An effective e-commerce site is like a well-written novel. Every word, every element is integral to the reader’s journey. Each page leads you to the endpoint, the resolution of the problem, at which point you walk away satisfied. If you include pages that don’t belong, you risk losing your audience. They leave out of boredom, confusion, or both.
This isn’t to say your website is a high-pressure pitch. The novel makes its point over the course of many pages. Similarly, your site has a funnel. You capture the user’s interest first and lead them to the point where they become a customer.
Yet, there’s one important difference between a novel and a website: with a novel, the reader must start at the beginning, while with a site, the user can start at different points in the funnel. That’s why each indexed page, each page allowing external access through a search engine or webpage, must be optimized based on its purpose in the funnel. Purposeful optimization is the key to e-commerce conversions.
Start with evergreen content
Evergreen content is top-of-the-funnel blog content that leads people deeper into your site. Why do you need evergreen content? Because there are millions of people online, plenty of whom may be interested in your product or service at some point, but right now they don’t know anything about what you do. If they learn about your specialty from you, they’re more likely to view you as an authority—someone they trust—which increases your chances of selling them something.
Think about it: you are essentially doing the same thing salespeople have done for ages. The salesperson who knows what they’re talking about, but doesn’t pressure you to buy now, is oftentimes the one who earns your business.
How do you make evergreen content? You begin by nailing down these three elements:
Relevance Evergreen articles concern themselves with the underlying concepts of your niche and must be easy for beginners to understand
Staying power This goes hand-in-hand with relevance, but it also means the content is definitive, answers questions, is well-written, invites social media shares, and links to other content on your site
Value For posts to be valuable, they must be useful; posts that tell the reader how to do something, or about the history of something, are highly valuable, as are posts that share unique and helpful information
Evergreen content takes time and commitment to your niche. This is the long game, the one so many businesses aren’t interested in playing because they want the quick win. Evergreen content can and should include the following:
Keywords you want to rank for: Content management systems (such as WordPress or Drupal) can help you determine if you have the right keyword density for search engine optimization (SEO) purposes; DO NOT overuse keywords—Google penalizes it
Links to deep pages: Hyperlinks to product pages will drive traffic to these pages and will tell Google you want your product pages to rank for keywords
An easily scannable format: Use subheadings, optimize them for your keywords, and use bullet points to make longer articles user-friendly
Anchor your site with some quality evergreen content geared toward informing the reader. Supplement the occasional evergreen post with a steady flow of new blog material.
Continue with fresh, consistent content
The goal is to provide more than a bare bones e-commerce site for your audience. Amazon already has that covered. If you don’t keep building content to supplement your product or service offering, people won’t be able to find you while they’re using search engines. Other sites will edge you out by acquiring more backlinks and providing more keyword signals to Google.
If you can manage it, set up a content schedule of at least two to three posts per week. You’ll notice a great many of the most popular sites post content everyday. The more content you publish, the more signals it sends to Google. You’ll be more likely to rank higher for your keywords in organic search, which helps drive traffic to your site—about 64 percent of website traffic is from organic search. The more traffic you earn, the more your conversion rates should increase.
For regular posts, consider the following types of content:
Trending topics: Look at trends in your industry and post your own unique takes on them
Insider tips: You do want highly specialized content for people in your audience already initiated to your niche, and for returning customers looking for information
Company updates: These help build a sense of community as you include your audience in goings-on
Listicles: People love to read about the top 10 best activities, or even the top 10 things to avoid in your niche
Curated content: Roundups of the best content related to your niche can be a real asset to any blog, they show you’re engaging with your niche’s digital community
Videos: People are increasingly drawn to videos and are likely to share them on social media
Throughout your content, include shareable images such as memes and infographics. Make sure to include social media share buttons. Link to evergreen content; include CTAs and links to product pages when it feels appropriate.
Consider content length
When it comes to post length, there are several different theories. John E. Lincoln, CEO of Ignite Visibility, presents convincing evidence that long-form content that contains over 2,000 words ranks best in Google and increases conversion rates. Evergreen content should typically strive to be long-form.
But Lincoln’s article was written in 2015, when smartphones didn’t have quite the influence they have today. Michael Peggs, founder of Marccx Media, shows that ideal post length depends on several factors:
Where your traffic comes from
What industry you’re in
Who your target audience is
Whether you’re an existing authority
If your site is optimized for mobile and your audience primarily uses smartphones to access your site, Disruptive Advertising’s Chris Dayley presents a case study in which the optimum post length for mobile consumption is around 542 words.
If you’re in an extremely competitive industry and your target audience likes to read longer content, the optimum length is between 1,500 and 2,500 words. This isn’t to say that a post around 1,100 words won’t do well. In Disruptive Advertising’s case study, their client—a humanitarian organization—had the most success (for desktop users) with 1,055 words. Experiment with different post lengths to see what fits your audience best.
Conduct A/B testing
Do you use paid advertising as a part of your marketing strategy? If so, each ad should link to a dedicated landing page where people can take a desired action (e.g., make a purchase, subscribe to an email newsletter, view a webinar, buy a white paper, or do whatever it is you’re wanting them to do). A/B testing is a scientific method that helps you ensure your landing pages are optimally converting visitors.
Basically, you try out two different versions of a landing page. The first version is called the “control” page, the second is the “variation”. To conduct A/B testing the right way, do the following:
Set conversion goals: This will give you a concrete gauge of which version is better
Create variations: You don’t have to do just one variation on the original—try out more than one if you have a lot of ideas
Collect data: Send visitors randomly to your variations, and track the following metrics
– Number of unique visitors that have viewed your various pages
– Number of conversions for each page
– Conversion rate, which is the percentage of visitors who converted on each page
– Improvement, which is how much better your variations did (or didn’t do) versus the original
Try testing elements such as how many fields the visitor has to fill out, the wording of a call to action, page and button colors, and any other variables, such as content placement in relation to the call to action. This way you’ll be able to know for sure what works and what needs to be optimized.
Stay consistent and aim for traffic
Derek Halpern from Social Triggers points out that you could do all the A/B testing you want, but it’s pointless if you haven’t worked on attracting an audience.
That’s why you should work on consistently creating valuable content for your site and share it on social media. Be consistent with your content, watch your audience grow, and then A/B test your landing pages. Halpern says to A/B test your “money page”— the bottom-of-the-funnel landing page most important to your success.
If you’re consistent with both your content and testing, you’ll see conversions go up, and you’ll become an authority in your niche along the way.
Daniel Matthews is a freelance writer from Boise, Idaho with a passion for changing the world through writing and sharing ideas. His expertise includes entrepreneurship, technology, startups, and marketing. Connect with @danielmatthews0 on Twitter.