When it comes to ecommerce, not all sites are created equal. The successful ones listen to existing and potential customers, and provide the information necessary to make an educated decision.
Supporting content is key for any online store. Such content includes (but certainly isn’t limited to):
Customer reviews and discussions;
Product help and FAQs;
In-depth specifications (sizes, output values);
In-use product videos, blog posts, or articles;
Supporting content also helps e-tailers trump brick-and-mortar stores, which rely instead on the knowledge of staff members on duty while shoppers peruse items. Whether you sell a variety of products, or only products your company creates, answering questions is the best way to help close a sale — even if someone else answers them for you.
While it is the manufacturer of the product it sells, Fitbit (which sells wearable devices to monitor health and fitness) focuses on community and extensive documentation to help sell. All of this information is visible to the public, whether they buy directly or not.
Shoppers can read Fitbit’s community discussions, or peruse all the help files, before choosing to buy.
How a product is used plays a big role in someone’s decision to buy. When shopping online, consumers cannot open a box to read instructions. Instead, PDF files of manuals and troubleshooting docs, as well as realistic videos, can help answer questions.
Along with specs and customer reviews, Panasonic provides the complete user manual pre-purchase — see “Owner’s Manuals” at lower left, above.
If you’ve ever been stuck with asking an unknowledgeable store associate just how well a product does its job, you know how frustrating it is for online shoppers when it comes to researching and buying.
Providing space for users to discuss products not only helps close sales, it also helps prevent sales of items that would otherwise be returned.
Don’t confuse customer Q&A with customer reviews. While reviews may answer some questions, a question-and-answer section makes it easier for shoppers to get specific responses. A Q&A section is also helpful when a product has hundreds or thousands of reviews, since you cannot expect shoppers to read through them all.
Amazon features a “Questions & Answers” section for each product it sells. It allows customers to help each other find the best solution, even if it’s not the product in question.
Forums are standalone discussions, but dialogue may link back to specific pages in the store. They can help current customers convince potential customers to make purchases. They also help users troubleshoot issues with their purchase.
Fitbit allows users to discuss both product-specific and product-related issues. Since non-Fitbit users can also sign up, those considering a Fitbit device can see what the company’s users have to say.
A blog is appropriate for most product lines, and gives you the opportunity to get more personal with shoppers. This type of supporting content isn’t so much about making hard sells as it is about instilling trust in the company and building a relationship with the customer. Content can include products, but it can also include articles and ideas that are relative to the product line.
Since many users of Fitbit are trying to lose or maintain weight, topics about foods, drinks, and daily activities cater to the company’s target audience.
RetroPlanet.com’s DIY blog caters to those who like to decorate in vintage style. Some posts feature products that Retro Planet sells, but many do not.
This how-to post explains in detail how to paint RetroPlanet.com’s virgin script signs. It goes beyond the product page with step-by-step instructions.
The best thing about supporting content is that it can be linked from product and category pages, and it can also stand on its own, which can help in both search engines and in generating additional product interest. While it is supplemental to the catalog, it can be a key factor in upping the time that visitors spend on a site, as well as overall conversions.
If you plan to provide supporting content to your existing store — and you should — don’t forget to provide proper navigation back to related pages, as well as appropriate discussion boxes and social links.
As they say in the Online Marketing World, when it comes to getting your website noticed "Content is King".
Content marketing is the technique of creating and sharing content — blog posts, images, videos — to attract and retain customers. Generating relevant and compelling content can be a challenge, but there are a variety of great online tools to help.
Here is a list of free and premium tools to generate content. There are content discovery tools, curating tools to find and publish topical content, production tools to create and edit content, and tools for acquiring content.
Buzzsumo. Buzzsumo helps you discover the most shared content across all social networks. Discover content relating to your keywords, or find new content from authors and competitors. Price: Search and track for free. Pro plan is $99 per month.
Quick Sprout. Enter URLs of your competitors, then select the social media tab to get a list of their most popular content. Stir your own content ideas by learning what works for them. Price: Free.
TrendSpottr. TrendSpottr is a tool that displays what’s trending. To generate ideas, search keywords to see popular content. TrendSpottr also offers a real-time trend intelligence platform that predicts emerging content, influencers, and sentiment for any topic or search query. Price: Trending search is free. Premium predictive tool is $199 per month.
TrackMaven. TrackMaven helps you monitor your competitors and track their content. Understand what your competitors are doing across all channels and filter to discover what’s working. Learn if you’re keeping up with competitors and what’s causing changes in your competitors’ marketing to spot opportunities. Price: Contact for pricing.
Quora. Quora is a question and answer site. Use Quora to identify subjects that people want to know about. Price: Free.
Google Trends. Google Trends shows you what’s trending and measures the interest of topics for potential content ideas. Subscribe to get alerts for the topics you care about.Price: Free.
MindNode. MindNode is a mind-mapping tool to generate and develop your content ideas. Jot down thoughts and add as many mind maps as you like. Create new nodes with a finger tap. Cross connect nodes from all your maps. Price: $9.99.
Inbound.org. Inbound.org is a community for inbound marketing professionals to share and discuss the latest ideas and best practices. Discover great content from the inbound community. Price: Free.
Pocket. When you’re searching around for content ideas, you need a tool to store the discoveries you want to view later. Put articles, videos or pretty much anything into Pocket. Save directly from your browser or from apps. Price: Free. Premium plan is $44.99 per year.
InboundWriter. InboundWriter is a content optimization tool to remove the guesswork from content creation. It tells you how your content will perform before you write it and guides you to topic ideas where you can succeed. Price: Contact for pricing.
Content Curation Tools
Scoop.it. Scoop.it is a tool to discover, curate and publish content. It seeks to help people and businesses find and publish relevant content to show their expertise, develop their online visibility, enrich their site, and save time managing social media. Price: Plans start at $12.99 per month.
Curata. Curata is a content curation tool to find, curate, share, and analyze content on specific topics. Quickly and efficiently meet your content marketing needs. Keep your audience informed with fresh and compelling content. Price: Contact on pricing.
Shareist. Shareist is a content marketing platform that helps you manage the content marketing process from beginning to end. Shareist makes it easy to discover content and capture ideas, and schedule them as posts on social media. Price: Pro plan for individuals and small businesses is $25 per month.
Trapit. Trapit is a curation tool to discover and publish content from a simple interface. Set traps to find relevant content from more than 100,000 sources. Give a thumbs-up to the content you like, and a thumbs-down to what you don’t, to improve your traps. Customize headline and summaries. Add commentary to deliver your voice. Price: Contact for pricing.
Paper.li. Paper.li is a content curation service. Use it to publish digital “newspapers” and newsletters to give your readers fresh news, or browse its newsstand to generate content ideas. Price: Free plan offers 25 content sources. Pro plan is $9 per month.
Alltop. Alltop is another curator that provides content form a wide variety of top sources. To generate content ideas, browse subject categories, new and hot topics, or your recent topics. Price: Free.
Storify. Storify is a curating tool to find and share social media content. Find story-worth content, and use the drag-and-drop editor to create media-rich experiences. Purchase Storify’s enterprise plan for an advanced multi-editor experience. Price: Basic plan is free. Contact for pricing on enterprise plan.
Content Production Tools
DivvyHQ. DivvyHQ is a content-planning and workflow tool to execute content initiatives. It combines management and collaboration tools to help a team generate ideas, schedule projects, and produce content. Price: Plans start at $25 per user/month.
KingSumo Headlines. If you have a WordPress blog, this tool automatically rotates through all the titles you include for a post. Then, based on the inbound traffic from each title, it automatically prioritizes the title that gets you the most traffic. Price: Starts at $99.
Grammarly. Grammarly is an automated proofreader and your personal grammar coach. Instantly find and correct over 250 types of grammatical mistakes. Improve word choice with context-optimized vocabulary suggestions. Price: Plans start at $29.95 per month.
Infogr.am. Infogram is a data visualization tool to create free and inexpensive infographics and charts to make your content pretty and shareable. It offers many free chart types to publish your infographic online. Price: Free plan offers more than 30 chart types. Pro plan is $18 per month.
Skitch. Skitch is a simple photo editing app to mark up an image quickly and easily from your smartphone or tablet. Price: Free
Wunderlist. If you’re interested in creating lists, Wunderlist makes it easy and fast. Publish lists with one click. Wunderlist’s real-time sync instantly keeps your lists up-to-date. Price: Free. Pro is $4.99 per month.
Google Calendar. Google Calendar is a terrific free tool that can serve as an editorial calendar. Organize and collaborate on a schedule for your team. Price: Free.
Trello. Trello is a free tool to manage your content ideas and projects. The Trello board is a list of lists filled with cards, to use with a team or just by you. Trello updates in real-time, so your content is always current. Price: Free. Gold plan is $5 per month.
UberFlip. UberFlip is a tool to create customized content streams and turn PDFs into interactive flipbooks. Create calls-to-action on the fly, gate content, and tailor content streams to individuals or around specific topics. Price: Plans start at $200 per month.
Embedded Tweets. Embedded Tweets are an easy way to create interactive content for your audience. You can also use them to connect your audience with conversations happening on Twitter. Price: Free.
issuu. issuu is a digital publishing platform. Create a standalone reader or embed your publication anywhere. Customize your reader for each platform or audience. Or browse publications to get content ideas on topics of interests. Price: Basic plan is free. Paid plans start at $26 per month.
Listly. Listly is a tool to discover and create great lists. Pro plan offers premium layouts, private lists, and more. Price: Basic plan is free. Pro plan is $9.99 per month.
Prezi. Prezi is an online tool to create presentations. Start with design templates, and find inspiration and content from its library. Create or edit on the go, syncing across all your devices. Price: Free plan for public presentations. Paid plans start at $4.92 per month.
Tawkers. Tawkers is a messaging app that lets you share conversations as content. The publish button in every chat lets you select messages you want to post. Chats can be shared to Facebook, Twitter, or embedded into your blog or website. Price: Free.
ThingLink. ThingLink is a tool for creating interactive images and video content. Add links and embed ThingLink to your website. Create interactive video content with notes and rich media. Price: Free with ThingLink branding. Paid plans start at $50 per 10,000 views.
GIMP. GIMP is a freely distributed photo editing program for photo retouching, image composition, and image authoring. This is an ideal free tool if you need to generate images. Price: Free.
GoToMeeting. For video content, GoToMeeting offers video conferencing, as well as a webinar tool with GoToWebinar. Content can be saved and distributed. Webinar platform offers polls and survey tools for your audience. Price: Meeting tool is free for up to 3; pro plan is $39 per month. Webinar starts at $79 per month.
ReadyTalk. ReadyTalk offers web, video, and audio conferencing for meetings, webinars and training. Take advantage of unlimited recording playbacks, playback registration, podcasting, social media integration, and more. Price: Meeting plans start at $49. Webinar plans start at $149.
Zmags. Zmags is a digital publishing platform to transform traditional marketing material into rich-media assets. Integrate with multiple digital platforms and devices. Update on the fly so your content stays fresh and showcases what customers want to buy. Price: Contact for pricing.
Piktochart. Piktochart is a tool to make your own infographics. Preview and pick a theme from over 100 elements. Choose from images in the library or upload your own. Bring data to life with a variety of visualization options. Link, embed, email or share it on social media.Price: Free account provides limited templates and Piktochart watermark. Pro plan is $29 per month.
Podbean. Podbean is an online podcast-publishing service that provides hosting packages for individuals and businesses. Create, upload, publish, manage, and promote your podcast. Then integrate it into your website, blog or social network. Price: Premium plans start at $3 per month.
Jing. Jing is a free tool to start sharing images and short videos of your computer screen. Jing gives you the ability to add basic visual elements to your captures and share them fast. Price: Free.
Sources for Content Creation
Visual.ly. Visually delivers visual content (e.g., infographics, videos, presentations, campaigns). It offers an affordable flat-pricing option for high-quality visual content. Price: Micro-content starts at $195.
Scripted. If you’re having trouble generating content on your own, you may want to try a freelance-writers site like Scripted. You post guidelines to an assignment, writers claim your work, and you receive content in five business days. Price: Content pricing starts at $99.
Ecopywriters. Ecopywriters is a site to find writers and designers for content creation. Get professional help for a blog, ebook, production video, infographic, press release, and more. Ecopywriters also provides packages if you need ongoing support for a full editorial calendar. Price: Standard services start at 10¢ per word. Packages start at $400 per month.
Creative Commons. Creative Commons is a nonprofit organization that enables the sharing and use of free media content, from songs and videos to scientific and academic material. Price: Free.
Contently. Contently is a solution for high-end brand publishing. With its network of 40,000 creatives, Contently helps brands create stories, engage audiences, and optimize content. Its proprietary analytics application helps improve your content over time and deliver results. Price: Contact for pricing.
The pay-per-click advertising industry is always changing and 2014 was no exception. There were many new features launched in AdWords and Bing Ads as well as on social platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
In “3 Tactics to Reassess Paid Search in 2014,” which we published a year ago, contributor Matthew Umbro suggested (a) making Google’s Product Listing Ads a priority, (b) emphasizing remarketing ads, and (c) running social PPC campaigns. As it turns out, these predictions were accurate.
In this article, I will review each of these and consider how they will impact advertisers in 2015.
The Rise of Shopping Campaigns
This was the top story in ecommerce PPC in 2014. Google initially called these Product Listing Ads. Google renamed, to “Shopping Campaigns,” in October. These ads greatly impacted search engine result pages. Here is an example — using the search term “levis 541 jeans.”
Product ads (on top right, in the red box) for the term ““levis 541 jeans,” in Google search results.
On a page full of text and blue links, the images of the Levi’s jeans pull the user’s attention. Couple that with prices and even user ratings in some cases and we can see why these ad units typically register significantly better click-through rates than their text-based counterparts.
Let’s analyze this particular search term:”levis 541 jeans.” In the product ads in the search results, at the top right, there’s an ad from Levi’s itself. This is smart bidding on Levi’s part to protect its brand. Since the price ($47.00) is nearly the same as other retailers — Macy’s, J.C.Penney, and Zappos.com — Levi’s will likely receive many clicks from this ad. Including the 4.5 star rating and the most reviews (6) makes for a very compelling listing.
Notice that the Kohl’s ad contains Levi’s that cost $68.00 — significantly higher than the other ads; the Kohl’s ad will likely not receive many clicks. Notice, also, that ads from Macy’s occupy 3 of the 8 spots — all offering the same price of $46.99. These ads use a lot real estate, but they are likely competing against each other, which could reduce their effectiveness.
In 2015, we will likely continue to see improvements and refinements from AdWords and Bing Ads around product listings — yes, Bing Ads also offers “Product Ads.” One such improvement could be keyword-level control and targeting of Shopping Campaigns.
In the meantime you can do what PPC practitioner Martin Roettgerding does to effectively get keyword level control. Roettgerding suggests creating separate campaigns for highly relevant, moderately relevant, and broad keywords by using negative keywords to exclude appropriately. You can then set different priorities for each campaign to force AdWords to show one of the other and use a shared budget between them. Thus you can bid appropriately and get effectively keyword-level control.
Remarketing Ads will Grow
Remarketing ads are spreading like wildfire. That product on Amazon you were viewing could follow you on Facebook and around the web for days in the form of ads. The product will be right there in the ad unit and will reflect the current price, which frequently is lower than you remember. (See our previous article, “4 Lessons from Google’s Dynamic Remarketing Ads,” for more.)
This ability to follow a user and keep the product top-of-mind is very effective and it’s likely to get even more effective due to Facebook’s new Atlas advertising platform. Why is it so powerful? It is people-based marketing.
Facebook leverages its ubiquity, especially on mobile devices, to correctly market to an individual based on his or her Facebook profile. This way, once Facebook has you grouped into an audience, it can show you ads on any device that is logged into Facebook. Thus marketers could finally achieve the dream of cross-device advertising and tracking. Layer in the additional targeting functionality offered by Facebook and you start to how Google might be challenged.
Pay to Play with Social Media
Many companies report the loss of organic reach on social platforms. The story from the companies typically follows the same script.
They begin using a new social platform.
They receive a large audience.
They get lots of free traffic.
The platform changes its algorithm.
There is no more free traffic.
Facebook is the usual example, but the same story will likely play out with Instagram (owned by Facebook), Pinterest, Snapchat, and others. These platforms are initially offered to users for free; but somebody has to pay the bills. During the early days the bills are typically paid by investors, but eventually the bill will shift to advertisers. That’s the point where it becomes pay to play.
While this seems like a tragedy to many, it’s also a big opportunity. For very reasonable rates, companies can get in front of thousands, or even millions, of people in their target audience.