When it comes to content strategy, different types of content are the different tools in your toolbox. You have to know when and how to use each one, otherwise you’ll try to hammer a nail with a screwdriver.
This piece acts as a complete reference guide to the types of content at your disposal for constructing the content strategy for your online store. Each entry includes a description, a list of advantages, some best practices, and a telltale example.
Think of this guide as a quick-reference catalog for different types of content, to help make sure you always make the best choice for whatever your content strategy calls for.
Blogs and Articles
The most popular and versatile type of content, blogs and articles, are like the gold standard for content. They can be used at almost any stage of the sales funnel, and can range from informative to strictly entertaining. You can even guest-post your blogs on other sites to spread your brand to new audiences.
Blogs can cover a variety of formats: breaking news posts, how-to guides, references guides, and even editorials or opinion pieces. Because they can be so informative, blogs are a great way to establish yourself an authority on your niche, as we explained in How to Apply Content Strategy to Each Stage of the Sales Funnel.
Moreover, blogs are great for SEO. They’re a wealth of words that, in the right hands, can be tailored to attract the attention of search engines. According to a Writtent list of statistics, companies that blog have an average of 434% more indexed pages. The same page also cited that blogs that post daily also get five times more traffic than blogs that post weekly or less.
- Versatile — any format or tone
- Boost SEO
- Frequent informative blogs on your niche establish you as an authority
- Guest posts get your name to new audiences and improve SEO (despite the critics, online marketing expert Neil Patel still supports guest blogging)
- Produce 67% more leads on average than sites without blogs
- Provides shoppers with information that encourages a sale
Short paragraphs. A blog with lengthy blocks of text looks intimidating and can scare off readers before they even give it a chance. Pauline Cabrera gives 10 compelling reasons to keep blog paragraphs short.
Catchy titles. Often, users will decide whether or not to read a blog based on its title, especially if the title is the only information they have. Blog title writing is a skill in itself, with its own best practices.
Images. A page filled completely with text can be boring, so it’s best to break up the monotony with images. These images can also help with SEO, as long as they’re tagged properly.
Post regularly. Posting on a regular schedule creates a rhythm and encourages visitors to check back more frequently. Posting irregularly or infrequently annoys fans of your blog. Learn to keep a set publishing schedule.
The men’s clothing retailer Indochino uses their blog to establish themselves as an authority on men’s fashion. Among their topics are style advice, shopping advice, and fun quiz-like posts related to both fashion and James Bond, another popular topic among their target shopper.
Buying guides are content that answers the most commonly asked questions about buying a product or type of product. They can be written in a blog format and also as comparison charts or pricing charts. They are especially useful to eCommerce sites, as they attract new shoppers looking for assistance, establish authority on the topic, and usher shoppers further along the sales funnel.
- Uses links to direct shoppers straight to product page
- Establishes you as an authority
- Provides users with the information they need to complete a purchase
- Keeps users on-site while they research
- Attracts new shoppers searching for information
- Promotes products shoppers may not know about
Know what your shoppers are looking for. To decide what to include in your buying guide, discover what information your users want to know before making a purchase. Conduct some research of your own through user testing, interviews, or search engine research.
Target “inquisitive” SEO keywords. Buying guides are great for attracting new shoppers. Target keywords that potential customers are searching for and then provide them with that information.
As an Amazon affiliate, the fitness site Wear Action shares some of the profits from any sales they direct there. With their FitBit comparison chart, they’re able to quickly answer shoppers’ questions through a visual aid and send them straight to the product page with a single click.
Lookbooks (Product Image Galleries)
For all visual markets — but especially fashion — lookbooks, or product image galleries, are a great way to “inspire” desire in a product. Lookbooks are a series of stylistic photos depicting the product, sometimes in a collage format. Their advantage is twofold: first, the artistic nature establishes a deeper emotional connection with the shopper than basic product photos; and second, the shopper can better see the product in context.
- Entertains while aiding the shopping process
- Establishes an emotional connection with shopper
- Shows products used in context
- Strengthens brand’s reputation
- Opens opportunity for collaboration with social influencers
- Material for social media
- Improves SEO for image searches
Create an experience. Lookbooks work because they enhance the shopping experience. Play into this by designing your lookbook in the right style and tone that your shoppers are looking for (i.e., nightclub scene for sexy dresses, or friends at a park for youthful casual wear).
Showcase featured products. You can give specific products extra attention by featuring them in a lookbook, especially if you’re repurposing the photos for social media.
BB Dakota is a master of the lookbook. Their blog “Journal” features regular photoshoots of celebrities and models, shot by top-tier photographers, for content that’s as fun as it is promotional. The lookbook posts end with a Shop the Look section, which gives direct links to the featured items’ product pages.
Another core component of any content marketing strategy is social media content. Not only do social media posts promote your brand, they also synergize with your other content posts. A Facebook post can advertise your blog articles, and your blog article can include a Facebook call-to-action.
The style of posts can determine and strengthen your brand’s reputation; career advice makes you seem professionally valuable, while just-for-laughs posts make you seem relatable and funny. Moreover, a strong social media presence also provides social proof, boosts SEO, provides the opportunity for unique promotional campaigns — the benefits are countless.
- Drive traffic to the main site
- Attract new customers
- More personal relationship with customers
- Boosts SEO
- Customer research: know what types of customers your business attracts
- Promotion for sales campaigns and events
- Generate media coverage
- Social proof
- Faster response to problems or complaints
- Increases brand loyalty
- Match competitors’ social media presence
- No cost
Engage in conversations. The upper hand that social media has over other types of content is direct interaction with customers. Sure, there are comments and reviews, but response times lag compared to the immediacy of social media.
Always engage directly with customers to take advantage of the two-way conversation. This requires more than just responding to customers’ questions or complaints — it’s also about starting conversations by posing questions to your followers.
The 70-20-10 Rule. Most professional social media marketers adhere to the 70-20-10 rule for deciding which type of content to post:
- 70%: Relevant to brand or business, but not self-promotional. For example, a camera eCommerce site could post a lot of award-winning photography, but not product pictures of their own cameras.
- 20%: Shared. Still relevant to your niche, but doesn’t originate from you. For example, you could post industry news so your followers look to you to stay up to date. Reposting others’ content is a great way to make friends, too.
- 10%: Self-promotional. Only 10% of your posts should be direct sales pitches or promoting your own goals.
No matter what, every post on social media should be 1. relevant to your industry, and 2. relevant to your follower’s interests.
Focus on the platforms with your demographics. Different social media platforms attracts different demographics, so invest more in the ones with your ideal shoppers. Here are some statistics from Jennifer Khumalo at Merrie Marketing:
- Facebook: Ages 25-54 (60% female)
- Twitter: Ages 18-29
- Pinterest: Ages 18-35 (80% female)
- YouTube: All ages
- LinkedIn: Ages 30-49
- Instagram: Ages 18-29
- Google+: Ages 25-34 (67% male)
Campaigns that encourage user involvement. Social media opens a lot of doors for creative campaigning, as Starbucks proved with their famous White Cup Contest. Offer some incentive for users to engage with your social media, whether a coupon code for becoming a follower, or a contest for publishing content with one of your products.
Lean on visuals. Social media feeds favor visuals, and posts with images get 94% more views. To step up the use of visuals in your social media posts, read these 6 tips from Donna Moritz at Socially Sorted.
Don’t underestimate Instagram. Instagram works especially well with eCommerce as a means to promote both the brand and individual products. Read our earlier post to learn 6 ways to maximize an eCommerce site’s impact with Instagram.
Use a posting tool. Knowing when to post is a skill by itself, not to mention there’s always a risk of forgetting. Tools like Buffer or Edgar helping schedule and post for you, so nothing slips through the cracks. All you have to do is input your own posts, and they’ll publish it on their own.
Given GoPro’s product line, almost all of its social media content is videos. Their YouTube channel has several successful subchannels divided by subject, including extreme sports, American football, animals, and even their own user-submitted award selections to promote engagement.
Since they first started receiving attention around 2010, infographics have steadily risen in popularity. Their usefulness lies in expressing complex data in a manner that’s fast, processible, and even fun. They also benefit the companies that make them: on average, businesses that market with infographics see a 12% traffic increase.
More than just a visual aid, infographics make otherwise bland data like statistics into something entertaining and easier-to-digest. Their potential affords them a degree of creativity in addition to providing genuinely useful information. On top of that, they’re easy to share and go viral, making them a nice addition to the right brands’ content strategy.
- Provides customers with information they need
- Establishes you as an authority
- Easily shareable and embeddable
- Increases new traffic and brand recognition
Narrative flow. The beauty of infographics is they’re more entertaining than just citing facts and data. Design yours with a coherent narrative flow, for example, divide it into topical sections that each build on the previous one.
Promote it. Your infographic will require an extra push to get it passed around and shared. Neil Patel gives some suggestions to get your infographic viral:
- SEO-laden release post
- Structured social media releases
- Manual outreach to influencers and key players in your industry
- Submit your infographic to directories:
Use time-saving tools. You don’t need to be a Photoshop expert to create an effective infographic. These 10 free tools let you make visually stunning infographics using template- and generator-style time-savers.
The bridal eCommerce store Weddington Way handles infographics smartly. They target a relevant topic that many of their shoppers — especially men planning to propose — have questions about. Even though they don’t sell diamond rings, this infographic still attracts the attention of their target clientele: people planning weddings.
Podcasts are just another way to offer your expertise to your target audience, just like blogs or infographics. But the important thing to remember is that different people have different preferences — some prefer to reading, others prefer listening. You don’t have to choose between visual, textual, and audio content; it’s better to have them all to attract all types of shoppers.
Think of podcasts as an episodic variation of talk radio. A podcast for an eCommerce site might feature a charismatic host discussing industry news or topics, or interviewing relevant guests, in periodic instalments.
Not only are podcasts becoming increasingly popular each year, but marketers are investing more in this format due to their unique audience: studies show podcast listeners tend to be well-educated and also use social media more.
- Establishes you as an authority
- Targets specific type of customer with affinity for social sharing and greater income
- Repeat traffic anticipating new episodes
Right equipment. The content of your podcast won’t matter if your microphone makes it indecipherable. You don’t need to break the bank for a sufficient microphone, as long as you shop wisely.
Structure each episode. Structuring a podcast is a little more difficult than other types of content because most people don’t have the experience with audio programming than, say, writing an article. Stephanie Ciccarelli of Voices.com prescribes this outline for a standard 20 minute form:
- 30-60 sec.: Specific show intro — who you are and what this episode is about.
- 30-60 sec.: Show jingle or theme song.
- 3 min.: Topic 1
- 3 min.: Topic 2
- 30 sec.: Interlude (music, advertisement, etc.)
- 3 min.: Topic 3
- 3 min.: Topic 4
- 2 min.: Closing remarks — thank yous and a preview of next episode.
- 2 min.: Closing jingle or theme song.
Not all podcasts should be 20 minutes. The ideal length depends on the subject matter, the audience, and the frequency of your posts.
Trial runs. Especially if you have no experience in radio or public speaking, you’ll want to do a few trial runs before launching your first podcast. This will help you solidify your style and tone, plus knock out any technical kinks.
Submit to iTunes. iTunes is one of the best ways to get your podcast heard. Read these guidance suggestions from iTunes itself to make sure your podcast is suitable for submission.
Include a transcript. To increase your SEO and appeal to shoppers who prefer reading and browsing over the commitment of listening, include a transcript of each episode within the post. For a fee, a service like Transcribe Team can handle this for you.
By selling a product that’s also periodical — not to mention highly debatable — Midtown Comics will never run out of topics for their podcasts. Each week they discuss the new comic releases and sometimes bring on writers and artists to join the discussion, with the comics they discuss available to buy on their site. Notice the link directly above the podcast to the Batman comic they’re discussing in this episode.
The Guardian once wrote: “Video is the future of content marketing. That is, if it’s not the here and now.” Their bold claim was backed by Cisco, whose research proclaimed that videos will account for 69% of all consumer internet traffic by 2017.
Modern and highly visual, video content has a reach unlike any other content. It’s incredibly flexible in subject matter, style, and length, making them suitable for virtually any marketing goals or industry. How-to guides, regular series, product videos, even cat videos can all give your brand the benefits it needs.
- Attract new business
- Strengthen bonds with existing customers
- Deeper emotional bonds
- Can be repurposed on a variety of platforms
- Shows products in action
- Easily shareable on social media
Product videos. Regardless of your overall content marketing strategy, every eCommerce site should have product videos. The statistics are overwhelmingly positive:
- 73% more shoppers will buy after watching a video.
- 71% of shoppers believe videos explain products better.
- 58% of shoppers view companies with product videos as more trustworthy.
For more advice on product videos, read our previous post Why Serious eCommerce Brands Need a Content Strategy.
How-to videos. How-to guides establish your brand as an authority, no matter if they’re written or filmed. Some procedures are just explained better on video than in text, and some audiences (such as younger groups) prefer videos.
Include a transcript. Because search engines aren’t yet as skilled at handling video as text, including a transcript of your video boosts your SEO. Plus, it appeals to some users who prefer reading to watching.
Makeup is, of course, an industry steeped in visuals. That’s why the cosmetic webstore Jane Iredale has an entire page of makeup video tutorials. This is a sought-after topic for loyal and new customers alike, and the site brings in new traffic simply by providing resources people are searching for.
More often than not, each video gives the brand a chance to feature specific products, which are highlighted in a split-screen next to the action.
While a little different than the other types of content marketing on this list, email marketing is still a worthwhile avenue — especially for eCommerce, where it accounted for over 7% of customer acquisition in 2013. Moreover, 33% of consumers cite email as their biggest influence in online spending.
Email serves a variety of purposes. For starters, it can be a source of communicating directly to your shoppers about new deals or campaigns, even with personalized recommendations. A newsletter with broader range keeps your entire customer base informed on periodic updates and can entice sales through specialty coupons.
At a more advanced level, emails can even be used to collect customer data; for example, you can email a shopper about why they abandoned their cart to improve your site design in the future.
- Direct communication with shopper
- Customer segmentation for more accurate targeting
- High personalization levels
- Customizable for different stages of sales funnel
- Low cost
- Synchronized to other channels, like your blog and social media
Subject line. Statistically, the subject line has the greatest impact on the success of an email marketing campaign. There are a lot of intricacies to consider when composing a subject line, so read John McIntyre’s piece at the Digital Marketer for a thorough treatment.
Personalization. Take advantage of email’s capability for personalization. For example, look at what the customer has bought in the past and customize their recommendations. Some areas to look into for speaking to specific customers:
- Products browsed and purchased
- Usual price ranges
- Frequently visited categories
- Geographic location
- Date of last order
Transactional “series” emails. As opposed to the direct emails that are sent to everyone, transactional emails are sent only when triggered by a customer’s action (or lack-thereof). These types of emails are also personalized, and therefore more effective. Crush Campaigns recommends these 4 series campaigns:
- Welcome — Whenever a new customer registers or signs up for a newsletter, send them a welcome letter thanking them and reiterating the advantages.
- Follow Up — One of the most important types of emails, a follow-up after a purchase is the perfect opportunity to elicit the ever-so-valuable product reviews and ratings. Try to time your email around the time of the product’s delivery, when their excitement is at its height.
- Abandoned Cart — If the user has placed an item in the cart and then abandoned it, send a friendly reminder as a way to encourage a sale, or use the chance to collect user data about why they decided against buying.
- We Miss You — When a customer hasn’t bought anything in awhile, try to entice them with a special coupon, free shipping, or personalized recommendations for new products.
Playing into the Pokemon Go trend and the knowledge that most of their customers are likely gamers, Firebox’s timely Pikachu-themed email offers to solve Pokemon Go player’s number one problem: the game drains their phone battery. After grabbing the reader’s attention with a colorful representation of the game’s iconic character, the email offers battery chargers to solve the user’s biggest problem without them even asking.
Are there any specific types of content you’d like to know more about that weren’t listed here? Mention them in the comments and we’ll include some information about them in future posts.