Technical SEO

SEO: Unique Content Good for Search Engines, Good for Consumers

Unique, valuable content is a critical part of a successful SEO strategy. That is especially the case for ecommerce sites that utilize non-unique stock product descriptions from the manufacturer’s database. But, I’m often asked if there’s a faster, cheaper, free way to generate content.

No Shortcuts for Unique Content

The short answer is “no.” SEO can’t produce gold from straw. SEO performance is based on valuable content that attracts valuable links. Copying and pasting another site’s quality content into a new template with no additional unique commentary or content will not achieve lasting results. Neither will mashing the quality content from several sources into a template with no additional unique commentary or content. If an ecommerce site (or any site) aspires to lasting SEO performance, it has to give value to get value.

If the audience doesn’t get value from the content, they will not feel compelled to give value to the site in the form of links, comments, reviews, “Likes” and other forms of participation that add uniqueness or popularity to a site.

Let’s start with a definition of “content.” It’s more than long, gray fields of text. Yes, textual content it critical to setting a keyword theme to anchor rankings for the long term. But to be valuable, content also needs to be appealing to the site’s human audience.

Content to Help Consumers

Consider other forms of content. There’s helpful fitting or fashion information for apparel sites, tips on creative uses of products, infographics comparing products, content that answers the audience’s questions and needs rather than brand-focused brochureware. If a site wants the audience to open its wallets or give its time and energy to create links and engage with a brand, then that site first needs to give the audience something they want.

Typically, what the audience does not want is some piece of content pulled from another site and available on many other sites. Remember, give value to get value.

Reconsider Content that Fails

But many merchants say, “We tried that. It didn’t work.” Content creation typically fails for two reasons. Either the content wasn’t actually valuable to the audience, or the audience didn’t know it was there. If new content is plopped into the middle of a site without any fanfare or promotion, no one cares. If the content was promoted–by newsletter, by feature spots on related category pages and the home page, and by social media promotion–and the audience still didn’t care–then either the method of promotion or the content itself wasn’t valuable to the audience.

In that case, rather than giving up, consider lack of response a response in itself, and ask the following questions.

  • Was it the content or its presentation?
  • What if it was glossier looking or widgetized or more graphical, while still containing enough text to set that keyword theme?
  • What if it was promoted as a graphical button in the newsletter instead of a line at the end?
  • Failing that, what other content would be better received?

Separate Traffic Generation from Conversions

The other objection I sometimes hear is, “We did that and got lots of traffic but no conversions.” That’s good news. All that’s required now is a conversion aspect to the content, or a change in how the business thinks of “conversion.”

Traditional conversion measurement focuses on revenue from a sale and/or subscriptions to a newsletter. An ecommerce site relies on revenue; there’s no question it’s important. If revenue is the most important goal of content creation, then take special care to optimize that content for conversion. The typical user isn’t going to read a tip on how to slim her hips visually, and then try to click in the header of the site and look really hard for something approximating the type of product she just read that she needs.

Link the Content to the Product

Merchants should make it easy for her to convert before she gets frustrated and leaves. Put a “Buy” button and a details link right there. If the content is a video clip of a cat going crazy over a toy and the site sells that toy, for goodness sake put a bar of similar products with images and “Buy” buttons right there on the video page. Integrate the content with the products. Don’t just expect the visitor to be so excited that they’ll hunt until they find it. Years of experience tell us that visitors get frustrated and quickly leave.

Just because the content has been generated for SEO benefit, does not mean that there are somehow different rules around value and conversion.
From an SEO perspective, think of another form of conversion: links. If the content generated lots of traffic, did it generate any links to that URL? Any Tweets or Facebook comments? Any Diggs or Stumbles? These are valuable forms of conversion as well. If one of the primary intentions of content generation is SEO, then conversion to links is an extremely important measure of success. Assuming the content is hosted on the same domain as the ecommerce site, the links to that content will serve to strengthen not just the SEO performance of the content piece, but the site overall. And that leads to increasing traffic and sales.

Jill Kocher Brown
Jill Kocher Brown
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