**Note: This article, while written by me, was edited by and originally appeared on the ChannelAdvisor blog on Sept. 19th. Minus the highly entertaining images**
E-commerce shop owners, we need to talk.
You need to write content.
You need to be writing quality content for your home page, category pages and yes, even your product pages (especially your product pages!).
You’ve probably heard SEO professionals say it a million times. And if you’re one of my clients, I know you’ve heard me say it day in and day out.
I say it because it’s true, and I’ll say it again: If you want to increase your organic traffic and ranking, you need to write content. It’s not nearly as hard as you think.
Why Should I?
In March, Google’s Andrey Lipattsev stated that the top three ranking signals for Organic Searchare links, content and RankBrain.
Of course, there are other things that factor into how Google ranks sites (Google has also stated that the algorithm looks at over 200 major ranking signals and might have up to 10,000 subsignals!) but these are the top three. Can you guess what all three of these things come back to? If you guessed quality content, then you guessed right.
Not sure what I mean? Don’t worry, I’ll explain myself. But before we begin, note that creating content without first cleaning up your site’s technical SEO issues is like painting the Mona Lisa on a trash can — It may be great, but in the end, it still stinks.
Technical SEO is something that cannot be understated, so cover your bases and fix any issues there first. Let’s dive into those three ranking signals, shall we?
Backlinks are crucial to the ranking of your site. Quality links that’ll help you rank can be hard to come by, so SEO professionals are often faced with the recurring question: “How can I get more backlinks?”
To which my reply is always the same: Give people something worth linking to and promote it like crazy on every channel you have.
I’ve seen people utilize “link building” schemes like buying expired domains, offering bloggers free products in exchange for links and other methods that can get you a nice manual spam action. Link building will likely tank your organic traffic if not done correctly on the most granular levels. Why not just create and promote great content? It’s easier. And safer.
Think about it. Who would you — as regular “Joe Interblaguser” — rather backlink to? A site that’s using boring, run-of-the-mill manufacturer content like the hundreds of other e-commerce sites out there? Or one that’s full of useful, well-thought-out content that describes the product completely and provides some helpful tips on how it can be used?
Not a hard decision, right? So go write.
This part is self-explanatory, so I’ll be brief. There’s a concept in the SEO world known as “10X Content.” This means that if you want to rank, your content has to be ten times better than anything else currently out there. Google won’t rank your site highly just because you’re nice. You have to give them a good reason.
Manufacturer content or a list of the same old bullet points about the product is the exact opposite of 10X content, and it won’t help you.
Your product content also can’t be something you slapped together or something you “gave a guy a couple bucks” for. It needs to be ten times better than anything else out there — or you’ve pretty much done nothing.
People often tell me that they don’t have time to create content. Well, in 2016, if you don’t have time to create content, you don’t have time to rank.
While it’s true that an official Duplicate Content penalty currently doesn’t exist, Google hates duplicate content, and there’s no getting around it. Unless of course, you’re a major player like Amazon, in which case you already have your organic search locked down due to brand prominence, CTR, backlinks, domain authority and other factors.
If so, by all means, carry on. You, however, are not Amazon. So go write.
RankBrain is Google’s machine learning AI that helps deliver results on queries. Its main goal is to help Google return the most relevant result to a searcher’s query.
For example, did you ever Google something like: “Who was that dude that played Ant Man’s friend who told that story?” And Google returned results for “Michael Peña?”
Because of the relevancy to the query, Google knows that’s probably who I’m looking for. It looks at a lot of different factors to return the most relevant result to the query. Want to know how to become relevant to queries? Yep, with valuable and unique content.
Yes, there are other ways to do it, but having quality content is a big (if not the top!) one. Quality content can increase your CTR and lower your bounce rates and Rankbrain seems to love this.
So go write.
Ok, I’m Convinced. How Do I Do All This?
The easiest way to tell you is by telling you what not to do.
Don’t start creating rubbish crammed with keywords like “Blue Widget Hut is the best for your blue widget needs! Blue Widget lovers love Blue Widget Hut!” That’s terrible, and so 2005. This doesn’t work anymore and can actually get your site demoted. Instead, use keywords carefully and take the time to craft quality content.
Spend time getting to know your customers. Try using a tool like Answer the Public or even Amazon’s Product Q&A to figure out what questions consumers are asking, and answer them. Ask yourself, “What will a customer want to know and actually want to read?”
Think beyond just text. Content can be infographics, newsletters, videos, FAQs, blog posts and more.
Still don’t think you have time to create unique content? Ok, fine. Consider crowdsourcing your product data. Unboxing videos are wildly popular. If you’re in the apparel industry, have customers submit “How do you style your (insert brand here) (insert item you sell here)” videos.
When done right, a good content strategy should work with all of your other channels. For example, better on-page content can increase your paid search quality score and decrease your Adwords spend. You can use your paid social media channels and email marketing campaigns to promote your onsite blog and thereby increase content engagement. And the list goes on!
I understand that you may have thousands of products and a limited amount of time, but the importance of writing unique content for your e-commerce site cannot be understated.
If the trend holds, it’ll only become more important as time goes on. Keep in mind that if you’re not writing good quality content for your site, there’s a competitor out there who is. So get writing.
Seriously. Go write!