A blog can be an excellent tool to drive traffic, interact with customers, and cultivate brand equity. There are many ways to approach your blog, but one purpose should anchor your content strategy: Providing value to your visitors.
You do not need to sell directly to customers to make an impact on your business, and you should never write content simply to get to the top of Mount Google for a particular search term. Instead, focus solely on creating valuable, interesting, useful information for customers. Sales will come as a residual effect of helping your customers solve their own problems and by building trust as an expert in the industry.
Ready to jump in now? Here are five types of blog posts that will add valuable content and build credibility for your eCommerce presence.
The How-To Blog Post
How-to blog posts guide your customers through a process, step by step. Here’s my own how-to for writing a how-to post:
- Keep them easy to skim through. Use numbers and bullets to increase readability.
- Include visuals, like photos and graphics, to illustrate complex areas.
- Provide concise, easy-to-follow instructions. Don’t use 100 words when 10 will do.
- Use conversational language. Keep it simple and fight the urge to overuse the thesaurus.
If you rely on that wise old advice to “Write what you know,” inspiration for your next how-to post could be as close as your desk or product shelf. For example, say your industry is makeup. Your how-to post could be “How To Properly Apply Makeup Highlighter.” You could outline how to select a liquid highlighter, what brushes to use, and how to apply it to your skin.
“How to” is a very common search term, so you can expect these useful posts to catch on quick. These types of posts should be pretty lengthy and should over-explain the topic, so that both beginners and experts will understand it.
Be careful with linking to your own products in your blog posts. Feel free to pepper in a few of your own SKUs—if those SKUs directly relate to the content at hand. In other words, don’t try to sell foot cream in a blog post about eye highlighter. Use your best judgment without spamming your hard-earned traffic.
The Comparison Blog Post
Comparison posts can be extremely effective for selling products or services in a saturated market. When many options are at hand, customers naturally filter through each option available to find the one that suits them best. What better way to attract comparison shoppers than with a comparison post?
The comparison post adds value by matching apples to apples and simplifying the purchasing decision. To write a good comparison post, find a company with an offering that matches, or almost matches, one of yours, and then compare them point-by-point…
Take a look at a blog post I wrote about The Difference Between Magento 1 and Magento 2. Currently, Magento sells two versions of Magento Enterprise Edition. One version was released recently and the other a legacy product. Both versions are great in their own right, but each has small variations to cater to merchants who need different feature sets.
Note that the goal of my comparison post (see above) was not to smack talk one version or the other, but rather to guide readers in determining which version is best for them. Some merchants might be great candidates for Version 1 and some are ready for Version 2. To maintain the credibility of your blog, it’s important to never slander a competitor, no matter how superior your product is. A good rule of thumb is to focus on how the products or services are different, not how yours are better.
Here are some examples of positive benefits you could point out:
- Our products are manufactured in the United States.
- Our product mix is over X amount.
- We provide 50% of the jobs in our rural area of the country.
- Our customer service success rate is 99% satisfaction.
- Our return policy is 100% hassle-free to ensure you get the right product.
- Our knowledge of the industry is deep. We have 20 years’ experience.
Important Note: Don’t build your comparisons around product pricing, because price fluctuates, especially in eCommerce. You have sales, you raise prices, etc. Also, check and re-check your sources!
If you can clearly identify a few key differentiators between your offerings and that of your competition, your readers will feel more attached to your brand. Being positive and honest builds credibility, so keep your comparison posts truthful and all will be fine.
The Cheat Sheet Blog Post
Cheat sheets are akin to how-to posts; the value for both lies in their function as a reference for your readers. Cheat Sheet posts deliver a smaller piece of information, often to a niche market. Keep them short, so your readers can bookmark them and check the information at a glance when they need to.
This is a great example of a cheat sheet post from MakeAWebsiteHub.com.
As you can see, it’s an easy reference to determine the best image size for social media platforms. They use infographics to consolidate a lot of information onto one page, making it easier for visitors to get that information quickly. This blog post is obviously aimed at digital marketers and merchants running social media accounts, and it becomes a direct source of consolidated traffic for that niche audience. If this company offered Social Media services, they could pepper a few ads in the sidebars or collect leads with a link to a contact form They’ve already cemented themselves as an expert in the space, provided a valuable resource without asking for something in return, and made themselves approachable with a subtle contact form. It will be very easy to convert that visitor to a future sale.
Some Cheat Sheet post ideas for eCommerce merchants:
- Fashion merchants: Easy office-to-date night looks
- Kitchen suppliers or food merchants: A recipe and shopping list for your next dish
- Marketing managers or internet retailers: Social media calendar
- Outdoor goods suppliers: What to pack for your next camping adventure
- Gift purchasing sites: List of 2016 holidays
The Case Study Blog Post
The case study blog post seems like a lost gem, probably due to the depth of the content required and how long it takes to write a great piece. The goal of a case study post is to tell an in-depth story about a particular product, service, or customer interaction from the customer’s perspective. The brilliance of a case study post stems from the Story Brand Framework which focuses on real-world examples of how a product played a part in a wider story. The product serves a story about people; the story is not about the product.
Case study posts are valuable in their practicality and emotional appeal. Instead of throwing a haymaker punch and saying “Buy our product because it’s awesome!” you can describe a specific example of a customer using the item to solve their problem or create an experience.
Take CrossFit for example. CrossFit has cultivated a culture of giving back, telling the athlete success stories and crediting that success not to the CrossFit workout program, but to the athlete’s sweat, tears, and hard work. CrossFit recently put out an amazing case study video about a guy named Ivan.
The case study introduces Ivan as a man with many hardships in his past, and a lot of bad life choices he made to cope. His life changed when he met a gym owner and worked up the courage to ask her to train him. He worked hard from the start, but along the way, he decided to get lap-band surgery. His trainer talked him out of it by encouraging him to focus on accomplishing his goals on his own.
Over the next few years, Ivan lost a total of 150 pounds. He accomplished his goal by using the CrossFit program, but the video tells a story that’s all about Ivan’s hard work and personal attitude, not CrossFit.With the help of CrossFit—notice I didn’t say because of it—Ivan felt amazing, got healthy, and accomplished many of his goals.
The Expert Blog Post
A good way to demonstrate value to your readers is to display a depth of product and industry knowledge they can’t get from your competition. By using Expert blog posts to share your secrets and tips with the world, you’ll establish yourself as not just a product or service merchant, but a knowledge merchant as well.
Take a camping and outdoor supply eCommerce shop, for instance. A rookie marketer would simply say, “Buy your tent here because we have the lowest prices!” But price-driven marketing strategies aren’t sustainable or scalable in the long run. Instead, invest time in thinking about how the average customer would go about buying a tent, how people use tents, and then supply information that only a specialist would know.
You can even mold your how-to or checklist posts into expert posts. For example, say this is your checklist for camping supplies:
- Inflatable pillow
- Water jug
- Trail mix & jerky
- A biolite, plus accessories
Use your Expert post to address details for each. Explain what kind of material is best for specific seasons or environments. Detail how and where to hang a hammock, how to determine the best size, how high to hang it, and how to easily pack it up in the morning. That kind of information is extremely valuable for both experienced campers and novices alike. It will not only give you an opportunity to link to specific hammocks in your shop; it’ll also help each customer find the right hammock for them, which will lead to more satisfied customers overall. And satisfied customers are return customers.
If you’re one of those people who can talk for days about your passion, this is the post type for you. Even if you can’t write extensively on a topic yourself, you can reach out to people who are experts and interview them for the topic. If I were to go camping, I’d go to my Gauge coworker Amy, because I know she has a lot of camping experience and I trust her opinion. You can build that credibility on your blog as well, and become the expert your customers go to for advice. As an added benefit, this tactic almost guarantees that your expert will share your post with all of their friends, family, and social following. (Score for an upsell!)
Words to blog by: Sharing useful and valuable content builds trust, and trust is a powerful asset for your business.
Well there you have it, my Five Types of Blog Posts To Help Grow Your Traffic. If you have any questions or stories about how you used these ideas, please leave a comment below. Can’t wait to hear from you guys and see these ideas in action!
Senior Project Manager / MBA