i­ty, and Trust­wor­thi­ness).

There is now a strong focus on apply­ing this score to indi­vid­ual con­tent cre­ators, rather than brands them­selves. The idea is to refine the way con­tent is ranked based on the source.

For exam­ple, if some­one is pro­duc­ing con­tent and weight sup­ple­ments, they should have a strong E-A-T score in the med­ical field.

So how does this fac­tor in for ecom­merce brands?

Google’s algo­rithms are designed to mim­ic hypo­thet­i­cal human qual­i­ty raters.

That being said, if you want your prod­uct pages to rank high­ly on the SERPs, you need to find ways to improve your E-A-T score.

Exper­tise

You need to prove to the search engines (and the users) that you have a proven knowl­edge of the goods you sell.

As an ecom­merce retail­er, start by mak­ing sure that you work with high­ly rep­utable man­u­fac­tur­ers.

If you make it a point to show­case that your suppliers/manufacturers have rec­og­nized exper­tise in your field, this is going to reflect on you.

Addi­tion­al­ly, you can reach out to renowned fig­ures with proven indus­try exper­tise to give you rec­om­men­da­tions.

The func­tion­al­i­ty, aes­thet­ics, and integri­ty of your web­site play a huge role in how experts will decide to rec­om­mend you and your prod­ucts.

Author­i­ty

This is all about ver­i­fy­ing Exper­tise.

In the ecom­merce world, it’s easy for big­ger com­pa­nies that man­u­fac­ture their own prod­ucts (like L.L Bean and Nike) to be seen as high­ly author­i­ta­tive.

Third-par­ty sell­ers, on the oth­er hand, need to have evi­dence that they are a ver­i­fied mer­chant for cer­tain prod­ucts.

For exam­ple, if you have the Bet­ter Busi­ness Bureau logo linked to your web­site with ver­i­fied affil­i­a­tion, the page would like­ly rank high­er.

Trust­wor­thi­ness

Get­ting your prod­uct pages to rank well comes down to the con­cept of cus­tomer suc­cess. For instance:

  • Do your prod­uct pages answer poten­tial ques­tions or con­cerns a buy­er might have?
  • Is it easy to get in con­tact with you?
  • Is the return process clear­ly explained?
  • Are there any unpleas­ant sur­pris­es in the check­out?
  • Are there ver­i­fied user rat­ings?
  • Do the pages deploy HTTPS?

These are just a few pieces of the puz­zle when it comes to build­ing trust. Essen­tial­ly, the more descrip­tive, intu­itive, and secure your prod­uct pages are, the bet­ter they will rank.

E-A-T score has been build­ing up in impor­tance for some time now, and will con­tin­ue to in the future. In order to get prod­uct pages ranked, these guide­lines will need to play a key role in your con­tent mar­ket­ing strat­e­gy.

2. Integrate Video into Product Pages & Beyond

The biggest draw­back of buy­ing online has always been the inabil­i­ty to look at prod­ucts in per­son. For the most part, you nev­er real­ly know what you are get­ting until it shows up on your doorstep.

Now, AR has been doing amaz­ing things to rem­e­dy this prob­lem.

How­ev­er, most online brands aren’t IKEA – they don’t have the bud­get to spend on this flashy fea­ture.

That being said, incor­po­rat­ing video into your prod­uct pages and con­tent mar­ket­ing plan should be a must. It’s no secret that the inter­net loves video con­tent. In fact, it’s esti­mat­ed that near­ly 75 per­cent of all online traf­fic is video.

Start­ing with prod­uct pages, video does won­ders to give buy­ers a visu­al under­stand­ing of what they are buy­ing.

See­ing a real human han­dling the prod­uct is about as close as they can get to see­ing it in per­son.

This video does a fan­tas­tic job of giv­ing view­ers every­thing they need to know about the prod­uct, along with some per­son­al insight.

Sim­ply put, images and descrip­tions of prod­ucts can only get you so far.

Now, out­side of the prod­uct page, you can use video to dis­cuss the lat­est trends in your indus­try, com­pare items, bring in guests, etc.

Keep in mind, the search engines and social media (Face­book espe­cial­ly) favors video in their rank­ing algo­rithms.

Using video across the entire scope of your ecom­merce con­tent mar­ket­ing plan does a lot to solid­i­fy your brand voice and val­ues, as well as gives poten­tial buy­ers all the infor­ma­tion they need.

3. Focus on Qualified Reviews from Google Partners

Near­ly every­one who has ever bought some­thing online knows how much cus­tomer reviews can influ­ence pur­chas­ing deci­sions.

Reviews are val­i­da­tion from a third-par­ty source with no ulte­ri­or motives. That’s why reviews are extreme­ly pow­er­ful in con­vinc­ing peo­ple to buy.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, many com­pa­nies and review ser­vices took advan­tage of this and would pro­duce pho­ny reviews in an attempt to increase cus­tomer con­fi­dence.

Over time, both con­sumers and the search engines wised up to this shady prac­tice.

Reviews have been a rank­ing sig­nal for a while, but Google has made it a point to favor those that are left via a ver­i­fied Google Review Part­ner.

Part­ner plat­forms like Trust­pi­lot and Yot­po do a lot to ensure all reviews are authen­tic and time­ly, and for that, Google sees them as cred­i­ble resources. These ver­i­fied reviews can do a lot to improve your Google Sell­er Rat­ings.

So, as an ecom­merce brand, you are very wise to choose a ver­i­fied Google Review Plat­form to col­lect and man­age cus­tomer sen­ti­ment.

Many of these pro­grams give you the abil­i­ty to turn your reviews into visu­al­ly appeal­ing pieces of con­tent that can be dis­played on your web­site, social media, and more.

Reviews, tes­ti­mo­ni­als, and all oth­er forms of user-gen­er­at­ed con­tent are extreme­ly pow­er­ful con­tent mar­ket­ing weapons, espe­cial­ly for ecom­merce.

The ris­ing impor­tance of col­lect­ing and pro­mot­ing pos­i­tive sen­ti­ment is cer­tain­ly a trend that will con­tin­ue to grow.

4. Team Up with Micro-Influencers

A huge mis­con­cep­tion exists about influ­encer mar­ket­ing.

Many brands think that only the influ­encers with the largest fol­low­ings are worth going after for a cam­paign.

In oth­er words, when they are con­duct­ing their research for poten­tial part­ners, they tend to put the num­ber of fol­low­ers as the top decid­ing fac­tor.

This is not a smart move for small­er brands because it:

  • Can be very expen­sive.
  • Might not yield a good ROI.

That being said, small­er ecom­merce busi­ness­es should make it a point to look into micro-influ­encers. In con­trast to the megas­tars, the typ­i­cal fol­low­ing of a micro-influ­encer is under 100,000.

Engage­ment lev­els tend to fall as an influ­encer gains more fol­low­ers.

Accounts with 1,000 fol­low­ers or less nor­mal­ly see an 8 per­cent like rate, where­as this num­ber drops to about 4 per­cent in fol­low­ings of 1,001–9,999.

The take­away is that small­er fol­low­ers tend to be more focused on the mes­sage. When it comes to influ­encer mar­ket­ing, engage­ment will always be more impor­tant than the num­ber of fol­low­ers.

A cou­ple of years ago, Banana Repub­lic did a great job choos­ing micro-influ­encers to pro­mote their prod­ucts on Insta­gram.

By using a diverse set of indus­try influ­encers for dif­fer­ent styles and hash­tags, they were able to reach a pletho­ra of dif­fer­ent audi­ence seg­ments for rel­a­tive­ly cheap!

So, instead of dump­ing all your bud­get on a sin­gle big name, you are wise to choose sev­er­al dif­fer­ent micro-influ­encers. Your engage­ment rates will like­ly be much high­er and give you a bet­ter ROI.

5. Do It for a Cause

Cause mar­ket­ing has been a huge buzz­word in recent years. In the realm of con­tent mar­ket­ing, it can do won­ders to cre­ate a more loy­al and devot­ed cus­tomer base.

Accord­ing to Edel­man, 64 per­cent of con­sumers buy on belief, and will choose, switch, boy­cott, or avoid brands based on their stand­ing in rela­tion to a social issue.

Now, cause mar­ket­ing can be a small as a month­ly or annu­al con­tri­bu­tion to a cause.

Or, the cause can define the brand itself.

Patag­o­nia has been doing this suc­cess­ful­ly since day one.

As an ecom­merce brand look­ing to get the ball rolling in cause mar­ket­ing, sev­er­al key fac­tors come into play.

First and fore­most, you need to choose a cause that has par­al­lels with your busi­ness goals. If there are no con­gru­en­cies, it will look like a cheap PR stunt.

KFC’s “Buck­ets for a Cure” cam­paign is a prime exam­ple of this type of fail­ure. A few years back, KFC paired with the Susan G. Komen Foun­da­tion for breast can­cer research and donat­ed $0.50 for every buck­et of chick­en sold.

In terms of mon­ey raised, it was a great suc­cess. How­ev­er, from a PR stand­point, it missed the mark hor­ri­bly. This is because fried chick­en sim­ply has noth­ing to do with breast can­cer.

Many would argue that greasy fast food can actu­al­ly increase the risk of can­cer! The les­son here is to choose a cause wise­ly and prove that you have a strong busi­ness devo­tion.

Next, once you’ve cho­sen a fit­ting cause, you need to fig­ure out the details of how you will con­tribute.

  • Will a por­tion of a pur­chase go toward the cause?
  • Will it be a “buy one give one” deal?
  • Will it be action-dri­ven where cus­tomers can get involved them­selves?

There are sev­er­al types of cause mar­ket­ing to con­sid­er. Be crit­i­cal in your choice and under­stand how it will ben­e­fit both par­ties.

In a nut­shell, cause mar­ket­ing shows cus­tomers that their mon­ey is going to some­thing greater than both them­selves and the sell­er.

One of my favorite exam­ples is TOMS’ One-for-One cam­paign.

When a cus­tomer pur­chas­es a pair of shoes from TOMS, the com­pa­ny donates a pair to chil­dren in devel­op­ing coun­tries. The cam­paign has giv­en more than 35 mil­lion pairs of shoes to chil­dren in need.

Now, some­thing like this might not be fea­si­ble for a small ecom­merce oper­a­tion. The most impor­tant thing is that you prove you are devot­ed and pro­mote the fact that buy­ing your prod­uct is mak­ing the world a bet­ter place.

Summary

There’s no deny­ing that ecom­merce busi­ness­es have it tough these days.

After all, they are going up against one of the biggest busi­ness giants to ever grace the world: Ama­zon.

If you look at all the suc­cess­ful ecom­merce brands out there (aside from Ama­zon and eBay), the biggest com­mon thread is that they pro­duce and dis­trib­ute stel­lar con­tent.

If you are look­ing to gain trac­tion for your ecom­merce store, keep these five strate­gies in mind.

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