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How your store can create a competitive advantage via compelling content
  • Nov 20, 2020
  • 10 minutes

How your store can create a competitive advantage via compelling content

No matter what you sell in your online store, you have multiple competitors selling the exact same products online - and they're only one click away! Why should a prospective customer buy something from you and not from Amazon? Or from your distinguished competition? Let's assume that your prices are competitive, that you have the product in stock, and that can ship the box. How do you add value as a retailer with this much online competition? One extremely effective way is to leverage your product knowledge to the Web. You know more about what you sell than 99.9% of visitors to your website. Add value to your online store by guiding prospective customers through the maze of decisions that folks sometimes have to make when buying something somewhat complicated.

Creating unique and compelling content is a lot of work. When I speak at search marketing and e-commerce conferences, I get a lot of resistance from fellow retailers when I encourage them to write unique content for their product pages. Why? Probably because writing content is a lot of work. I'm a retailer, too. I get it. Retailers are busy. Retailers don't have enough time in the day to take care of customers, shipping, suppliers, and employees - and do the routine day-to-day - much less sit around and brainstorm unique product descriptions. Some years ago I changed the way we approached selling online when the growth stopped due to an influx of new competitors. Instead of simply offering products for sale, I took a proactive approach and recommended that customers buy specific products to solve problems in specific situations. Over the next six years, this one major change increased my sales by an additional $10 million dollars.

Sharing this information is not a competitive advantage! The primary reason I share real numbers is to show folks that this approach really works. Unfortunately, my competitors have started to pick up on it, too, which means I should be working on my stores instead of writing for you guys, but having good competitors drive you to do your best is a good thing! And I don't always tell folks every little thing we do.

Where do you start creating content? How much do you write? These are my two guidelines:

1. Best selling products. Start with your best selling products and work your way down the list so your best products get the most attention.

2. Higher ticket items. Write a paragraph of unique text for each $10 in an item's price, so you create more content for higher ticket items.

Creating content one page at a time:

1. Budget your resources.

2. Prioritize your products. Start with your best-sellers

3. Have a checklist of text needed for each level of product

4. Work your way down the list.

5. Use templates and automation to bake in SEO-friendly writing for lower-level products

6. Track changes over time with your analytics to see results.

Budgeting resources for creating content

Creating content is a full-time job, but that doesn't mean you can't split it up between multiple people in your company. If you have an hour a day, that's 5 hours a week times 50 weeks or 250 hours a year to create content. I tend to write product content in spurts, concentrating on a new product launch for a week or so before the product ships, or focusing on a specific part of an SEO project like getting Title tags written for all the normal products at one time, or seeing which products need customer reviews instead of working on one specific product at a time.

Yet another way is to take an imaginary person-year of 2,000 hours (40 hours a week x 50 weeks) and divvy up your content resources as a percentage of gross profits. Your top-shelf products will get days' worth if not weeks' worth of content time allocated, but use that to write category-wide buyer's guides or full-line product reviews for all the products in a given category. What if you don't have the staff, but have some extra money? Take 1% of last year's online sales of a product, and budget that for online content creation for that specific product. Outsource some of your content creation. Textbroker.com is a great source for relatively inexpensive writing, and the 5-star writers are as good as any I've worked with in the past 15 years.

Prioritizing products with profit in mind

When you have thousands of products in your online store, where should you start optimizing? There's only so much time in the day. Check out the 80/20 rule.  The Pareto Principle (also known as the 80/20 rule) can help you here. For most retailers, 20% of their products produce 80% or even 90% of their online sales. Focus even further to allocate time and energy towards products generating the most net profit (not revenue or pageviews). I rank my most popular, best-selling products but I re-rank them by gross profit margin. I take Revenue Per Visitor for each product page and then multiply that times gross margin on that product to get Gross Profit Per Visitor. Once you have this prioritized list, you then need to decide what content you want to create for product pages.

Making a content checklist and checking it twice

All products were not created equal. What's the difference to your bottom line between a 10% increase in the sales of your best-selling SKU compared to triple the sales of a normal product in the middle of your list? Focus on your winners. That's where the real upside is. Chase the hundred dollar bills, not nickels and dimes. Better performers need more different kinds of content than the middle of the road or the bottom of the barrel. For most stores I work on, I have three levels of products: top-shelf products, normal products, and backfill Datafeed items (slow-selling products that I call "bottom feeders") - and they all have different content needs.

1. Top shelf products need the full treatment:

* Compelling sales content with a headline + subhead

* Unique product descriptions

* Page summaries (abstract)

* Hand-written SEO elements (Titles, Meta Descriptions, Link Text)

* Custom copywriting fields like Grabbers, Differentiators, Short-name, and Alt-name

* Custom product-based text fields: range, warranty, accessories, etc.

* Multiple-product pictures

* Videos demonstrating the product

* Links to manufacturer content

* Customer reviews for that SKU

* Buyer's guide for that product category

* Comprehensive line review for new product launches

2. Normal products need much less content.

* Unique category and subcategory page text

* Unique product NAME (for Title tags)

* Unique product description (usually simply rewriting the manufacturer's copy works)

* Baked-in SEO elements using our Yahoo! Store templates

3. Slow-selling products usually have a minimum level of content, even for the lowest products in a data feed.

* Unique text on the subcategory pages for SEO reasons

* Manufacturer's description (copy and pasted)

Usually, this will have to do until the product moves the sales needle enough to get my attention. These products are pretty low in our site's hierarchy, with little to no PageRank, so they don't appear in the Google index, and are usually only sold as add-ons to browsers or folks using our internal search tool.

Content generates revenue by increasing traffic and conversions

This stuff works! Writing compelling content about how a particular product will benefit your customers converts more browsers into buyers. Writing unique product descriptions relevant to the products you sell drives more search engine traffic to your online store. More traffic and a higher conversion rate translate into dollars in your pocket. It's really that simple.

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