Content is one of the most underutilized marketing tactics in B2C and ecommerce today — but that’s changing quickly.
More and more marketers are realizing that by creating great content that ranks on Google for specific and relevant terms, they can attract a constant stream of qualified traffic to their ecommerce site — for free.
However, content marketing takes not only writing talent and SEO knowledge, but also patience. This strategy is not going to result in overnight success. In fact, it could take months for your investment to pay off, according to Nat Eliason.
Nat is the Founder of Growth Machine, a content and SEO agency that works with ecommerce sites to surpass 100,000 visitors a month. Nat started his career in blogging and SEO, and first made a real impact at Sumo.com, where he grew their blog from 5,000 visitors a month to 170,000 visitors in just 8 months. He then went out on his own and created his own content agency, and now works with growing brands like Butcher Box, Patreon, and Perfect KETO.
Nat explained the problem for many ecommerce companies is that they have unreasonable expectations about content marketing from the start.
In this interview with The Empowered Marketer, Nat shares:
- How to know if an SEO-powered content strategy is right for your brand
- Why you should wait until your brand is a bit established before investing in content
- The importance of keyword and search volume research
- ….and much more
LISTEN TO EPISODE 11: THE EMPOWERED MARKETER
READ THE INTERVIEW
1. Do you think that ecommerce and B2C brands today are doing enough with content? Why or why not?
There is this idea that you can just start doing content marketing and then you’ll start getting results. A lot of people, especially in ecommerce, will play around with it on the side. They’ll write a couple blog posts night and weekends, then throw them up on the site. Then it doesn’t do anything, so they let it go.
What people don’t realize is content has to be as much a part of the business as logistics or ads. It seems fluffier maybe because it’s writing articles, but done right, it can bring in hundreds of thousands of new potential customers every month. It compounds because the longer you do it, the more you have up on your site, the more stuff can be ranked on Google, the better the results get. But you have to have the patience to get through six months or more of almost no results, especially on a newer site.
2. How would you advise someone get started and start to figure out what their content strategy should be for their brand?
The first question is: does it make sense for you to have a content strategy? Especially when it comes to search-focused content, there are some brands where it’s not going to make sense. We have to tell potential clients this all the time that there just isn’t enough search volume for it to make sense for the business.
For example, I talked to someone earlier this week about connected devices. These are little plug-and-play routers that you can add into your hardware to connect into other devices. That’s a very cool product and there is an interesting content opportunity around telling the stories of their users and how people are creating new products from it. However, there aren’t that many people looking for a huge swath of articles around IoT devices and their related uses. I usually tell people is if you’re trying to figure out if there’s a good SEO play, it’s really going to come down to one of two formulas.
One is what I call like the “Scorch the Earth” method. This is for sites that have so much content about very specific things that they have basically a potentially limitless number of articles they can produce. A really simple example is review sites. We work on a site that’s starting up called Cup & Leaf. They write about tea, but then they also review popular teas. The “Scorch the Earth” strategy with them is to write Oolong Tea Review, Rishi Bedtime Tea Review, etc. They write about every single tea that’s popular under the sun. Then you can go into Ahrefs or another SEO tool, figure out what are all the most popular searched-for teas on the internet, and prioritize your reviews. Just go down the list: drink that tea, review, drink, review, drink, review, drink, review. Easy SEO strategy there.
The other one that you can look at is the “Formula Method.” Can you think up simple algorithms for article ideas in your niche? Say there are maybe 15 types of tea: green tea, black tea, oolong tea, rooibos tea. What articles can we think of related to those that we can just plug and play? Health benefits of every one of those teas, how to steep every single one of those teas, the best kinds of every single one of those teas. If you just do a really simple Excel sheet and you list the 15 main types of tea and then all of the modifiers along the top, you’ll have 200, 300, 400 or more articles. There’s a lot of potential here. Then you have to go make sure people are actually looking for those because you might find that while it’s easy to come up with the ideas, surprisingly few people are looking for some of them.
3. What are some B2C brands that you’ve worked with and what results did you see?
One really good example would be Spire. When we started working with them, they were getting about 9,000 visitors per week to their blog. We didn’t write a single new article. We just spent two months going back and identifying the articles that we saw as having the highest potential for search based on research we’d done, and then rewriting them, re-optimizing them, and republishing them. In the span of about two and a half months, we took their weekly traffic from 9,000 to 26,000. We close to tripled it, which was crazy for not producing any new content, and we’ve seen pretty similar results from a lot of the other sites that we work with. We actually prefer now to work with sites that already have a decent amount of content because we can get much quicker results. Brand new sites, obviously it takes a bit longer, but we’ve had that work out really well too.
4. How do you take the traffic that’s coming to your site organically and actually turn it into revenue?
I usually recommend a mix of three things. One is email signups. Try to get emails in a way that is not too intrusive, but still sufficiently motivating. You need to have a good call-to-action in the article for some additional, informational benefit they’ll get. With ecommerce, a discount popup works really well on product pages and home pages, but it doesn’t work as well on content pages. Somebody reading the content coming cold to the site has no idea why they want $10 off of Butcher Box or whatever they’re looking at. It’s better to have something more content-related as the email call-to-action, and then have a really good email nurturing funnel with more useful pieces of content and then start promoting the product more after that.
The second thing is obviously product plugs within the content. Either include mid-content callouts where you’re just advertising the product as if you were running an ad on somebody else’s site, and then also weave it into the content. When we work with sites that obviously have ecommerce products and we’re writing things that relate to the products, as much as possible, we’ll reference in subtle non-advertisy ways the product is that can help them.
One of our clients right now is Butcher Box, and we work with them to help manage a lot of their content production. They’re a monthly delivery service for super high quality, organic meat. We work with them to create content around meat, grilling, food prep, and all of that. It’s really easy to reference other Butcher Box articles about different cuts of meat, but then to also reference Butcher Box itself. if you’re interested in grilling and in preparing the perfect filet mignon, you’ll want to have the high-quality filet mignon like we include in Butcher Box. Those kinds of product tie-ins within the content are really helpful too, as both education and conversion.
The third thing is just retargeting pixels. As long as you have your blog set up properly, you can have a retargeting pixel in there. Then, when prospects are coming to the site and reading the content, you can re-market to them on Facebook, Google, and other sites, which can continue to help get them exposed to the product over time.
5. For an ecommerce brand that hasn’t really invested in content yet, what advice would you give them to get started?
I think that it’s really tempting, especially early on in a business to try to do a lot of things at once. You think, we’re going to Pinterest and Instagram; we’re going to do influencer outreach, and we’re going to go on podcasts and do guest posts, and we’re going to do our own blog, and we’re going to do all of this on nights and weekends. That’s a really terrible idea.
I would not do content unless you were ready to dedicate at least $6,000 a month for the next six to twelve months. If you can’t say right now that you’re willing to wait at least six months to start to see positive ROI and you’re not willing to spend at least $6K between writers and SEO optimizing and promotion, just wait. Just wait until you have that money. Especially for ecommerce, don’t start on SEO. That absolutely should not be the first marketing channel you go after.
SEO is slow. You probably need revenue now, right? If you’re a newer site, you can’t wait 12 months for your marketing efforts to start to pay off. Ads can work tomorrow. I would start there. I would get something a little more controllable working first and then add SEO onto it. You don’t want to be stressed every month needing the SEO to kick in. To be honest, it might never kick in. Even we sometimes just can’t get it to work for whatever reason — and this is all we do. You want something a little faster, a little more reliable to be working in a very predictable way first, and then experiment with SEO and experiment with it seriously.
6. What do you think is going to be really important in the world of B2C and ecommerce in the coming year?
I think we’re seeing something interesting where business is moving more towards niche specialty products. If you can stand out, be interesting, and offer quality on a timeless product, then you can succeed in ways that you really couldn’t before.
The cool thing with ecommerce content is that you can rank for key terms that these massive brands should already own. You can write for stuff that these massive brands should have all the search traffic for, but they don’t. Because you can get better at SEO, you can just take over their traffic and sales in ways that you really never could’ve before. You used to have to get into Whole Foods to sell your food product. Today, you can literally spin up a site on Unbounce right now, spend a few hundred dollars running Bing ads to it, and by tomorrow you could have customers and a new business up and running. It’s a really exciting time in ecommerce.
If you’d like to learn more about Nat Eliason and his agency, Growth Machine, you can visit www.yourgrowthmachine.com.