Let's talk about the humble ecommerce blog.

There is a common misconception in the ecommerce world that insists blogs and social media are not important. Never has this been more wrong. Blogs and social matter tremendously to sales. They are substantiation for any company wanting to sell items online through an ecommerce method. They allow for the world to trust your company more and, on top of that, they allow for the business to show some personality (in a more casual way) outside of the website.

Recently we took to Social networks and company websites in order to develop a view of the world of ecommerce as a whole. Together we analysed the Social Media profiles and blogs of a large range of ecommerce sites, specialising in all kinds of items. From toiletries to clothing, DVDs to miniature wargames, electronics to lingerie. The idea was to gain as much knowledge about the industry as possible, gaining a wide variety of intelligence from a selection of different sources. 

In order to gain the information, the two of us looked at the state of companies blogs, whether the content is relevant (whether it is in-house or external), the number of Social Media profiles, the total engagement from blogs and Social, and the quality of what was posted.

From the aforementioned intelligence we were able to attribute values to each company, ranging from -2 (extremely bad) to 11 (incredibly good). To give examples, Waterstones came in highest with 9. Meanwhile, B&Q scored -2. River Island scored 8, Argos scored -1. 

Quality of Content on the Ecommerce Blog

Let's talk about the elephant in the room, the demon in the corner, and the skeleton in the closet. There is a severe lack of quality content on company blogs. Out of those we tested (a lot) only 28% had blogs with quality content on them.

What does it mean to have strong content? The short answer is that content should inspire, educate, and add worth. Content needs to have a purpose beyond just selling items, and this is where a lot of ecommerce blogs are going wrong. First and foremost, before making sales, a blog needs to help its audience fulfil a goal. That is usually to gain knowledge.

There is absolutely no point in having a blog that just showcases an item in image form or just spouting a load of sales talk. It will do nothing to support the sale of the item but instead will literally just put an additional page between the product and the person willing to buy it.

Instead of useless, an ecommerce blog can support the sales process (on average improving it by 13%) if approached correctly. Blogs need to work hand in hand with the product, expanding on the sales page rather than just repeating it. They need to show why the product is fantastic, whilst not appearing too sales orientated. Otherwise blogs stand the chance of putting people off.

There seems to be a misunderstanding in the blogging world. Rather than having content that is relevant to the product, companies have hired external freelance bloggers to fill up content for them.

Read More: An Open Letter To The Leisure Industry (RE: Blogging)

Fundamentally speaking there is nothing wrong with hiring freelance bloggers, however, they do need some form of quality control to ensure they are writing about the right kind of things. They need to have some control placed over them so they can fit in with an overall content strategy. This means working closely with them, something that contradicts the premise of hiring freelance writers. Having 20 bloggers working on a blog is one thing, but unless they can work together in a strategy then it runs the risk of being all for nothing.

There is always a risk of untamed bloggers running riot on a content strategy and that is a lack of relevancy. We have seen travel companies write about DVDs, hardware companies write about holidays, and electrical companies writing about completely unreated topics. There is a line that should never be crossed. 34.4% of the companies we looked at had blogs that contained completely irrelevant content.

To put it into context, no matter how well written your blog on The Imitation Game is it won't help you sell lawnmowers.

This is a problem amongst large company blogs, and there appears to be a thin content strategy that is not so much designed to gain authority as it is to just have content out there in the aether. Just having content in this day and age is not enough. There needs to be some form of strategy behind it to make the most out of that content. It needs to be optimised for the right kind of strategy depending on the audience. 

This strategy can vary from company to company depending on who their target audience is and how important blog substantiation is to the marketing strategy as a whole. 

Of course, a content strategy can mean nothing without Social Media substantiation as well.

Social Media Substantiation

A content marketing plan, one without the relevant distribution network is only worth as much as how well it is SEO'ed. What does this mean? The answer is simple. Social Media is needed in order to deliver content to the world.

The easiest way to picture this is by imagininng the best possible thing you could ever order online. It is the perfect item, answers all of your questions, and you want to have it as soon as possible.

Now imagine the item being available from somewhere else on the globe and not being able to get it delivered.

Even though you want the item, and the company wanted you to have it, there was no appropriate delivery medium and so the item sat there and became stagnant.

This is a metaphor for Social Media and the role that it plays in delivering content to the people. Whether it is an advert, a social chat, or a piece of content designed to bring people in and convert them - Social Media is a delivery mechanism. It can be a scattergun method of marketing, pushing a lot of content out there in order to hit as many people as possible, or it can (with pinpoint accuracy) target one specific audience. No matter the approach it is important to remain engaging.

Once again the research was incredibly interesting. Once again, Waterstones were top (followed by River Island, ASOS, and Victoria's Secrets). Rather unusually Games Workshop and B&Q were at the bottom with -2 and 0 respectively. 

Read More: How To Ace Your Social Media Strategy

What our research threw to the air was that where it was easy to gain interactions on Instagram, there was a severe problem with companies trying to gain any kind of interaction on Facebook or Twitter. This, needless to say, causes a problem as it means most Social Media activity is either (a) unnoticed or (b) not interesting enough to be interacted with. 

The latter of these can cause a problem as it can be bad publicity for the company if they post content no one wants to interact with. The question must be asked - what is being posted that is putting people off interacting? Any company who is not getting Social Media interactions needs to ask that right away and rectify it where applicable. 

Social Media is something that can be easily mastered by companies who wish to engage with their audience, however, it does require constant attention in a way most companies are not willing to invest in. 

There is a line in the world of marketing, a line Social Media lands on. It happens more often than not that Social Media acts as a form of substantiation rather than as means of creating direct sales. As a referrer Social Media is second to none, however, in terms of generating direct cash it does have alternatives. What this means is that a large percentage of companies are giving up on Social Media strategy as they are not seeing direct ROI from their efforts.

What they are seeing, however, when they give up, is a drop in traffic. Where Social Media may not have been directly resulting in conversions it was attributing to the over all volume of engaged traffic on their website. This drop is then detrimental to the over all sales process. It is a cautionary tale, and one with a very specific message in mind. Keep social, keep traffic, keep engagement levels high.

This is especially important in ecommerce as over 84% of people admit to using Social Media as a source of reviews and product information before making a purchase. With such a high number it is hard to see how most companies won't benefit from Social Media.

When it comes to Social Media it is important to have a firm strategy, put in place to make the most out of possible conversions. This is much the same as with blogging, as both are referral lead generators for ecommerce sites. 

This article has covered a lot, however there is nothing mentioned here that a close eye for detail cannot fix. There is nothing that a bit of care towards a strategy cannot improve. For more information on this please click on the button below.

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