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Marketing Your Ecommerce Store

Ecommerce Guides

So you’ve set up your ecommerce store on the optimum platform for your needs. You’ve steered clear of dodgy design choices, grouped your products in the most effective way, and tweaked both your product and category pages to deliver optimum conversions. But you won’t make any sales if no one knows you exist. Marketing is one of the most important functions for any ecommerce store, because you need attention if anyone is to buy from your site. Fortunately, the Internet levels the playing field, and to a certain extent you can compete with huge ecommerce retailers offering similar products without a comparable budget.

Ecommerce marketing can be spread across online and offline methods, and there are a number of ways you can promote your site and generate traffic. Whatever works for you is worth pursuing, but there are a few particular ways in which you can draw in targeted traffic more likely to make a purchase from your site.

Ecommerce Search Engine Optimisation-  SEO

SEO, or search engine optimisation, is a meaty topic, but it’s one of the cornerstones of a successful long-term ecommerce business. Essentially, SEO is the business of tailoring your website to Google’s ranking preferences, so links to your site will appear under various different, relevant search terms.

A strong search engine placement for a volume, relevant keyword phrase can bring you significant amounts of traffic on a daily basis, as a percentage of total searchers click through from Google to your website. As an ecommerce site, you have the ability to gather traffic from long tale searches too, and potentially across a lot of pages.

Imagine you have an ecommerce site with 20,000 product pages which each get 1 view a day – these multiples can really help in bringing in traffic from search engines, but only where your site is fine-tuned for search engine requirements.

So how should you optimise for search engines? The answer is hugely complex, and while there is some consensus, different people weight ranking factors and characteristics differently. The reality is that better SEO knowledge comes with reading, testing and experience. But in the absence, there are some basics on which most people agree.

On-Site Factors

The starting point for any search engine optimisation campaign is your website itself. Google interprets websites as blocks of images and text, and it tries to establish from the content of each page what the page is about and where it should appear in its search engine results pages. There are things you can do within your website to ensure Google views your site in the way you want it viewed, known as ‘on-site’ SEO factors.

  • Title Tags / Meta Descriptions: Title tags and meta descriptions are the content that appears in search engine listings for your page. The title tag is the link text (which also appears as the title of your page in-browser), and the meta description is the longer, explanatory text which appears underneath the title in search engine results pages. You can customise this text for each individual page, taking into account the particular product or model number, or category most likely to help find the traffic your website needs.

Don’t leave your title tags and meta descriptions up to chance – while this isn’t as crucial a ranking factor as it once was, it’s still essential in helping Google figure out how to actually place your website. It’s also worth considering including a call to action within your meta description, asking for the click – this can help increase the number of search engine visitors who commit to actually viewing your website or your product page in the first place.

Good title tags include a relevant keyword early on in the tag, and are often accompanied with the category or the website name. Good meta descriptions will include the relevant keyword again, and also ideally a call to action to help encourage those clicks.

  • Keywords in Content: Your content also needs to have your keywords used within it. As a rule of thumb, you should be optimising for one primary keyword per page, so find consistency between your content and your title and meta tags. You don’t need to over-optimise, and avoid stuffing in your keyword a certain percentage of times. In reality, as long as you sprinkle your keyword through the content and headings a couple of times, you will be close enough to the mark. Be wary – including your keyword too many times can trigger Google’s keen eye for spammy content, which could quickly leave you struggling to rank at all. Be light touch, but be deliberate in choosing which keyword your page is all about.
  • Linking: Your website needs to be linked to and from other pages within your site. This is a chance for you to start informing Google how you would rank pages within your site, by choosing the right anchor text for your links. Good linking between internal pages helps your visitors find the information they need to navigate your website successfully, while also giving Google a head start on how you want your website to be interpreted.
  • Avoid Duplicate Content: Don’t have two versions of the same text on your website if you can avoid it. This is self-defeating – when Google finds two exact matches, it gives preference to the most merit-worthy in terms of SEO value and discounts the other. If you have too much duplicate content, your whole website may be filtered and have reduced search visibility, which will hold back your rankings and make it incredibly difficult to be seen as credible in the eyes of Google.
  • URL Structures: Your URL structures, as mentioned above, should also be keyword rich where possible and where suitable. This is much better than a string of code, or something numerical – stick to descriptive words that note the category and product you are displaying, and you will go a further step towards helping Google most accurately index and position your site within the relevant search engine results pages.

Keyword Research

When deciding on keywords for your website, it is a good idea to research different keyword phrases to attempt to find the optimum for your product pages, and your website as a whole. You need to be optimising for buying keywords ideally – so ‘history of blue widgets’ isn’t likely to be as good a term as “buy blue widgets”. You also want to make sure that the keywords you are choosing to optimise for are not too competitive (so you’ll end up buried on page 45 of search results).

Keyword research in itself is a huge topic, and as with all things SEO different practitioners have different theories about what is best. It is advisable that you read more about keyword research and SEO more broadly, but as a good working rule of thumb:

  • Find keywords with traffic volume: you need a pot of visitors to actually chase, so make sure you’re not optimising for a keyword that only ever gets searched 10 times a month.
  • Find keywords that indicate buying intention: you don’t want information seekers, you want buyers. Choose keywords that convey buying intention for the most targeted streams of traffic coming through to your website.
  • Find keywords that aren’t too competitive: check out who else is optimising for your keywords. Look at the first two pages, and see who you are up against. If you are competing against all the major players for your keywords on the first couple of pages, you might struggle to gain traction – if you’re competing against low-quality information based sites, you might be in with a chance.

There are loads of tools that can help in your keyword research, and plenty of resources you can consult (see below) for more information on how to properly research your keyword lists.

Writing Ecommerce Product Descriptions

 Ecommerce product pages tend to be among the most neglected types of pages on the Web.  Too often, small shop owners are inclined to offer only basic details about an item on product pages.

Today, a basic e-commerce product description that includes only size and color choices and a product image is just not enough detail. If this is all you offer on product pages, you will not do as well in Google searches as you potentially could.  And, brief descriptions do not always provide enough information to encourage shoppers to make a purchase.

Every product page on your site should be unique, compelling and contain your very best sales copy.  A product description should incorporate your search engine keywords (SEO) and also contain a call to action statement.

Think of the product description as an appetizer:  use it to give customers a tantalizing taste of your product with a creative description.

Creating Good Ecommerce Product Page Descriptions

Small Web shops typically use cut-and-paste versions of the manufacturer’s default merchandise description.  These basic – and often bland – descriptions are already indexed in Google, possibly thousands or tens of thousands of times.

Web shop owners should get rid of standard manufacturer descriptions and write original descriptions for their product pages. You want to give customers fresh content that hundreds of other small Web shops selling the same merchandise do not have.

To do this properly, research the product and decide which characteristics most appeal to consumers.  When writing your e-commerce content, be sure to include particulars on how the product works, and suggest ways that consumers can use the item to address a problem or need. For example, mention how the product reduces closet-clutter, or how it makes learning fun for children, and so on. Give consumers ideas on how the item can fit into their lifestyle or home.

When writing your product description, remember to write for your intended audience. If your e-commerce site sells toys and games you’ll want to mention things like skills children would apply in using the game. Here, you would about the benefit in a tone suited to the parent – not the child as it is often the parent or other adult making the purchase decision.

The item description really needs to be your very best sales copy. It may seem like a huge task, especially for the smaller individual-run shops, but you can start small by setting aside an hour each day to rework the product description sections on your site until they all contain original e-commerce content.

Incorporate SEO and Product Reviews

When you have the best product description possible, you then need to rework that copy and include content that is search-engine friendly and helpful to your shoppers.

First, for the search engines, you will want to edit the product description to include your keywords. The goal is toselectively and consistently add those important keywords in when you can, but only in places where it grammatically makes sense to do so.  You can use your keyword in the page title, product description, in meta tags, and also in the ALT tag, which is the optional description you include in the HTML code where you insert the product image.

For example, if your keyword phrase is “hunting knife” don’t refer to the item as “knife” in your product description.  You would use something like this: “This hunting knife is a rugged and durable…”

You can also give search engine bots extra content to crawl by offering user-generated product reviews right on the individual item page. Customers who have purchased the product may describe usability and features you don’t mention in your own product description.  The other benefit is that positive product reviews can help customers make the purchase decision.

Add Relevant Links and a Call-to-Action to your Product Page

Another beneficial change you can make on your product page is to hyperlink related products within the product description.  For example, if the item is part of a set of products, create a hyperlink to those related product pages.

You can also link to other relevant products. For example, if you own a bedroom décor Web shop, you can mention and link to the matching drapes or an accent pillow from a comforter product page. This makes it easy for customers to see related items and encourages them to buy more.

Call-to-action statements will also help. A call-to-action is sales statement that engages customers and creates a sense of urgency to encourage them to make the purchase. You want to push customers to check out now, not later.

Many e-tailers place these statements on their main Web shop or main category pages, but you should also include the call-to-action right on product page near the “add to cart’”or “check-out” buttons.

Examples of call-to-action statements could include; “Free shipping ends in three days,” or “Join our mailing list today and receive a 10 percent discount on this order.”

Product Page Spelling and Grammar Count

Lastly, your English teacher was right. Grammar and spelling is very important. Shop owners shouldn’t expect a person to hand their credit card number over to someone who doesn’t know the difference between “its” and “it’s”.  Grammar and well-written e-commerce content plays a big role in how customers perceive you.

If every page within your Web shop is perfect and uses correct punctuation and grammar, it will build customer trust; they’ll feel like they’re dealing with a professional individual or business.

Another key aspect is to keep language consistent across the entire site.  For example, don’t use “e-mail” on some pages and “email” on others.  These little mistakes, when spotted by a shopper, can quickly lower their opinion of you.

Once you have your e-commerce content written, continue to proofread and edit until it is perfect. It is often difficult to spot your own mistakes, so the find an articulate friend to read the e-commerce copy for you. Even better: hire a professional freelancer who will ensure that you offer excellent, content throughout your e-commerce site.

Off-Site Factors

While tweaking your on-page setup is the most effective starting point, in terms of streamlining and optimising your website for Google’s hungry bots to crawl, you need to engage in the off-site element of SEO if you want to actually get anywhere. Off-site SEO is largely about links, but it isn’t exclusively about links. For modern SEO, you also need to take into account social signals, citations and other mentions of your site, which combine to create a diverse profile of links for sharing and spreading authority throughout your website.

Link Building

Link building is the bread and butter of SEO, and the primary activity most SEO professionals spend their time pursuing. Links are useful for visitors in discovering new websites or pages, so they can find the information they are most interested in accessing. But they are also useful for search engines when trying to decide which site should rank number 1, and which site should rank at number 100.

On-page SEO is often the easy bit, in some ways, because the parameters are somewhat more fixed. Link building is a never-ending activity, and there’s no finish line you can cross in the same way – you can never say you are finished building links. At the same time, you can’t build links indiscriminately, and linking to your website from bad online neighbourhoods or irrelevant pages, or simply in huge automated volumes, are all sure-fire ways to get your site de-listed by Google.

A word of warning – Google doesn’t like forced link building, because it wants search results that are as pure and organic as possible. However, literally everyone on the web garners links from other, often more established sites, in a variety of ways – if you don’t, your visitors will pretty much never find you from the search engines.

The rule of thumb here is that when you are building links, you should do it carefully and deliberately, and you certainly shouldn’t be reckless. So don’t spam your links everywhere and anywhere, lest you be caught out and found wanting by increasingly sophisticated Google algorithms. Instead, you need to build a diverse range of links from related, quality websites on a consistent basis, and there are a number of ways you can make this happen.

  • Producing Content / Editorial 
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Producing content is one of the best ways you can naturally solicit links for your website. Your ecommerce store should have a blog attached for this purpose, so you can create regular posts about your products and your shop. This can be outsourced entirely if you don’t fancy writing the content yourself, or you can invest the time personally in creating great content others want to read and share. In the process, you create more opportunities for people to link to your site, as well as more fresh content for Google to crawl, index and rank.

If you go a stage further and start commenting on other blogs and reaching out to others discussing similar topics, you can even start to build a bit of a readership. Especially when this is combined with social media (see below), you can start to create natural streams of traffic for your online store.

  • Guest Posting

On a similar vein, guest posting on other blogs or writing features for other websites can be a more direct way to ensure you get the link you need. The process is simple – write a piece of content relevant to the site you want a link from, and email them asking if they would be interested in posting your article. Tell them you don’t want a fee for your work, but embed a link in the article and make sure your link is included in the post so you can benefit from the SEO value.

If your target site doesn’t want to feature your guest post, move on and offer it to someone else – this is free, ideally high quality content, and when you find the right source to carry it, you can benefit from both direct traffic in the first instance, and longer term SEO value from the links you have acquired. This also exposes you to a wider audience, who may share your article, or may link to you in their own response pieces – guest posting is simply a way of getting your content and your links out there, and if you play it correctly, others will end up sharing your content and your links more broadly on your behalf.

  • Directory Listings

Once upon a time, one of the primary methods of link building was listing in directories, and all you had to do was collect more directory listings than the competition to outrank. Google has become at least a million times more sophisticated than then, but that doesn’t mean directory listings have no value.

Find trusted directories, including those that require payment to list – this is often useful in filtering out other link builders, so you can benefit from more authoritative links. List your ecommerce site like you would if you were simply promoting your business, and use consistent details throughout the directory listings you collect. A sprinkling of quality directory links can help diversify your link profile, strengthening the overall propensity of your site to rank well.

  • Ask for Links

Another way you can acquire links is simply to ask for them. People deal with people, and so if you have contacts or acquaintances that also run websites, why not ask them for a link? Going further, you can do your own outreach, and try to form partnerships with others on the web, whereby you can receive links in return for other forms of promotion. When you are doing this type of strategy, beware of reciprocal link building – i.e. you link to me, I’ll link to you. Google was on to this strategy from the early 2000s, possibly even slightly before, so you can bet they’re wise to it now.

  • Contests, Giveaways and Other Strategies

Creativity is the link-builder’s friend. There are loads of strategies you can implement that can generate natural links, and it’s often worth any expense to get a bit of viral play. Contests, giveaways, infographics, free reports – there are loads of things you can create and market with a view to getting your links passed around the web. These strategies are good because they will always seem much less forced in the eyes of Google – these are basically techniques to get others to voluntarily write about you and link to your website, and if you do it well, you can see significant SEO gains as a result. Never ask for links in giveaways or competitions.

For more information on link building, and SEO more broadly, check out some of the following resources:

Local SEO

For some ecommerce businesses, having a localised profile in search engines can be extremely valuable. Not every store is marketing to the world at large, and even if you do choose to go down this route, you can still benefit from more local traffic if you adhere to the principles of Google local SEO.

Google treats local searches according to a slightly adjusted algorithm, to ensure they are ranking local businesses in the right local area for their customers. There are a number of strategies you should bear in mind when striving for a strong local placement on Google.

Incorporate Business Information On Every Page – Decide on a format for your business name, address and contact information, and replicate this on every page of your website. The footer will suffice – as long as the location information is on every page of your site, you will be sending a clear message to Google’s local algorithm as to how you should be categorised.

Add Your Exact Business Information To Listings – Take the location information in the format you have decided to use, and start updating and reflecting this across business listings sites. Google Places, the Yahoo and Bing equivalents, Yell – Google looks to find citations of your business contact information across online directories, so it can confirm that (a) you are local, and (b) you are mentioned sufficiently often to be ranked.

Engage With Social Media Platforms – Engaging on a local level with social media (all correctly updated with your standard form contact details) can help cement the deal, and tell Google that you are a live, active business trading within the local area you specify. This serves in place of traditional link building, which holds less sway when it comes to determining local rankings priorities.

Generate Local Media Buzz – As you would for any local business, the next step is to generate a local media buzz. Think about news and relevant stories with a local slant. Sending your press releases to local media is a good way to build up contacts, but more important secure more of an online presence within your local community – perfect for those striving to achieve local priority on relevant Google search terms.

Social Signals

Aside from on-site and link building efforts, Google is also now looking for activity on leading social networks as a mechanism for choosing how to rank different sites. Known as ‘social signals’ Google picks up on things like shares, likes and retweets, so it can start to get a better picture of whether your site is legitimately popular or not. This is all part of Google’s efforts to rank sites in a way that delivers the most value for users – in other words, ranking the best, most popular sites most highly, according to the number of links and the levels of social activity around these sites.

That’s partially why it is so important to have social share buttons built in to your product pages and category pages, so that people can choose to share your content in a single click if they feel it deserving.

The best way to acquire strong social signals, and a strong presence on social media is to build out a social strategy of your own. As distinct from strictly SEO efforts, the social side is more about connecting with audiences for direct traffic, aside from the search engine benefits we’ve already touched on. While search engines can provide endless streams of traffic, they are not the only place on the web where people find information, and a good handle on social media can take your shop to the next level.

Ecommerce Social Media

Social media is difficult to do well, but worth getting right. For your ecommerce store, one of the main challenges you will face is finding traffic. When you boil it all down, Internet marketing is about a combination of a well-optimised website and people seeing it – the rest is just a question of the law of averages. Social media can be a major way for websites like yours to find traffic, and best of all it doesn’t have to cost a fortune.

Social media is all about weaving yourself into the fabric of the conversation. It’s a soft sell, and rather than shouting about your latest product all day long, you need to take a more subtle approach if you want to command any attention at all. Think for a moment about Facebook, and how you or others you know use Facebook to keep up to date with social goings on.

People don’t want businesses shouting at them on Facebook – this is what traditional advertising does, and Facebook isn’t always the best platform for that (although Facebook ads can also work pretty well – see below). Instead, you want to slip in to the conversation seamlessly, by providing useful content that creates and adds value to the lives of those who might chance to read it.

You’ve written a funny, interesting or shocking article on your blog, and you know you’ve got interesting content. The next step is to share it on Facebook, so you can genuinely present something of interest to your audience. Some people click in to your site, check out your resources, or just choose to keep a closer eye on what you’re posting in future. If its good enough, your posts will be shared and spread around, bringing you even more attention than your straight-up advertorial could ever have delivered.

Have fun with social media, and try not to be too stiff. It almost doesn’t matter what you’re offering product-wise – people like to share funny things, and you can quickly build up a following on Facebook by creating excellent social content and participating in the wider conversation within your niche.

Or think about Twitter, the ideal platform for sharing your thoughts in quick bursts. Let people know what your business is thinking, and sculpt a personality for your store through your tweets, retweets and conversations. Hashtags are helpful for being found, participating in wider conversations or starting your own. Decide on the tone for your store and stick to it – above all, don’t be boring, and don’t be too promotional in every post you make. If people feel you add value to their lives in some way, they will be more willing to receive and respond to you on social media, and more likely to inadvertently encourage themselves and their friends and contacts to check out your online shop.

Social Media Advertising

Social media can be excellent for generating interest in your business, and for getting people to actually come to your online store and check out your wares. If you’ve got particularly good content, or a good call to action, or you simply just want to be seen more aggressively across social media platforms, there is the option to brute-force your way through, thanks to social media advertising.

Advertising on Facebook

Advertising on Facebook is a good, currently low-cost way of reaching extensive audiences. One of the best things about Facebook is that you can seriously drill down into demographics, in a way that other ad platforms have yet to achieve.

If you’re selling women’s fashion shoes, you can pitch your advert to university-educated women between the ages of 25 and 45 who have an express interest in fashionable shoes – a.k.a. the exact target audience/demographic for your store. You can even specify the device they use – if fashionable women have iPhones more than Androids, you can even narrow things in that direction to. This allows you to touch base with key markets in the most direct possible way, serving your ad to everyone who fits within your key demographic on Facebook.

You have the choice of ads on users’ news feeds, or on the right hand column of the screen. Try both, but note that click-through rates on well-positioned in-feed ads can be impressive.

Facebook ads presents a limited account management function by default. But for additional control, you can activate the Power Editor app, which allows you more direction over how your ads are served. See www.facebook.com/ads/manage/powereditor for more information.

When advertising on Facebook, use high quality images in the largest sizes you have available. This will ensure your ads present in the most attractive way possible, whether in user feeds or in the right hand column. You can also create specific Calls to Action in Facebook, which allows you to customize the action button that appears within your ad. This is definitely worth experimenting with, and you might find you can improve your click-through rate further by tweaking your choice of CTA.

Google Adwords

Google Adwords is the definitive PPC platform, used by ecommerce sites of all types as a guaranteed source of targeted, buying traffic. You create an ad that appears on Google search result pages, and the wider Google ads network if you want. You set a maximum CPC (cost per click), and pay for the clicks you receive. Making Adwords work depends on the margin between your cost per conversion and your profit per conversion.

If you can make Adwords work, you can set up a profitable guaranteed source of traffic to your website. Over time, you can find more keywords to try and make profitable, and it’s often a case of tweaking your variables and targeting options to achieve profitability.

Ecommerce Google Adwords

Writing Your Ad

Writing ads is one of the most important elements of building a successful Adwords campaign. Along with choosing the right keywords and targeting variables, writing a good ad can be the difference between a viable CTR and a failed campaign.

Google ads are broken down into three components – the title, the body, and the link. Within the title, you have very limited space to catch attention. Using keywords within the headline can help improve your CTR, especially when these keywords match the search terms being used. You can insert dynamic text within your ads using dynamic tags, using {keyword:default text}.

So, say you are selling handbags. Your ad title could read as follows
{keyword:default text} = {Keyword:Handbags}

This would produce an ad with the search term capitalised in sentence case as the title, or default to Handbags as the ad title if the keyword is too long to fit as the ad heading. Alternatively, use {KeyWord:Default Text} to capitalise every word. Your ad headline should attract attention and demonstrate relevance instantly, if you are to stand a chance of attracting clicks from those presented with your ad on a given page.

You then have 2 description lines of text to complete. In here, you need to squeeze a call to action, again as a means of encouraging the click and actually boosting the numbers of visitors heading to your website from your ad link. You might also want to include free shipping, discounts or promotions – this can be a good convincer for getting someone to check out what you have available, which is always the first step to actually making the sale.

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Finally, you have a display URL, which can be different from the destination URL of your ad. As long as it is on the same domain, you won’t attract lengthy manual review processes or have your ad rejected. But this can be used as a way to keep lengthy, unruly URLs to an ad-friendly format, without redirecting your traffic or changing your permalinks structure.

Tracking and Tailoring Your Campaign

Whenever you start paying for advertising, whether through Google Adwords or any other channel, it is imperative that you monitor your campaign and track your results. It’s too easy to set up different advertising channels and make a profit without actually understanding why you are making money – this leads to overspending on the ads side, and can end up gnawing away at what should be a much stronger margin.

Between Google Adwords account management tools and your website analytics (Google Analytics is preferred), you can track how different visitors have entered your website, and more crucially which traffic sources are actually converting. So, within your account, it is possible to establish which keywords are profitable and which keywords are more challenging or even loss making. This allows you to preen your account, so you’re only moving forward with the most efficient forms of advertising spending.

In order to track your results, you need to test different traffic sources, ad types, demographics and other variables, so you can start to build a picture for the most efficient balance of marketing for your site. You can split test easily through Google Adwords, or through using independent tools designed for that purpose (see Chapter 5 for more details).

Once you’ve tested different variations, you can incrementally improve your marketing efforts by choosing the winner from each test you run, optimising your site for conversions and results step by step. Once you get to profitability across the board, this process will help you grow your revenue and increase your margins, so you can extract the most value from the traffic you are sending to your website.

Growth Hacking Your Way To A Bigger Business

“Growth hacking” is most definitely a marketing buzz phrase, but it’s one that carries a lot of relevance for those starting up in ecommerce. Broadly put, it just means ‘methods of getting customers online’, but there are a number of particular, practical strategies for growth hacking that can help transform your online business into something more.

Growth Hacking Starts With Strong Analytics

Before you can devise a growth-hacking strategy, you need to take control of your analytics. One of the greatest strengths of doing anything online is the ability to track and test website and campaign performance with ease. By reviewing existing data, you can start to identify potential improvements, or ‘hacks’, that can be made to the way you set out your website or your traffic generation campaigns, so you can focus in on the areas that deliver the most growth for your business.

Start With Low-Hanging Fruit And Move Upwards

Interpreting analytics is sometimes straightforward, sometimes much more difficult. At the outset of a growth hacking campaign, you should look for the low-hanging fruit – the easy changes or strategies that scream out from the statistics, before working your way through to more difficult points. It’s all about optimising your online business for growth, and even the low-hanging fruit can have a profound impact on your business.

Define Goals

Not all websites share the same goals. By and large, the focus is always to make as much money as possible – but is that achieved through focusing on improving your conversion rate, increasing on-site engagement, focusing on the most profitable sources or traffic, a combination of these, or something different entirely? Depending on the goals and strategies you are looking to work towards, your approach to growth hacking, in terms of the solutions you search out, may be entirely different. That’s why it helps to define your goals early on, so you can keep your approach focused on what matters most to your business.

Starting The Hacking Process

You either have existing data from your analytics setup, or you’re starting this process from scratch. If it’s your first time growth hacking your site, you need to install analytics first, so you can track and monitor the realities of your website.

The hacking process is technically straightforward – the genius comes in interpreting results, creating new experiments, and thinking outside the box in terms of how your site can grow to the next level. Essentially, it’s a case of putting questions to your audience and letting them decide through their actions how your website should be laid out.

Seriously – that’s all there is to it. Set up tests, tracking different variations of the same thing, a lot like A/B testing. Change one variable across your test subjects, serve them up and wait. By the results, you will be able to ascertain a winner, which you can then test for further variables.

The ultimate goal is to create a wholly optimised funnel, leading people from potential prospect through to repeat customer. By assessing different ‘hacks’ along the way, you can start to build up a picture of the optimal campaigns for your business, so you can start focusing on growing your ecommerce store in the most optimal, most efficient possible way.

Further Reading:

http://www.demacmedia.com/ecommerce-strategy/guide-growth-hacking-ecommerce-merchants/

PR and Other Marketing Strategies

It’s easy to become so focused on growing your ecommerce business that you neglect the offline element. But in the process, you miss out on a good source of business, and the chance to build long-term inherent brand value.

PR is a win-win situation for your ecommerce store – if you can get people talking about your shop, you’ll see a spike in traffic, and with any luck a few quality links to your website, while also building a profile and a reputation that’ll win you an incremental bit more attention in your market.

Every sale counts in ecommerce, and a good reputation locally, nationally and internationally will drive more business long-term, and make your marketing and advertising much less of an uphill struggle. This reputation can be built through a combination of online and offline outreach and PR strategies.

Issuing press releases is a must. Press releases essentially provide publishers with content you’re pushing relevant to your business, in the hope they will carry the story. So many people don’t do press releases, or do them extremely badly. Be creative – press releases are a legitimate chance to raise your profile, online and offline, so you can benefit from more eyeballs on your product pages. A good angle might be a research finding about the market you sell to, or a new emerging trend in your niche.

You could create a competition or launch an initiative, back a cause, or otherwise comment on your industry. Putting out dialogue online is straightforward – you can submit through a number of paid press release sites. These sites will syndicate your press release across multiple different channels, making it likely your press release will be picked up online and offline. Check out:

There are also free press release sites online, which are largely best used for SEO purposes, which you should avoid. It is unlikely you’ll get any offline pickup from a free online submission, but with the right story, you never know.

There’s also a more old fashioned approach for online press release distribution. Sending your press release to named journalists and bloggers directly can increase your chances of getting coverage in the right places

Resources/Further Reading

Content Marketing: What It Means, and How To Do It Properly

Once your store is created, the tricky stuff actually begins – finding an audience for your website and your products, in a marketplace that is already swarmed with competition for virtually any product you choose to sell. To put it another way, when you’re selling the same or similar products to other people, why should anyone care about your shop?

With the buying power of Amazon blazing the trail, there’s a high chance you’re already beaten on price, or restricted to certain pricing levels by manufacturers or suppliers. Your ecommerce site needs to earn its place in the consciousness of search engines, social media and your audience. Content marketing is your best shot at securing this all-important brand attention.

As well as selling product, your ecommerce store must also exist to provide information. This is business beneficial on a number of levels – namely, in establishing your brand personality, attracting social media attention, links for SEO, and hopefully leveraging viral traffic effects in the process, and just generally for taking your business, your brand, and your products out to new places on the web.

Some companies do content marketing extremely well, producing high quality, informative or funny resources relevant to their niche and the interests of people operating within it. Organisations of all sizes are now turning to content marketing, and while some are clearly better than others, a well-executed strategy can significantly enhance your profile and presence while driving bottom-line results.

What You Need To Do

The strength of your content marketing strategy comes from a combination of high quality resources, good distribution, and finding a relevant audience to engage in your content. Here are the steps you need to take to make this happen from a practical point of view with your ecommerce store.

Set Up A Blog

Embarking on a content management strategy without a blog is like starting a business without a budget – possible, but extremely difficult. Considering most ecommerce platforms either have blogs in-built or available as simple add-ons, there is no excuse not to have the technology in place by the time your store launches. Your blog shouldn’t just be all about your products or your company – educate your audience, appeal to them on an emotional level, and engage them in your product niche.

There are plenty of examples of blogging being done well in ecommerce – blogs with personality, blogs that speak to customers in their own voice, and blogs that create stellar, highly shareable content, all designed to maximise attention and ultimate conversions.

Your blog is a magnet for traffic, links, comments and engagement from your audience. The simple fact is that as many as 46% of buyers say they read blogs before making a purchase. And depending on your wider traffic strategy, as many as 95% of buyers may be finding your site through search engines, for which blogging and unique content are of the essence.

Once you have the technology in place to run your blog, it’s time to think about content creation.

Find A Passionate Writer

Content writing is an undervalued art, and most people feel they are able to give it a go off their back – everyone can write after all…how hard can it be?

The reality is somewhat different. Writing high quality content that people actually want to read and search engines want to rank is a skill in its own right. Further, if you’re trying to create content that people might want to share, you need a writer with a particular passion for your niche or your products. Unimpassioned or inaccurate content is a sure-fire giveaway, and you run the risk of alienating your core markets and demographics if you don’t get it right.

There’s also the time factor – do you personally have time to sit down in your day and craft high quality, shareable, long-form content that appeals to your wider online audience?

There are plenty of places you can source writers online on a freelance basis, if you are opting out of in-house content marketing. Given the value this can add to your business, from marketing and SEO to strengthening your brand in the minds of your customers, the costs of outsourcing are an investment, and a small price to pay in your future success.

Get More Social

Social media is another key tool for your ecommerce store, from a general marketing point of view as much as for content marketing. When it comes to pushing your content, you need an engaged audience interested in hearing from you – often those who have liked your page, or followed your store on ecommerce.

Social media is supposed to be free-flowing, but it needs to be a two-way conversation between you and your market. By liking your page or otherwise initiating contact, people give you permission to interact with their lives. Make sure you deliver like a friend first, and a business second. No-one goes on social media to receive marketing messages – they choose to be enriched with information, entertainment and humour, and if you don’t fit any of these purposes, that’s a sure-fire recipe for a quick ‘un-friending’.

Social media is a softer sell, and it’s about working yourself and your business into the daily conversation on social media. Look at how others are doing it, and consider outsourcing your social media to a freelancer (maybe even your writer?) if you trust them enough to make good branding decisions.

Some people ‘get’ social media more than others – you need someone with the right touch to deliver your social media campaign now, so that by the time your high quality content is ready, you have a platform to market through. This is a far more effective model than just advertising on social media, or just blogging content out into the ether.

Promote Good Content

By this stage in the process, you have a blog, a writer creating high quality, useful content for it, effective social media channels that help you make contact with your audience, and a platform for posting new content when it becomes available. At this stage, you have all the fundamentals in place for an effective content marketing strategy – now all that’s left is to promote and distribute.

Social media advertising can be a particularly good way to get your would-be viral articles in front of the eyes of those who might be interested to read and share what you have to say. Make sure when using paid advertising campaigns that you have a strong headline in place – think of the types of articles that are commonly successful on your own social media feeds. Irresistibly clickable titles are your friend, because the more people who see and read your content, the better chance you have to communicate your message to a wider audience.

You should also look to get behind content distribution in a more personal way. Find others running blogs or email lists in your niche, or with complementary interests, and drop them a line on social media with your article link if you think it will go down well. Note: this is not an encouragement to spam, but a suggestion that you email select influential individuals within your broader social network if you feel they may have a personal or professional interest in your content. Or, if you find the right platforms, you can go one step further – offering to ‘guest post’. See our SEO section for more information on guest posting for content and search engine promotion.

Build Customer Relationships En Masse

As well as the SEO and general marketing effects of a solid content strategy, you are really striving to build customer relationships en masse. In a market where face to face contact with your customers is practically impossible, your content is the only way you can build and nurture that customer relationship – both with existing customers and prospects. With an effective approach to content creation and promotion, you can flesh out your brand personality, while giving potentially millions of people the ability to form a relationship with your brand from a distance – whether they access your content today, or in five years’ time.

Resources/Further Reading:

http://www.shopify.co.uk/blog/13329281-why-every-ecommerce-business-needs-a-blog-and-9-ideas-to-get-you-started

https://selz.com/blog/40-online-shopping-ecommerce-statistics-know/

http://blog.hubspot.com/insiders/how-to-hire-a-freelance-writer