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Meaty Content On An E-commerce Site


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#1 RisaBB

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Posted 10 October 2011 - 10:36 PM

Hi All,

I can't believe it's been almost 5 years that I started this thread, Isn't Content On An E-commerce Site Just Fluff?. Bragadocchio's response (Bill's Blues) became classic. There was input from a lot of great minds on the topic.

Since then, I've been adding a lot of content to my site. Some of the articles, I think, are 'best of the web.'

There is one particular article that has consistently been the top landing page on my site. It gets 3x as many page views as my home page. It's about the symbolism of a product that I sell. I have links to those products I sell. It's my top entry page and my top exit page. People who are doing searches are really just interested in information and have no intention of buying the products I link to. I tried adsense on that page for a few weeks, but that just went against me. That is not how I am monetizing my site. I guess it's nice to have these articles to make a nice wholesome site about products, and related history, holidays, etc., but are they really doing anything for me?

I also spend the time writing detailed descriptions of the products and take photos and have started taking videos, so it's not like I have a 'cookie cutter' site and need these articles to set me apart. I could be of the mindset that while people come for an informational article, they look around while they are there, but these people aren't buying. It's clouding my statistics. My visitors are going up because of this article. So while I can say, "Woo Hoo!" to increased visitors, sales otherwise aren't increasing with the increased visitors.

So, should I still be plugging along making content still a priority for my website? There are really a lot of other things I can do with my time that might have a better ROI.

Thanks, all!

Risa

Edited by RisaBB, 11 October 2011 - 08:58 AM.


#2 DCrx

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Posted 11 October 2011 - 02:43 AM

So, should I still be plugging along making content still a priority for my website?



That this is a question, explains much.

Spend your time elsewhere. It's not that a content focus won't work. But to approach it as the overwhelming majority do, then no -- it's just a waste of time.

A content driven approach is a mindset. And so is "content is just filler." They are antithetical to each other. You will always find a way to make what you do (content creation) consistent with your belief (content is fluff/filler). Even if that means self sabotage.

Too much time is wasted making square pegs fit round holes.

A content approach can work. But not everyone can make it work for them.

Edited by DCrx, 11 October 2011 - 03:18 AM.


#3 jonbey

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Posted 11 October 2011 - 03:02 AM

Maybe people are finding the page because they are shopping around? Maybe put up a big shiney banner with offers on where you tried the adsense would work better - if it is possible to provide offers / if there are any.

Is it possible that some people land on the page and think that it is just information and there is no product linked up?

#4 jonbey

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Posted 11 October 2011 - 03:11 AM

But .... take a look at this:

"The more articles (content) you have, the more likely you are to catch visitors looking for things you're selling" - Pierre / eKsteme.

Is this what started all the content farms? Was it Pierre's fault? Was this a cunning plan to land a new job with a top search engine a few year later to help stop spammy article sites? Hmmmmm. :naughty:

#5 copywriter

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Posted 11 October 2011 - 07:50 AM

Content for the sake of content is never very productive, IMO.

What keywords are these visitors using to find this page? Perhaps optimizing for keywords that have different buyer intent would be wise.

If the article isn't converting, you could keep testing but I would turn the majority of your focus elsewhere.

#6 EGOL

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Posted 11 October 2011 - 09:08 AM

When I read your description I wanted to run to the window, throw up the sash as hard and I can, lean back to take a very deep breath and then stick my head out and yell.... WOOOOHOOOOOOO! Way to go Risa! Yowwwieee!

It sounds like your content is really really successful.

I don't think that you should be disappointed if most of the people leave. Some of them might "like" your page... some of them might "tweet" about it... some might even "link" from their blog...

These can be beneficial to the rest of your site.

If you have best-on-the-web content for these subjects then those things should happen at least occasionally. And those actions should help the rankings of your site and perhaps set your site in the memory of a few visitors. I think that building great content just for these benefits can be worthwhile.

Let's consider the value of these pages....

Can you say for a fact that these pages result in zero sales? Zero? Have you tried tracking a visitor from these pages and into your shopping cart?

If you are getting just one sale per month from these information pages think about the math. If you make $20 profit per sale and these pages are up for five years then they will yield $1200 in profit. So, if you spent 12 hours on that article it will make you $100/hour.

These pages are just like zero cost sales staff. If you had a jewelry store in the mall, how many people would walk through, take a little bit of your time and walk out without buying? But those people might come back if you make a good impression. Those people might come through looking at rings many many times and then finally stop and buy one. Each visit required a little bit of your time to greet them... but they bought nothing.

Then add the link, like, tweet, share benefit and that page is really valuable.

Also, if these pages are not getting people to your sales pages maybe it has something to do with the presentation.... You say... "I have links to those products".... OK... but maybe you need an image... with a sales pitch..... "Get one of these! :) ".

The presentation can make all of the difference. Something else that can make a difference is the items that you are offering for sale and their price. Maybe if you had less expensive items you would sell more? Maybe if you had a book for sale the information hounds visiting your site would buy it? Lots of variables to consider.

You said that the adsense "worked against you"... Did that mean that your sales dropped? That means these pages were yielding some sales. Also, if the adsense didn't earn much it could be the color or the format or the placement.

" It's clouding my statistics. "

The statistics from info pages are very different from those of retail pages.... but those statistics can be very valuable.... but who cares about them, really.

I understand that you need to make an economic decision... before you do that consider the long term value of these content pages and the overall impact that they might have on your rankings and the stature and reputation of your site. Also, ask if you can do anything different that will steer these people to buying pages or present the ads in a way that elicits clicks.

What has the trajectory of your site been? Is traffic growing? Are sales growing? If the answer is "yes" then maybe you are on the right track... if no, or the rate of growth is very very slow then maybe you are just in a slow niche.

I've rambled a lot but really the answer to the questions you ask are hard to give. It is very possible that you are in a niche with such a low sales volume that the articles are not worth the time... but this same approach might work well in a different niche.

Without detailed information and knowledge about your topics its hard to say "yes" or "no".

You have been successful... but maybe missing one piece to the puzzle of getting nice sales.

#7 AbleReach

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Posted 11 October 2011 - 12:01 PM

When I read about otherwise successful article pages that don't result in conversions, the first thing I thought of was imagery. If you're ranking well for keywords, users are interested and finding you due to the words on the pages. Once they get there, what is the visual impression? Are there best-of-web images? Are your images displayed like illustrations or art, or are the images formatted more like advertisements? You might get more interest in purchasing if images on landing pages are relatively juicy.

Standards in imagery have changed since your site was new. It's possible that the next big thing for your content will be reworking the photos. Take a look at this boot on ShoeDazzle. That extreme, on-hover close-up is more and more common on sites that sell directly from the web. Most of the items on SHoeDazzle have excellent, detailed descriptions and visual suggestions for how they could be worn. All have multiple shots, including one where the item is worn by a model - great for getting a feel of scale, with the side-benefit of encouraging the user to see themselves with the item in their hot little hands.

#8 jonbey

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Posted 11 October 2011 - 01:18 PM

I guess it is simply that if you create great, informative content then people will come and read and leave again. My site is really all about content, not many of my visitors buy anything at all (I rely on display advertising). Sometimes people are after information. If someone searches for "atomic bombs" they will find an informative page OK, but unlikely to buy a bomb.

#9 iamlost

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Posted 11 October 2011 - 03:12 PM

DCrx's

So, should I still be plugging along making content still a priority for my website?


That this is a question, explains much.

is really the nub. Don't add any content without understanding 'why?'. Where does it fit with the quantifiable measurable goals of your business and the context of your visitors, etc.

What keywords are these visitors using to find this page? Perhaps optimizing for keywords that have different buyer intent would be wise.

Possibly. Or...

Is it possible that some people land on the page and think that it is just information and there is no product linked up?

Is the page written strictly as information or also as a sales or lead device?

And all that EGOL said as well.

From that original thread...

Once you have people on your site, you can guide them to the actual selling process and convert them.

Sometimes fine tuning the 'guide them' and 'convert them' parts can be finicky and time consuming; it is also why A/B testing is common and ongoing on many sites.
Note: what works with one audience segment might not with another, adding some complexity to your content creation and architecture.

Giving your users the ability to learn about your products easily is important; whatever form that information may take, it needs to be easy to find, easy to read, and thorough.

Without any content you're just selling features. Features are nothing: often they mean literally nothing to people.

With content you can be the helpful expert.

...

It's about tempting users to become buyers -- and about helping buyers.

Not everbody is ready to buy. Yet most web sites are designed around people who know what they want and are ready to buy. ...
If you can capture traffic of people who are getting ready to buy, you are competing for a segment of the market fewer competitors are targeting. But there is another reason for targeting this early.

Once you are ready to buy, you're pretty much locked on course. When you are "shopping" you are persuadable. That means you have the potential of selling a whole window treatment, not just drapes.

And there is even more good stuff than the above quoted highlights.

I could be of the mindset that while people come for an informational article, they look around while they are there, but these people aren't buying. It's clouding my statistics. My visitors are going up because of this article.

So, let's take a step back and take a second look at your comment:
* visitors are going up because of this article -> good.
* but they aren't buying -> bad
* clouding statistics -> apply filter
EXCEPT...
Are they not buying now, but
---buying later -> good
---recommending -> good
---neither -> bad.
So...
---can one alter existing copy to improve leads, testimonials, sales from that popular landing page?
---is that landing page accruing backlinks, i.e. direct referrals, or is all SE traffic?
---etc.

Regardless of that page, whether you continue with similar content creation should be decided by your business model/plan: how you plan to attract visitors, convert visitors.

#10 RisaBB

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Posted 11 October 2011 - 03:39 PM

WOW What AWESOME responses! Now I have to read it all again. and again.

Thanks, all!

Risa

#11 EGOL

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Posted 11 October 2011 - 03:44 PM

I agree with Elizabeth about the images.

Imagine a small mini store of relevant thumbnail images and links in the right column of an article page. Or a nice photo that shows several items. Nice colorful items that would make an interested visitor salivate. :)

You can make these "house" ads any size you want. Just place them where people can't miss them. You have to lure these visitors to the store.

Don't expect a 10% conversion rate or even 1%. Maybe you will get 0.1% or 0.01%. (I get about 0.01%, however my own merchandise gets secondary position to adsense which does well for most topics when it is given premier position on the page. I have tried giving my own merchandise the better position on the page but adsense has a much higher yield - a lot higher.)

#12 AbleReach

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Posted 11 October 2011 - 08:00 PM

Imagine a small mini store of relevant thumbnail images and links in the right column of an article page. Or a nice photo that shows several items. Nice colorful items that would make an interested visitor salivate.

My intuition is that that "ad" sorts of imagery might get better response under the fold on content pages. Content researchers are readers. They'll skim for relevant headings, then read if satisfied that what they want is probably there. Add-like images at the top may not interest someone who is there to read.

Above the fold and in the headings, interest the researcher.
In the written content, educate and romance the researcher.
With the images, seduce the now-romanced researcher.

Above the fold, I'd only use juicy flickr-sized images with captions -- "[symbolname]s were mentioned in the Old Testament. ~ [artist name]." Then, add a little blockquote with something related and interesting from the artist - informational, but not too much like an advertisement. In the cite, use the artist's name linked to their category in your store. Try for one image per heading and a blockquote for most. Use blockquotes that feel relevant to a researcher, with an eye to those who may eventually be interested in falling in like with the items in your images.

Under one of the later headings, you may be able to tuck in a brief testimonial-type blockquote. Let's say the item is given for luck or prosperity. Write about that under that heading, then try a blockquote like this: "My grandmother gave me a [artist] [product/symbol name] when I got my degree. I've worn it for every job interview. I imagine she's there with me, cheering me on."

For a researcher, the words in blockquotes can be like another form of imagery. Images are a way to confirm the research.

This isn't click-per-impression advertising. If it was, the Adsense or whatever could go at the top in high-click areas. Save your eyeball space for seduction via imagery and information. To draw in a research-oriented person, you have until that user is finished reading.

Ad-like blocks at the *bottom* of the page may have better click-thru than the same sort of thing at the top. A researcher will want to read.

At the bottom of the page, give researchers a choice between links to more research-friendly information and a block of thumbnails that are obviously product shots with links leading to product pages. If they're still there by then and related links within the article haven't gotten to them, a block of ads is a last-ditch attempt to encourage them to look elsewhere.

....

You'd want to experiment and keep notes. It'd be interesting to try different approaches on a few article pages, then compare user behavior.

#13 fisicx

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Posted 12 October 2011 - 03:58 AM

My 2p now.

Are you actually selling the products or just displaying them?

Is the content a wonderful description but not leading to the 'buy me' button?

I like content but I also like to home in on the key features I'm looking for. This means lists, tables, images and highlights all work better than just a well crafted paragraph or two.

Elizabeth's ideas on images are great but consider the setting - are they showing the product in situ or with a white background? Does the blurb tell me how great it would look in my home (like the4 image on the left).

Where have you put the price, the delivery details, the buy me button? how have you worded the call to action?

Sell me the product, make me want to buy. Be my friend and build trust with your words and descriptions.

And if the really popular article doesn't lead to any sales get rid of the article and 301 to a product you want to plug.

#14 RisaBB

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Posted 12 October 2011 - 08:37 AM

Thanks, all, for your detailed and passionate advice. This is why I love Cre8asite Forums.

Thanks, EGOL, for your huge enthusiasm. It made me feel inclined to keep going with adding articles to the site.

Elizabeth, right across the top of the page, like a banner, is a graphic that links to the products for sale that are related to the article. I think I will try your ideas for improving the article with additional photos, testimonials, links to other research info and my product info. I will test Iamlost's advice about fine tuning the article with better graphics, content to guide the people, applying a filter to my analytics to find the true click-paths, and thinking about how these articles fit in with my (nonexistent) business plan. Thanks for breaking down the good and bad.

Elizabeth, I might try your idea of putting some of this meaty content on the actual product pages, as well. I don't have any links from the product pages to this article (though do I want to divert people's attention from the buying process to an article?) so maybe if I add a paragraph or two to the product page, it will serve as background info/interesting content. Should I not be concerned that I would be repeating the same background info 50 times?

Fisicx - thanks for your input. I am just displaying the products for sale on this article page. You can click on them to get to the product page where you can buy them. I can't see removing this article and replacing with a 301 redirect.

Thanks so much!

Risa

#15 fisicx

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Posted 12 October 2011 - 09:17 AM

I am just displaying the products for sale on this article page.

So where is the incentive to click on the product image? Do you have some blurb that suggests these products to the reader?

Sell the products don't just display them.

Have you considered inserting the product images into the actual content, people do click on images as they are reading just to see where they go.

Consider as well the classic F. People start at the top left and read down with the occasional scan about halfway across the page to the right. Because your products are up at the top on the right the chances of my eyes doing any more than flicking across them are slim.

That's a bit more than 2p now :D

Edited by fisicx, 12 October 2011 - 09:19 AM.


#16 AbleReach

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Posted 12 October 2011 - 02:00 PM

maybe if I add a paragraph or two to the product page, it will serve as background info/interesting content. Should I not be concerned that I would be repeating the same background info 50 times?

Good point. How many slightly different ways can you say the same thing? :D

More to the point, what is slightly different about each of those 50 things? How does one compare with the other?

If you are describing a symbolic pendant that is made by more than one artist, maybe add a few words that describe differences - slightly heavier, more of a baroque feel, etc. That would also give you reasons to add keyword-rich inline links between products.

Where writing different descriptions is difficult maybe you could tuck in a little review-like note from a happy customer, or a line or two from the artist about how they chose their materials?

On the other hand, I don't think you need tons of info on a product page. Take a look at a page of jewelry on bloomingdales.com. There isn't a LOT of unique info on each - if I were shopping I'd want a little more, but it's not like I'd need the kitchen sink. I'd want to know what it does, what it's made of and how it feels.

By the way, I love the bright, white look (that gray is gorgeous with silver) and the way the over-sized thumbnails carry the page. I don't think the individual pages are as successful as ShoeDazzle's, but that group page is so very crisp and clear.

...

I'm going to disagree with fisixc a bit on the degree of selling that will probably work in an informational article, at least where you're introducing the topic. Mainly, I'd want images of what you sell to be integrated with the information, with the goal of *showing* your products to be crave-worthy examples of the symbol, made by expert craftspeople.

....

Is anyone else giddy over the prospect of experimenting with content on an active landing page?

I am such a nerd. :)

#17 EGOL

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Posted 12 October 2011 - 04:57 PM

crave-worthy examples

There it is!

About experimenting with product pages.

I have found that a 50 word description might be all that is needed to convert... but if I add a short article of 300 highly relevant words in a supplemental section below the description my rankings go up... and I get A LOT MORE traffic from the long tail.

#18 Grumpus

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Posted 05 November 2011 - 10:12 AM

I know this is going on a month old now, but... I spotted this because it's a nice nostalgia post and I was feeling a bit nostalgic today. (It also appeared on the new posts thing because of some upgrade hiccup, no doubt).

I can't believe it's been almost 5 years that I started this thread, Isn't Content On An E-commerce Site Just Fluff?. Bragadocchio's response (Bill's Blues) became classic.

[<snip>]

So, should I still be plugging along making content still a priority for my website?


For the answer to that, you only need to take another look at Bill's old post:

If I do things right, when people think of blues music on the web, they'll think of Bill's Blues.


If you're doing it right, every hit on a content page is a brand impression somewhere in the back of their mind. They may not be shopping for that stuff right now, but chances are if they found the page because they have an interest in it, that interest will also drive them to purchase that item or something in that same vein someday, sometime, somewhere.

Now, when they are doing a search for that product down the road, maybe you show up in the 4th or 5th spot - or anywhere above the fold, really. Their eyes hit all the results and, if no other factors come into play, they will likely pick the first one. But wait... the eye hits your listing and suddenly it becomes more compelling because they know the source. (This is why, despite the ever heated debates that arise and people who tell me I'm wrong, that I always suggest a site like this puts their brand stamp at the beginning of their page title. The brand tag leaves an impression for later on, even without a click).

Anyway - the point is that your articles may not drive direct sales, but they do leave a brand impression. Even more now than in 2007, social media even ups the ante here. Bob reads the Blues article and likes it. Sally posts on Twitter, Facebook, and/or Google saying, "Hey, I'm in the market for some Blues! Whatcha got?!?!" Bob sees it and remembers that your site was both informative and sold Blues stuff - so he sends her a link.

Never underestimate the power of a brand impression - especially a positive one. A hit on a product page with no sale is a brand impression, but it's probably a neutral impression. A hit on a content page with no sale is a brand impression AND a positive one (most likely). So long as you are giving them something short and consistent to attach that positive experience to (logo symbol, short string of letters like "IMDB" does with the Internet Movie Database, etc) then your work is returning on your investment, even if you aren't directly aware of it and can't really track it.

G.



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