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Date: 2021-09-23 12:00:00
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James Parsons is the CEO of Content Powered, a blog management and content marketing firm. He's an SEO expert, developer and entrepreneur.
Throughout the pandemic, we've seen an explosion of people looking for alternative means to make a living. Traditional jobs collapsed in many sectors, and any time that happens, people turn to the internet for options.
Whether it's starting an Etsy store, revving up some dropshipping or setting up a Shopify site, more and more people are dipping their toes into the waters of e-commerce.
Content marketing is key to gaining exposure and building a brand in today's modern commercial world. I always recommend that those going into business build a robust website, whether it's a simple Squarespace or Shopify site, a WordPress blog or any other architecture. You can sell products from your site, as well as on marketplaces.
So, if you're setting up your site to sell products, how can you make sure you're doing it the right way? Below are six essential tips everyone should keep in mind:
1. Be informative, not sales-oriented
First and foremost, write content with the intent of being factual and informative. Google doesn't like sites that focus all of their content on how great their products are and how much you need them. Instead, discuss the benefits of a product and how to use it and let the user draw their own conclusion.
There's also the pressing question of misinformation, particularly in spaces like healthcare. Google tries to stay neutral and simply present content by relevance, not by factual accuracy, but this may change in the future. If you have to resort to misinformation to sell your products, you're in the wrong niche.
Mostly, though, you need to avoid coming off as biased in your content. If you're overly promotional, you'll be given less exposure because of it, no matter how factual your statements are.
2. Don't be annoying
You've probably seen all manner of call-to-action (CTA) widgets on the web these days. Sometimes it seems like you can't visit a website without a top bar, a wiggly button on the side, a slide-in, a pop-up, a shutter, an auto-play video or a chirp from a live chat all going off at once. It's obnoxious, making it difficult to use your site, read your content or do anything other than be bombarded by pressure.
I fully expect a reckoning in the next few years, similar to how Google implemented rules against having too many advertisements on one page. Even if Google doesn't penalize sites for having too many calls to action, the truth is, you'll hurt your user experience. For every user who fills out a form on your pop-up, a hundred more will leave because they were starting to read and it popped up mid-sentence.
Google has emphasized user experience over the last few years, from site speed and Core Web Vitals to general usability guidelines to their mobile focus. And I fully expect this to continue.
3. Use tasteful CTAs
In my experience, two of the most helpful call-to-action formats are a top-of-site bar and a sidebar.
The top-of-site bar sits above your navigation and promotes an offer of interest to your readers. It's easy to see it, especially if it's sticky and scrolls with the user, and it can promote anything you want to put in it.
The one I find the most effective, though, is a sidebar with a dynamically generated relevant product.
If you write an article about the benefits of B-complex supplements and your sidebar has an embedded product listing for the B-complex you sell, it's easy for a user to click to buy without having to search for it. By using a plugin to generate these as relevant to the context of the article, you're always targeting readers with the most likely sale you can make.
4. Keep your navigation accessible
You want your navigation to be readily accessible to your users at any time. One of the mistakes I often see new sites make is keeping the navigation bar at the top of the page without sticky functionality. You want it to stick to the top of the browser window, so it scrolls down with the user and is there if they have something more they want to search for or read. This strategy also applies to mobile, even if the menu is collapsed to a burger menu to the side.
Why? It gives your user the maximum available opportunity to browse more than one page on your site. The more content they view, the more likely they are to remember you, stick around or make a purchase. It also helps reduce bounce rate, both actual and measured.
5. Give your reader something to do next
Whenever someone lands on your site and reads a piece of content, they should have something to do next. Here are just a few ideas:
• Use a related posts plugin, so there are always two to five links to other articles they might be interested in reading.
• Write an explicit call to action at the end of the post, whether it's for comments, to read a different post or to view a product or offer.
• Use a call-to-action box widget to deliver an opt-in call to action at the end of a post.
There are many options available — it's just a matter of testing which ones work best and using them.
6. Collect emails
Possibly the biggest mistake I see new e-commerce stores make is forgetting about intermediary conversions.
Your store isn't all or nothing ("They make a purchase, or they don't."). By harvesting email addresses and running a newsletter, you can have much more reach and engagement with your audience and bring them back again. Newsletters are also one of the few sources of traffic and audience exposure that aren't at the mercy of ad networks or external factors.
If you keep these six things in mind and put them into action on your site, you can see tangible benefits in a surprisingly short amount of time.