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You’ve already heard it: inbound marketing can drive serious web traffic, additional sales and customer loyalty for your growing business. But effectively implementing a content marketing team and strategy isn’t as easy as simply hiring a writer.

Every post your brand publishes is a reflection of your point of view on the world, and customers will choose to identify with you –– or not –– based on that point of view. So while 92% of companies which blog one or more times per day report an increase in customer conversion, there are 31% more bloggers out there than there were just three years ago. This means that while blogging can increase your conversions, the rate at which it can do so depends heavily on how well you can get your content discovered by the target consumer (i.e. the one who will identify with your point of view). After all, more bloggers means more content, which means more competition.

So, what should your company be blogging about? Well, there are a few options. The key is remaining consistent, utilizing analytics to see which posts are proving out the best possible ROI and reiterating on successful content. And, keep in mind: not even content professionals truly know what will work for individual brands.

Over the last few years, publishing and the private sector have merged significantly. There are now branded content offers on almost all publications (content written either in-house at a publication like the New York Times and sponsored for by a brand like Dell, or content written by the brand itself and run on a site like Mashable in order to gain access to their audience). These content offerings are expensive and have been a way for publishers to better monetize. For brands, these content blocks serve brand awareness initiatives well.

But, before you invest in such a placement, it is wise that your brand build up a solid backlog of content which already expresses your world point of view. So, what content does that best? We’ve rounded up a few examples of content types all retailers should be focused on for 2016. These will give you a good launching pad for posting daily or weekly content, as well as help to bolster your SEO, social media following and even serve as landing pages for any content-driven initiatives you run in the future.

Share Your Passion

As an entrepreneur, you might have noticed that your expertise is a highly requested commodity –– especially as your business begins to reach scale. If you’ve long had a content initiative in place, it’s likely you’ve already written about why you started, how you did it and so on. These posts are great fodder to re-purpose, or re-edit, and then re-publish in various new channels. For instance, if you published your content on LinkedIn back in the day, be sure to re-pub it on your blog, on Medium or pitch it out to publications like Entrepreneur or Inc., which regularly accept entrepreneur “How I Did It” pieces.

Don’t worry too much about duplicate content here, but do prioritize channels and edit well. Update your post to account for modern innovations and trends, then pitch it out first to larger publications to see if they bite. After a week or so, go ahead and publish the piece on your company’s blog. If the larger pub wants in after the fact, they can do so under a re-publishing agreement.

Of course, as your business grows, so, too, does your business’s influence. Today, companies with a charitable purpose report higher level of customer satisfaction and loyalty. Think of Toms Shoes or Warby Parker and their giving back philosophies. Your charitable association doesn’t have to be a part of your overall business plan, though. Instead, it can be a riff off of your already well-established passions.

For instance, if you’ve always been an advocate for early coding education in order for increased innovation and industry disruption: host a few Coding for a Cause events, or write about it on your blog. Become an official sponsor, offer your space up for meetings, help to promote events and education around the importance of the project. Over time, your consumer will come to associate the cause and your brand as complementary, opening your business up to increased loyalty by those who identify with that cause as well.

Josie Maran is a great example of a brand pushing forward on the owner’s passion and creating a synonymous association with their business and a cause. Josie Maran cosmetics is branded as “luxury with a conscience,” and the company has teamed up with the IMAGINE movement, a cause aimed at bringing empowerment to girls in developing nations.

Similarly, Toyota has a sustainability campaign which helps the brand connect to concerned consumers. Each year, the brand releases a sustainability report to keep consumers informed on how the business is doing in keeping ahead of global trends on addressing the issue of global warming.

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Both of these brands are taking advantage of causes close to both their and their target audience’s heart, and making a difference in the process. Figure out which causes your company could use to do the same –– and then share that content on social to increase brand visibility with your potential new consumer base.

Put a New Twist on Your Products

Writing about your own products can be trickier than it sounds. If you want an engaged audience, you don’t want your blog to be one big ad. Since you already have product pages to explain the features and benefits of each item, you don’t want to repeat that content either.

So, what’s left to write about?

  • Tell the story behind your products. How are they made? Where did they come from? What makes them special?
  • Announce new or improved products. Give some extra details around the good news. What did you improve? How did you improve it? Why did you add a new product?
  • Put your products in context. Your product probably goes great with a variety of other products in multiple settings. So put together the complete package. Simply Southern Wedding does a great job of this, especially with their wedding theme posts.

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  • Build out your positive reviews. Do you have some glowing testimonials from happy customers? Pick a couple, email or call the customer and see if you can interview them.  These posts might seem like humble-bragging, but they can show your product in action while sharing the spotlight with your customers.
  • Showcase customer success. If you know people who have achieved a goal thanks to your product, you can cover that too.

The Jeni’s Ice Cream website and blog are both fabulous examples of all of the above methods put to work. Their blog features recipes using their products, along with additional products consumers may already have at home, helping to put their product in a larger context. They will publish “What’s New on the Menu” posts monthly to showcase new or improved products. They also publish neighborhood recaps in which they talk to customers and get their review on their favorite ice flavors as well as insights into what makes their city so great.

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From the looks of their blog, Jeni’s publishes about 4 times a month, or once a week –– each time using a different variation of how they are spotlighting their product.

Help Your Reader Out

What can you do to assist or educate your readers? This is really an extension of blogging about your passion, maybe with a bit of product blogging thrown in.

Put yourself in your customers’ shoes and think about what questions you might you type in a search box. Then create content that answers those questions, proactively helping them solve their problem.

A how-to post is a great place to start, especially if you can include video or images. Laptop Replacement Keys does this well, serving up content on exactly how to change out your key once you buy the product.

Recipes or craft posts are great how-to walk-throughs of product as well. Bulk Apothecary focuses much of their blog content on this type of post. They include recipes for candles, scrubs, sprays, soaps and decor in which they highlight which of their product would work best and then exactly how to create the item yourself.

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Go Behind the Scenes of Your Business

Consumers trust and care about SMBs –– and though you are a growing retailer, your business likely doesn’t yet silo into corporation-sizes. A recent Muttart Foundation survey found that 83% of Canadians trust small businesses, compared to just 40% trusting corporations. And, according to research from American Express, 93% of consumers believe it’s important to support small businesses.

Tap into these sentiments by showing the human side of your business. Your blog is a great place to post pictures of your work room, do a tour of your brick-and-mortar shop or introduce your dedicated employees. You get to build confidence in your product and store while creating content that is completely unique to your business.

Online store Son of a Sailor does this particularly well, using their small studio/retail space as well as the pop-up shops they run to post event-driven content which shows the behind-the-scenes workings of being a retailer on the rise.

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Curate Your Space

Yes, you can create an entire blog post made up of other people’s blogs and blog posts. This isn’t plagiarism as long as you are collecting, writing your own short, original copy to promote and then linking to it.

The fancy, writerly word for this trick is “content curation.” Examples of curated posts would be a weekly roundup of industry news, the top five blogs in your space and a collection of the best tips related to your product. Here are a couple of examples of Bigcommerce curated posts, for reference:

Curation is great for bloggers on both sides of the coin. As the curator, you can turn out a quick post, but more importantly you get the opportunity to connect and network with other people in your space. Be sure to reach out to those included in your roundup to let them know you included them, and why.

The writers you are curating get link love and exposure for their work, which improves their SEO and content discoverability. Ideally you’ll both get extra mileage by sharing the curated post and mentioning one another on social media.

Whether you are curating full blogs, blog posts or even social posts, always make sure you link and give credit to the original poster. These types of posts are good to run once a week or once a month, depending on how often you blog. It is a quick win strategy, but shouldn’t be the only content tool in your box.

Do you already have blog? Got any tips or tricks for retailers? We’d love to hear about! Leave a comment and we just might feature you in our next post.

Leave a Comment
  • Paul Hackett

    Great insight on the competition of blog based content marketing – completely agree about the voice of your brand and how its perceived by your audience. I think too often businesses focus all content on being highly informative or educational. That is important of course, but it’s also refreshing to show a more personal, human element. Not all blogs achieve this. What are some blogs you all read, that obtain a good ratio of personal insights vs educational content?

  • supremekitchenbath

    Great ideas here.

  • luvtati

    My disquis comments aren’t showing up at the end of my blog. Where do I place the coding? It shows up everywhere else but the blog. Thx.

  • Tony House

    What do you think of our eFurnitureHouse.com Blog? Comments are appreciated.

    http://www.efurniturehouse.com/blog/

  • Excited to set this up and see how it helps my store!

  • Yeah, you won’t find many blogs that will re-post content. While there are few ways around it, both the original and the secondary blog still run the risk of getting dinged by Google for duplicate content. If you want to guest post on other blogs, you can certainly write on the same topic and even make similar points, but you can’t copy and paste. However you can link from a guest post to one of your posts, blog or store – referencing yourself as the expert if you will – so that is actually one way of getting visibility. Just make the context feels natural, like you are guest posting on an art or culture blog, because Google has been on a tear with dubious guest blogging as well.

    Your other ideas are right on the money. You want to share all your posts on social, Pinterest especially given the nature of your product, and don’t be afraid to repost a couple times with different hooks. Try to build a community on social networks who will share your posts, since tapping into influencer networks is one of the best ways to reach new customers. Promoting your posts on your homepage is great, as is promoting a subscription to your email newsletter, then you can send out links to your posts in emails. If you are using the built-in blog and your site is already getting indexed, plus you are sharing the posts in various places, Google should start crawling those new posts as well. Even though it is a bit lame as a network, many experts now think putting links to your content on Google+ can actually speed up the process of getting indexed. You can setup a Google Webmaster Tools account to check just in case.

    I think you’ll find this guest post from BoostSuite helpful: http://s13543.p20.sites.pressdns.com/blog/3-steps-for-achieving-your-marketing-resolutions/, and I know it’s late notice, but we’re doing a Google+ Hangout on blogging Thursday evening at 7 pm CT: https://plus.google.com/events/co4dv1aamcoh2juorr1g87c4bsg. It’s a lot to take in, but I think the best advice is to just start, good content never hurt sales :)

  • Eric Edge

    Julie, once you have a blog post any suggestion on how to share that content and drive traffic to it. It looks like most guest blogs don’t want content published elsewhere so it becomes content for their site. For certain post I envision, I can see submiting to a site like Boing Boing because it links to content off-site…but those kind of sites don’t seem to be the norm. I am certainly going to create blog post pins on pinterest with keyword rich descriptions to be found in search as well as other post on my social media sites. On my site I plan to create a carousel graphic to point to the latest blog post. Any other suggestions?… Do you need to do anything to get blog post spidered by search engines?

  • Eric Edge

    Thx a mil, Julie! That’s some great advice. I particularly found the bit about asking for interviews from smaller names useful. I already have some ideas about artist and internet celebs I might ask. I’ll keep you abreast of my progress.

  • Great question Eric, and a great idea! As far as doing posts on influencers, including images of their work would fall under the fair use doctrine. Limited use of copyrighted work is allowed for commentary, critique, research, reporting, etc. There is no need to get permission in that situation, but you’d definitely want to credit the artist. And if they are niche or young artist with an online presence, I’d suggest tagging them on Facebook or @ing them on Twitter when you promote your blog post. They’ll probably be flattered and might share the love. Plus it would be a great introduction to asking them for an interview. I was a journalist for several years, and you’d be surprised at how many people are more than happy to talk about their work. My suggestion would be to start with smaller artists first, building up a collection of solid posts that you can reference when you reach out to bigger names. Having featured them as an inspiration is another great ice breaker, they know you are genuinely interested in and inspired by their work. You’ll want to make sure all these posts are as professional as possible, perfectly copyedited with a nice image, and promoted on your social networks. Supporting a commercial enterprise probably isn’t their biggest concern – after all every publication is making money off them by selling ads against their articles – but they will want to be associated with a high-quality endeavor. You definitely are on the right track here, good luck!

  • Eric Edge

    So I am on the verge of launching a site for my greeting cards and custom portraits that are influenced by pop art, psychedelic rock posters, pop culture, movies (particularly old ones in the public domain that I use a source material), geekdom (particularly LOLcats humor) and comics. I want to start blogging. I plan to do informational post like Tips on creating a professional portrait and a multi-part series on my design and manufacturing process. However, I feel the biggest opportunity to drive traffic would be to intersperse post about the subjects that influence my work. Since art is visual experience and I feel the post should have images. I’d like my blog much like my work in progress pinterest site http://www.pinterest.com/popliments to be a curation on a variety of subjects. My concern is not violating copyrights. If I wanted to do a piece on the history of psychedelic rock posters wouldn’t I need to contact all the artist whose work I wish to feature? Or better yet say I wanted to do email interview with rock poster artist Bob Masse… Any suggestions on how to approach people if I need image permissions or want their involvement. Or is this just a pie in the sky idea since people who are established might not want to invest in someone’s site that is just starting out or its connection to a commercial product?

  • Facebook User

    Thanks Julie

  • The tagging feature has now been updated so that tags are clickable and linked to other posts. My suggestion would be to start using this tagging feature as a way to create categories linking those topics together. Hope that helps!

  • Facebook User

    Hi, just wondered if there had been any progress regarding categorising blogs. This is very important to me as I need a health notes section within my website that would then be categorised into specific health concerns etc within my health and well being website. Thanks, Katherine

  • Jessica Malnik

    @marybeauchamp:disqus: Yes, you can enable this by going to Setup and Tools–> Store Settings. Then, enable the social media share buttons you want under the Share tab.

    Cheers!

  • Mary Beauchamp

    Is there social media share button that show up in the blog posts?

  • Tracy Jackson

    Thanks! Will make the adjustment!

  • Jessica Malnik

    No. If you want to get the full SEO benefit, it’s much better to either use the built-in blog or link to an existing WordPress blog via subdomain.

  • Tracy Jackson

    @jessica_malnik:disqus will linking to RSS feed provide the same keyword benefit for my website?

  • Lon

    Hey Jessica, I appreciate the feedback. That’s currently what we do (http://blog.solutions-cubed.com).

  • Jessica Malnik

    @GemsWeddingSupplies:disqus: This is definitely some common feedback we have received. And, we do have plans to add some additional categorization and/or tags functionality in the near future. Stay tuned! :)

  • Jessica Malnik

    @disqus_SB0zlVzHWz:disqus: There isn’t a way to import WordPress posts into our built-in blog feature at this time. However, you can easily link your WordPress blog to your store via a subdomain. Here’s how to do this. Setting up a subdomain works for both WordPress.com and self-hosted WordPress.org blogs. https://support.bigcommerce.com/questions/1181/

    Or, you can manually move your WordPress posts into our built-in blog functionality.

  • GemsWeddingSupplies

    Julie, is something coming in to sort posts under categories? and to search for articles? Like the example you have given with the Simply Southern Wedding store. I would love to have that. At the moment mine is just looking like a long list of articles. But I would love to categorise them? Here is mine: http://www.gemsweddingsupplies.com.au/blog/

  • Lon

    Hi Julie. What about converting existing Word Press blogs.

  • Since this is such a new feature, most of our clients are still working on refining and building out their blogs. There are also a few improvements coming out in the next couple weeks. But you can still get the main page looking neater, like http://www.swords.net/blog/, and I think this is a solid example of an individual post, http://www.purespeedmotorsports.com/blog/new-2015-mustang-to-receive-widebody-treatment/. Remember, your theme will affect how this section looks, but I’ll try to get some folks from Product to pull together tips on how to optimize the design. Thanks for the idea!

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