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Strategy

Why eCommerce Blogs Fail and How to Make Yours Succeed

“Let’s start a blog,” said every eCommerce marketing team ever. Unfortunately, most eComm blogs end in waste, burnout, and heartache. Here’s how to fix that

Aaron Orendorff
April 17 2019

Not products. Not promotions. Not price. People. A thriving audience is every brand’s most valuable asset. In the new world of customer choice, content isn’t just “king”; it’s currency. Especially written content.

“Content and commerce are converging,” explained David Perell earlier this year. “Publishers who appeal to owned audiences will win the upcoming pivot to owned commerce.”

Sensing this truth, eCommerce brands scramble to hit publish and, in the midst of that rush, fall dead center into an old cliché: “A failure to plan is a plan to fail.”

The only way to build a profitable audience and positive ROI is to know the fundamental reasons eCommerce blogs fail — as well as how to avoid them. With that in mind, here are where most efforts go wrong.

Not Separating the Two “Intents”

Despite the rise of social media, podcasts, and video, 85% of product searches either start on Amazon or Google.

Between those two platforms, however, there’s a fundamental difference in users’ intent — i.e., what those searchers are looking for. For some, purchase intent is high: people who know what they want and are ready to buy. Ads, promotions, and discounts fit them perfectly.

For others… not so much. In fact, most people who turn to search engines don’t yet know what they want. Instead, they’re looking for trusted sources of information, education, and entertainment.

This second group is where blogging shines.

As a test case, consider the difference between “yellow women’s flats” (left) versus “most comfortable flats” (right). Even at a glance, the disparity is easy to spot:

Naturally, “yellow women’s flats” is dominated by ads and product pages. “Most comfortable flats,” on the other hand, is blogs — from top to bottom.

Search engines know this, and so does your competition. In other words, there’s a fundamental difference between purchase intent and what we might call content intent. As a result, no matter how well optimized it is, a blog will simply never rank (and never attract visitors) if it doesn’t start by focusing itself on the latter.

Content intent posts can take many forms. The crucial element is that it can’t be about you, your brand, or your products. Instead:

  • Produce original research gathered from your target market
  • Invest in “who’s who” articles of the leading voices
  • Round up the best products in your niche
  • Create buying guides for FAQs
  • Build “how to” checklists

There’s just one problem …

“Eating the Elephant” All at Once

Once you center your strategy around content intent, the odds of ranking for a lucrative phrase like “most comfortable flats” — or whatever similar terms may be associated with your product — are slim to none.

Where search volume is high, so is competition. Simple evaluators like Keywordtool.io — which scores keyword competition on a scale of 0 to 1 (low to high) — brings this into clear and uncomfortable focus:

The good news: that doesn’t really matter.

Rather than face off against mega-publishers like Huffington Post, Buzzfeed, Vogue, and The New York Times (all of whom now create eCommerce related content around words like “best,” “most,” “top,” etc.), focus on long-tail keywords.

Long-tail keywords are four-to-six-word phrases that reveal exactly who and what a searcher is looking for. They’re not as popular as broad keywords, but that’s the point.

Image credit: Ahrefs

Although rarely quoted by marketers, the words of Desmond Tutu ring true: “There’s only one way to eat an elephant: a bite at a time.”

That’s what long-tail-keyword blogging is all about. Rather than eat the (high-volume keyword) elephant all at once, make it about the individual (long-tail) bites over time.

Let’s go back to “most comfortable flats” and use Moz’s free plug-in to look at domain authority (DA) — how powerful a domain is in terms of search ranking. Compare the earlier results with “most comfortable flats for standing all day.” This time, the difference is clear… although far from uncomfortable.

As the length of a search query increases, competition decreases. The search results on the right are a fight any eCommerce blog can win. And yet, even this insight can go wrong.

Letting the (Long) Tail “Wag the Dog”

Essentially, letting the tail “wagging the dog” means that priorities are misaligned. Rather than put first things first, you’ve let a lower-level objective or mundane detail run the show.

In the case of eCommerce blogging, this often manifests itself in elevating you, your company, your brand, or your product above your customers. For instance, here’s advice from an incredibly popular eCommerce blog (redacted in Google Docs to protect the guilty):

The temptation is to fill your blog with what you think or want your product to represent. Resist this temptation and set yourself to discovering what your customers want. There are three ways to do this – and one (unlikely) twist. To start, open a spreadsheet and have copy-and-paste at the ready.

Number one: Google.

Google is my first stop to find long tail keywords. Autocomplete, “People also ask,” and “Searches related to” are goldmines for topics as well as for organizing subpoints (H2s and H3s) within larger articles:

Number two: Ubersuggest.

Ubersuggest is a free tool that’s easy to use. After compiling a short list of long tail phrases from Google in your spreadsheet, enter each one into Ubersuggest, scroll past the results with red and yellow boxes in the SD column (which represents competition), and go for the green:

Number three: Keywordtool.io.

You’ll have to pay for Keywordtool.io, but compared to monster SEO tools like Ahrefs or SEMrush it’s by far the most intuitive. Again, jump past the high-volume, high-competition phrases and look for keywords with low competition or with “n/a?”. This means people are searching for the phrase, but there simply isn’t enough volume or competition to register.

Ironically, these low volume phrases (0-10 below) make up the vast majority of searches. For eCommerce blogs, they’re priceless.

Image credit: Ahrefs

The below screenshot is color-coded green for purpose-related searches (“stand in all day”), red for conditions (“diabetics” or “with arch support”), and yellow for roles (“doctors” or “mother of the bride”). Grouping long tail keywords like this will help you develop short form articles for each one, or even better – guides and long-form articles using the various phrases as sections.

And, the unexpected twist.

Much of the above has already hinted at this caveat. But, just to make it glaringly obvious, Benji Hyam contrasts the “Typical Way” bloggers go about coming up with content ideas versus his company’s method:

“We start,” writes Hyam, “with the intent of a buyer (the pain point of a customer), then we find keywords and topics that discuss solutions to the problem the searcher is trying to solve.”

Saving Your eCommerce Blog from Heartache

Blogging makes good sense when it comes to eCommerce. Avoiding mistakes and doing it right can take multiple shapes:

  • Short form blog posts between 500-1,000 words
  • Long form articles over 2,000-3,000 words
  • Guides that roll it all into one PDF

In the end, however, it’s not having a blog that matters. It’s building a plan that (1) separates the two intents, (2) zeroes in on long tail keywords you can rank for, and (3) is dead focused on your customers… not you or even your product.

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