Blogs can be excellent way to rank for informational searches that might otherwise be difficult for an ecommerce site. But ecommerce marketers who implement a blog sometimes conclude early on that it doesn’t work.
Where’s the disconnect? The implementation of a strong blog strategy is more difficult than it sounds. The problems with blogging as an search engine optimization tactic usually stem from seven areas.
Say Something Interesting
The first hurdle is actually having something interesting to say. Give your blog a voice, a personality. Do you want to be helpful, playful, provocative? Your voice should suit your brand, but also offer something interesting to the reader in the style that it’s written.
Put on the reader’s hat for a moment: What is her incentive to read your blog or to share it? Is your content informative, or beautiful?
Regardless of the voice, your blog posts should be relevant to your company or industry. Your company is likely full of experts. Harness that energy to fuel the blog.
If you promote products, try offering relevant, informative content alongside the promotion, like Nordstrom does, below.
Pairing a promotion with strong content has the added benefit of increasing the potential to be shared.
Include Topics Shoppers Care About
Keyword research provides excellent insight into the topics that real searchers and shoppers want to know more about. For merchants who say, “I don’t know what to write,” I say, “Then you haven’t done your keyword research.”
Look especially for questions you can answer. The five W’s (and one H) make a good entrée into topical research: who, what, where, when, why, and how. Find these questions and answer them.
For more on keyword research, read “SEO How-to, Part 5: Keyword Research in Action.”
Interlink with Product Pages
A blog is like other content: to be successful, it needs to have an influx of link authority. The most logical way to accomplish this is to link to the blog’s home page in the header or footer, on every page of a site.
In addition, link sparingly to products and categories from the text of blog posts. “Sparingly” means one to three links in a post, such as what The Hanger Project does.
You don’t need to link to the same product repeatedly — it doesn’t pass more authority and it’s annoying to readers. In addition, adding too many links from a blog post could be seen as over-optimization and devalue the whole page, or even the whole blog if enough posts link too frequently to products.
Linking from product pages to blog posts is harder to accomplish. Most ecommerce managers understand the concept of linking from blog posts to relevant individual products, to feed relevance and authority from the blog to the product. However, that will not likely be effective if the blog itself doesn’t have any authority.
Build up blog authority, and increase its visibility with customers, by linking from product pages to specific, relevant blog posts. This will be most easily accomplished by linking in a disciplined way — not too many links and always formatted in the same style — from the product description. A more elegant solution automatically creates links to related blog posts, similar to linking to related products.
I’ve heard merchants say, “I don’t actually want shoppers to see my blog. I just want the SEO benefits.” My response is, “You’re missing the point.” First, if you don’t want it to be seen, you must not have anything valuable or relevant to say.
Moreover, for a blog to pass any authority to product pages, it needs enough authority to rank itself. If it’s ranking, consumers will see it. If you don’t want consumers to read your blog posts, choose a different SEO strategy.
Navigation within your blog is just as important as navigation to your blog. Think of the navigation as a way to offer a contextually relevant browse path to blog posts.
If your navigation is entirely calendar-based — such as November content or 2017 content — you’re missing a chance to associate relevance with different groups of posts.
If your navigation is too thin — too few categories for blog posts to be catalogued under — then rely on pagination to provide a link path to older blog posts.
Nordstrom does an excellent job in providing a broad categorization system with subcategories.
Depending on the platform and design, tagging could be an alternative navigation system. Once upon a time, tagging was a vastly overused method of increasing pages of content. These days, search engines would devalue as thin content tag pages with one or two blog posts linked on them.
However, tagging can still be used effectively if the taxonomy is tightly controlled to a select number of tags. If another cataloguing system would be valuable to customers and provide additional contextual relevance for natural search, it can be a good way to increase the number of useful pages that expose older but still-valuable content.
Host on Your Ecommerce Domain
Host your blog as a subdirectory on your ecommerce domain: for example, www.site.com/blog. This will allow search engines to attribute all of the authority that your blog earns to the same domain that hosts your ecommerce site, thereby strengthening both.
If a subdirectory isn’t possible, shoot for a subdomain, like blog.site.com. If that’s not possible and an external domain is the only way to launch a blog in your organization, then an external domain like www.siteblog.com will have to do.
Promote Your Content
If no one reads or links to a blog post, it’s not going to drive SEO performance.
Use the power of content marketing to promote your posts. Work with the teams that manage social media, email marketing, paid media, press relations, and any other teams that influence the content that your customers are exposed to. For example, REI promotes its blog on Facebook, as shown below.
Facebook won’t build authority directly because search engines don’t see the links. However, it will expose your content to more people. Those people could share it with other bloggers or news outlets or other sites that create links that search engines can follow and use to signal your content’s authority.
Give It Time
Blog early and often, at least several times a week. This is much easier if you can manage an editorial calendar where others are contributing specific content in addition to what you write.
A new blog will take time to perform. Give it six months to a year before starting to doubt its effectiveness, and even then, look for reasons in the above points that the blog might be weaker than expected. A poorly designed or sparsely populated blog will not yield results, no matter how long you give it.