In the course of the last couple of years doing SEO and content for lots of e-commerce stores, I’ve found one thing to be consistently true: stores with blogs make way more money than stores without blogs.
And that’s why it’s so hard to explain why so many stores neglect their blogs — or, even worse, don’t have them at all.
In my view, it’s the same as leaving money on the table.
Yes blogging takes time. Yes, blogging requires energy and expertise. And yes, you need a good content strategy (which also requires time and expertise)…
But when it’s done right, the dividends can be massive, and for many of the stores I’ve worked with, their blogs become one of their biggest sources of traffic, leads, and revenue.
Today, I want to: (1) build a quick case for blogging for e-commerce stores and (2) outline how we helped one store go from zero to 30,000 visits/mo (and on its way to a 7-figure exit) by blogging.
Why every store needs a blog
1. Blogging = more traffic potential
Without blogging, the organic traffic potential (the possible traffic a store could attract from Google) of any online store is limited by the number of products offered.
Think of it this way: if you sell 10 widgets, and you have categories for blue widgets and red widgets, you could rank for keywords around each of those 10 products and each of those two categories — but no more than that.
In other words, if you don’t have a blog, your product and category pages are the only opportunities you give yourself to rank for keywords in Google.
And that’s a problem.
Because it means that the only way to give yourself more opportunities to rank for new keywords is to add more products.
That’s a good strategy, but it’s not always possible (or easy).
And that’s not the only problem…
There’s also the issue of search volume. “Search volume” = how many people search for a given keyword each month.
In general, highly specific, product-related keywords tend to have lower search volume than interesting questions and topics about the products. In other words, it’s not likely that there are many people searching for specific products (e.g. “Adam’s Outdoor Blue Widget 0091.”
Here’s an example.
Suppose you sell outdoor paint products. The keyword “black exterior wood paint” has a search volume of 50, meaning 50 people search for that term each month.
That’s not nothing, and it’d be good, targeted, valuable traffic. But look at the data from a question-related keyword related to the product: “how to paint a garage door.”
There are 900 people searching for this keyword. Not only that, but there are more clicks than search volume, which means that people are returning to the search results because they aren’t finding what they’re looking for.
If this were our store, I’d be very excited. I’d want to talk to these people. These are people who could use our products, who have questions, and for whom we can provide an answer.
Then, after we do them that service, we could simply suggest our product.
To be clear, it’s not that we should ignore the first keyword. We should absolutely still target that keyword on our product page.
But by writing a blog post about how to paint a garage door, we give ourselves the opportunity to reach 900 more buyers.
2. Blogging = content marketing potential
Most of our clients blog because they want traffic from Google. And that’s a great idea. Once it gets going, the organic traffic from Google a blg can generate is long-term and can generate extreme ROI.
But that’s not the only use for a blog.
Blogs are among the easiest and most efficient ways e-commerce stores can engage in content marketing.
For the uninitiated, here’s a quick primer on the difference between SEO and content marketing:
- SEO = ranking for keywords and getting traffic from Google
- Content marketing = pushing your content to people directly via social bookmarking sites, social media, email, and content syndication
While the two often overlap, the main difference is that SEO relies on passive traffic generated over time, while content marketing is a lot more about active promotion.
But you need a blog for both.
And for e-commerce stores, if there’s no blog, there’s nothing to promote.
You can’t very well go drop links to your product pages on Reddit. Well, you could, but you’d get roasted and then banned for it.
People on the internet (and especially people who run social media groups) just don’t tolerate or respond to that kind of shameless self-promotion.
What do they respond to?
Thoughtful help, advice, and information.
Think of it this way: there are hundreds of Facebook groups dedicated to DIY home improvement.
These people are there to talk. To be part of a community.
They don’t want sleazy marketers coming in and promoting products. They don’t mind talking about products — but it has to be in the right context. They want help, a sense of community, and conversation.
What’s this look like in practice?
It means that going into these places and linking to your black outdoor paint product page = wasting everyone’s time, including your own.
If you came into those communities and instead showed them a blog post that was a thoughtful and useful guide about how to paint a garage door, people would probably read it and appreciate the help.
And if you mentioned your own paint products in that post, people would likely respond far better because of the value you’d already given them (and their community).
In order to do that, though, you need good, relevant, useful blog posts that can also sell your products.
3. Blogging = being your own influencer (…by reviewing your own products — hear me out…)
I’m not saying that blogging is the same as influencer marketing — just that it can work in a similar way.
But it’s worth investigating why influencer marketing works so well and why so many companies use it.
If I were going to write a definition of influencer marketing, it might be something like: asking people who have access to relevant audiences to promote your products.
Why does it work?
Because when people are looking to buy, they can be motivated by other people’s informed opinions, especially if it’s the opinion of someone they trust.
Most of the time, influencer marketing happens on social media. But that doesn’t mean we can’t do the same type of thing with our blog.
And we can do it for ourselves.
How? By reviewing our own products.
Let me explain.
When I started in SEO, I cut my teeth in the affiliate marketing arena. I was writing content and building blogs that promoted other people’s products.
The blogs were designed to attract traffic via Google instead of social media, but I was doing all the same things an influencer might do: which is mostly researching products and talking about which were the best.
One of my most successful affiliate blogs (one I later exited for six figures) was in the dog niche. I’d write about dog food, toys, and products, and the frame of the conversation would always be about which one was best.
And I did a good job.
The posts were well-researched and backed by as much good information as I could feasibly fit in there. I leveraged my own expertise as a dog owner. I talked to other experts in the field. And I bought and tried a lot of the products I discussed.
In addition, these kinds of keywords tend to be pretty far along in the buying cycle (people searching for the “best” thing are usually ready to buy) — and those keywords tend to have lots of search volume and are often easy to rank for.
Here’s data on “best paint for garage door”:
Because of all that, I sold a lot of things with my affiliate blog.
E-commerce stores can do the same thing; the only difference would be that, in the conversation about which product was “best,” they’d simply discuss and recommend their own products.
For example, we might write the blog post “What’s the Best Garage Door Paint?” Then we could discuss what you might look for in a good paint, how to prep your garage door, etc. And then, we could offer what we think are the best paint options.
We would be influencing. And we’d be doing it by offering a well-informed opinion.
4. Blogging = ways to answer questions for your audience & show them you’re an expert
How many questions are people asking about house paint?
A lot. Here’s a graph of questions people ask about house paint (from AnswerThePublic).
Unless you are in an industry that is literally brand new or so esoteric that hardly anyone knows about it, people will be asking questions about the kinds of products you sell.
And some of those questions may have a lot of people searching for them. Here’s data for the question “how much does it cost to paint a house?”:
People are asking questions.
Do you want to be the one answering them, or would you rather leave that up to your competitors?
In our view, of course, we want to be the ones answering the questions our customers are asking, and we want to answer as many of them as we possibly can within the bounds of our resources.
Aside from giving ourselves more opportunities to attract more customers, it also helps us convert the people who find us by establishing ourselves as an expert.
In other words, if we sell paint, the best-case scenario is to also have a blog that is such an incredibly robust resource on paint that people come to us as their first source of information.
If we can do that, we can probably also leverage that trust to sell a lot of stuff, and, hopefully, if we can follow it up with great customer service and quality products, we can build strong customer loyalty as well.
How we helped one store go from zero to 30,000 visits/mo (and a 7-figure exit) by blogging
Blogging is powerful for any business, but it can be especially powerful for e-commerce & Shopify stores stores.
Earlier this year, we were tapped to help an Amazon-based, keto supplement business start a store — and more importantly, a blog — from scratch.
Here’s what happened…
The challenge (well, challenges – there was more than one)
The brand that hired us had grown almost entirely through Amazon FBA.
Amazon FBA (short for “Fulfilled by Amazon”), if you don’t know, is a program Amazon offers through which you can sell your products on Amazon.com and use their fulfillment centers in exchange for a small cut of the profits.
Amazon FBA has become enormously popular in the last few years, and has led to an explosion of physical product-based businesses.
Not only does it make selling easier; it also gives sellers a platform through which they can reach buyers: Amazon itself.
It’s helped launch countless businesses, and has led to the creation of multimillion dollar brands.
However, there’s always been one glaring problem with Amazon FBA…
Amazon can ban you at any time.
Of course, most people follow the rules, but in an effort to curb the influx of spammers and scammers, Amazon is notoriously fickle (some might even say ruthless) with their banning practices.
So you can build a whole business, and it can be wiped out overnight, even if you are trying in good faith to follow all the rules.
For this reason, our client wanted to keep selling on Amazon because it was so profitable, but they also wanted to own their own media, so that if anything ever did happen, they’d still have money coming in the door.
They wanted to diversify revenue.
And they wanted to do this was to build an online store that attracted traffic from Google.
So that that was Challenge #1: we had to start a blog from scratch.
But that wasn’t all.
Challenge #2: there were only about a dozen products to sell.
This is always a problem in e-commerce.
And we’ve already talked about it a bit: if you don’t have very many skus, there generally aren’t all that many pages on your site.
And if you don’t have many pages on your site, you don’t have many opportunities to rank for keywords in Google.
So we had a situation on our hands.
We wanted to build our own media. And we wanted to attract traffic from Google. But we had to start from scratch, and we didn’t have many product pages we could put on the site.
Here’s what we did next.
What we did
The solution to both of these challenges was a highly tactical blog.
Our client already had a Shopify store underway. They just didn’t know how to get traffic, especially with so few products.
So we knew we needed a blog.
The first step to a blog is keyword research and content strategy.
Step 1: keyword research and content strategy
Keyword research and content strategy is the cornerstone of an SEO-driven blog.
In this case, we only had a handful of products on the store, which meant that if we were going to be blogging only about the products in the store, our options would be seriously limited.
We’d have to expand our keyword research to broader topics.
We had one thing going for us: keto (this client’s niche) is a relatively big space, which meant there would likely be lots of keywords.
And, really, that’s kind of a blessing and a curse.
Why? Because the more keywords there are to choose from, the more difficult it is to (1) prioritize and (2) decide which will be the most likely to actually produce some kind of return.
Instead of simply targeting keywords related to our own products, our strategy, then, became to: answer questions people might have if they were already doing keto but were either struggling or trying to optimize their diet.
To be clear, it is true that keywords most closely related to products do usually sell the most.
More accurately, they tend to be the most profitable per visitor.
We just didn’t have very many products, and those products didn’t have very many associated keywords.
The rationale was that even if these people weren’t searching for our products directly, they would be so closely matched to our ideal customer that we could likely get a good chunk of them into our sales funnel if we simply used our expertise to answer their questions as an industry leader at the right time…
…and recommended our products as an additional solution.
We targeted keywords like this one:
I love this keyword.
Not only are we not writing about our own products, we’re also writing about another brand.
But, it works because someone searching for this keyword — someone wondering how to go to Wendy’s and stick to their deity and still order fast food — is likely struggling. They may be dealing cravings. Or they may be bored.
But they probably need help.
And it worked.
This blog post now generates 1,300+ visits/mo.
We also targeted keywords like this one:
“Omad keto” (OMAD = one meal a day, which is another popular diet protocol that can be combined with keto) is a great keyword because we knew the answer would require a very detailed blog post.
That’s good for us.
It means there’s a high barrier of entry, and it allows us to flex our muscles as industry experts and differentiate ourselves from our competitors.
It also targeted a potential customer who was probably already doing keto looking to further optimize their diet.
And those are exactly the kind of people who might be interested in our products.
The blog post that targeted this keyword now generates about 600 visits/mo.
Our whole keyword research and content strategy was full of keywords like this.
That’s how we do keyword research, as a rule. We try not to be slaves to the data. Instead, we try to get inside the heads of our ideal customer.
We try to figure out which questions they’re asking. And we try to answer them in the right way at the right time.
Step 2: develop a content pipeline.
We compiled a huge list of keywords and their associated data. We also built a business case for each keyword.
The next thing to do, then, was to jump on a call with our client to see which keywords they thought most aligned with the people they wanted to attract and/or the people who tended to buy their products.
For us, we simply ask for a thumbs up or down, and then we use those keywords to create a 3- to 6-month content pipeline.
For new sites, it’s typically more important to be a little more aggressive with content production, so we settled on an editorial calendar that scheduled 16,000 words of content per month, and we prioritized content according to the keywords we thought were most likely to make the most money.
Step 3: put words on paper.
The next step was to get the machine running.
When we start a content campaign, we usually ask our clients (who are typically the experts in the room) to be a little more hands on with us.
We dedicate a little more time to editing, research, and revision.
Eventually, though (and usually as quickly as possible), we like to get to a place where the content “machine” is running more or less on its own.
That means we need to have:
- Great editors
- Great writers
- Great researchers
- Efficient editorial processes
- Efficient processes for feedback and communication
For this project, that introductory period lasted about a month, and after that, the content machine was running independently.
Step 4: wait, observe and optimize
After getting the content machine running, the only thing left to do was observe the results and optimize as needed.
In this case, about 25% of our content ended up generating significant traffic (a very good number), and while there was a little on-page optimization to take care of as a matter of best practice, the content was working very well, and the smartest thing to do was to focus on simply creating more of it.
In the end, this store went from zero to 30,000 visits/mo inside eight months.
The site now ranks for over 15,000 keywords.
And as if that weren’t cool enough, they are now on their way to a projected 7-figure exit.
And almost all of that traffic comes from the blog.
Blogging is extremely powerful.
It’s especially powerful for e-commerce and Shopify businesses, and it can be an invaluable tool for FBA businesses who want to own their own media and diversify customer acquisition.
It just takes time. There’s nuance. And it can be easy to fail. But when it works, it can be a game-changer.