Spammers are really making work harder for honest retailers.
As soon as readers get even a whiff of an ulterior motive in a blog, they’ll resent it and likely abandon the page. Customers hate being sold to. But at the same time, you’ve got a business to run and products that your readers would actually want to know about. So how to do you promote? How do you promote products in your blog without coming off as spam?
In this article, we’ll explain the happy-medium between posting content that’s not a sales pitch, while at the same time pitching a sale. We’ll first cover the kind of content to cultivate product integration, then discuss the best ways to do it, and conclude with some practical, hands-on advice for the details.
Appropriate Content for Merchandising in Blogs
First off, you don’t have to promote products in each blog post. Blogs are mainly about attracting new customers, building relationships, and even SEO. Merchandising is only a secondary goal, incorporated in a case-by-case basis.Blogs are about attracting new customers & building a brand. Merchandising in blogs is only a secondary goal. Click To Tweet
That said, blogs can still be a powerful sales tool, depending on how you do it. For blogs that are designed to attract new customers, generate traffic, or boost SEO, you’ll want to use a subtle strategy: content related to the product.
Let’s say you’re an online activewear retailer. If you’re writing a post about choosing the right mountain-climbing equipment based on your skill level, then it’s acceptable to promote one of your products in context to the article. If, however, you’re posting about one mountain climber’s harrowing tale of survival, a product endorsement would come off as spammy.
Writing for the Design Sponge, marketing consultant and author for entrepreneurs April Bowles-Olin boils down the ideal blogging content strategy for eCommerce sites into two steps:
First, you have to figure out what types of people are in your ideal market. For instance, the eco-friendly jewelry business above might target fashionable women aged 20 to 40 who are passionate about environmental issues.
Second, you have to come up with posts that will appeal to your target market, help them solve their problems and give them valuable information. The eco-friendly jeweler might write the following posts:
- 10 Eco-Friendly Gift Ideas for the Women in Your Life (In this post, she would include one of her pieces of jewelry.)
- 5 Date Night Outfits That Will Rock His World (In this post, she would put together pictures of five date night outfits and accessorize them with her jewelry.)
The M Dash, the blog for the women’s clothing retailer MM.LaFleur, does this well. They feature articles with genuinely helpful content that both customers and non-customers alike are interested in, such as styling tips for different occasions, as well as general career tips for women.
Source: MM.LaFleur: The M Dash
Whenever it’s relevant, they include large product images that link directly to the site’s product page. The example above comes from the post Lawyers on Their Interview Outfits: 13 Tips for Nailing It. Notice how not every tip has a corresponding product endorsement — keeping their self-promotion sparse ensures the focus stays on the content.
Best Methods for Mentioning Products in Blogs
In addition to content, you also must be careful of the form your product mentions take. Product blocks, product carousels, or even just an inline link can lead to a sale if used at the right place and time.
1. Inline Links for Products and Product Categories
Just in case it’s not obvious, you should always use an inline textual link to the product page if you mention the product in your post.
What’s often forgotten, however, if that this same tactic is just as effective with product categories.
First, since they’re broader, product categories are a lot easier to mention naturally in a text. The opportunity to discuss makeup is more likely than the opportunity to discuss Smokey Green Eye Shadow. Also, the general product category is more closely related to the topic of the blog, which is what the reader is interested in anyway. More often than not, the reader will also be interested in this type of product.
Second, because you’re not trying to sell a specific product, it seems less pitchy. There’s less pressure to buy, just browse — which as we all know is conducive to buying anyway. It’s non-specific nature also engages the user’s imagination. How big is their selection? Do they offer the product I’ve been looking for?
Whether they direct to a product or category page, any internal links will help your SEO, in additional to attracting interested customers.
Source: Home DepotInternal links will help your SEO, in additional to attracting interested customers. #eCommerce Click To Tweet
In a blog post called Cozy, Folk Art-Style Fall Decorations for the Home and Garden, Home Depot incorporates links to both specific products and broad categories as the writer casually explains how she built her seasonal DIY decorations.
Notice how the links don’t upset the flow of the content. The author is telling her story and giving instructions, and the links are secondary. To keep this natural rhythm of your writing, create the first draft without worrying about links, and then add them to the existing text afterward. The more you have to change to incorporate a link, the more contrived the content becomes.
2. Related Products Section
A step above inline texts, but just as unobtrusive, is to put them in a separate section at the end of a post. These sections give interested customers the quick link option without upsetting the visitors who are just there for the content. You often see them listed under names like “Products Featured in this Article” — or even “Related products” to showcase more items than were mentioned — but there are variations like “Get the Look” for clothing links in photoshoot posts. They feature a series of visual cards with product information, enticing images, and of course links to the product page.
A best practice for this tactic is that it can be used together with the other methods we mentioned. A section like this acts as a final summation of buying options, relevant sales choices listed in one easy-to-find place, in case you forgot or missed something. This enhances the other tactics, not replaces them.
Another best practice is to implement the carousel or slider technique to encourage browsing and show more products. The Nielsen Norman Group explains the pros/cons about photo carousels in general and gives some good advice on using them.Learn how to use photo carousels to promote your #eCommerce products in your content marketing. Click To Tweet
3. Product Blocks
Product blocks are visually styled cards that you can wrap your blog text around to advertise a product related to the content that is wrapping it. The good news is that they allow you to promote a product without interrupting the flow of the blog text. The bad news is that if designed poorly they can have the same impact as a bad ad, making it hard to continue reading the post and annoying the user enough that they bounce off your site.
Product blocks should be self-contained cards that display all the relevant information the shopper needs to know. However, they should also be small enough that they’re not too distracting.
Source: Archie Rose
The amount of details you include in your product block is up to you, but remember they should be smaller enough that they don’t distract from the blog. Aside from the name and photo, you might also include:
- Product name
- Notifications about any sales or discounts
- Product description
- Attention-grabbing call-to-action
- Social media shares
Source: Mr. Porter
Mr. Porter goes all out in their product block because the content of the blog post is “Which Coat is Right for You.” This interactive, stimulating, and visually dominating feature lets readers browse their selection more conveniently while reading the blog’s descriptions. A post on this topic is geared to people who are more open to browsing products, so this attention is justified.
Since you’re investing a large portion of the screen to it, product blocks work best when you want to add extra emphasis to the product, as if the post revolves around it. If, however, the product is only mentioned in passing, then more subtle methods are better.
How to Incorporate Editable Elements to Promote Products in Your Blog
Many eCommerce platforms have limited content management system (CMS) capabilities, and even those that do provide decent content management can require some custom code in order to integrate product and other promotional elements into your blog.
If you’re using LemonStand as your eCommerce platform, our full-featured built-in CMS let’s you easily integrate elements like product blocks, inline links and other promotional content into your blog posts and other web pages using shortcodes. These handy macros let you display and customize these elements, with built in classes to make basic styling easy. And of course like all things LemonStand, web designers have the ability to create completely custom styles in your theme.With @LemonStand you can easily integrate product blocks, links & other promotional content into your blog. Click To Tweet
Our goal is to make it as easy as possible to promote your products within your content marketing efforts. This includes inline product links, with and without pricing, as well as rich product blocks. Here’s an example of what a shortcode for the hockey skates product block shown in the image below would look like:
[ product-block: hockey-skates-5000, left, "BUY NOW" ]
For more information, read our documentation on embedding products with shortcodes.
We also make it easy to create completely custom promotional content blocks (we call them widget blocks) using WYSIWYG tools that can be integrated into a blog post or other page content using a shortcode. And of course, more advanced web designers can still edit the HTML and CSS code. Once you’ve perfected your widget, it’s a simple task to embed it using a shortcode. Here are a couple of examples to give you a sense of how you would use them:
[ widget: site-sale-banner ] - To embed a site sale ad
[ widget: signup-form ] - To include a signup form
Our documentation on widget blocks shows how to create and customize them in more detail.
In general, blogs are an ideal way to help shepherd customers through each stage of the sales funnel. Knowing where/when/and how to place a link to the product page and promote products on your blog is just one part of the longer journey. For more on the best practices for using blogs and other types of content to boost sales, read our Complete Guide to Content Types for eCommerce.