In this article, we’ll explore the difference between marketing and advertising, and explain how businesses like yours can use one or both methods to create brand awareness and attract new customers. We’ll also discuss the modern viewpoint that advertising isn’t necessary in the world of web marketing, and discuss some advantages that traditional advertising still has in the twenty-first century.
A successful ecommerce marketing plan is made out of several components that come together in the name of one common goal: increasing sales on your ecommerce store. From creating brand awareness through advertising to gaining new fans through social media, every action you take should have a measurable impact on your sales.
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Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
The written content on your website is one of the most important factors in determining how well your ecommerce store will rank in search engine results. Since search engines can’t “read” images, they rely on your product names, copy, and information to tell them what is relevant and should be displayed for specific keywords or phrases. The process of improving the content on your website to improve your ranking is called search engine optimization, or SEO.
As you probably already know, there is a lot of competition on the web for ecommerce stores, especially those that sell popular items like toys and clothing. If your website is not optimized to rank highly for the kinds of products or services you offer, you stand very little chance of bringing in customers. SEO is something that simply cannot be ignored!
A study on organic (or unpaid) clicks from search engine results showed that over half of consumers searching for a phrase clicked on the very first result. This is how important it is to be on top, or at least on the first page.
The process of fully optimizing an ecommerce website can be long and difficult, and results won’t happen overnight. If you need help with SEO, WebFX can provide you with the research, strategy, and optimization you need to succeed.
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pay-per-click advertising, or PPC, is another crucial part of an ecommerce marketing plan. PPC allows a store owner to set up small text ads that appear with search results. These ads can cost as little as a few cents a day, and can be targeted to appear for a wide variety of keywords or phrases.
You may wonder why you need PPC if you can draw in visitors for free with SEO. The truth is, competition is sometimes so high for a newly opened ecommerce store that it is very difficult to organically rank for your desired terms in a short period of time. PPC can help bring in new visitors and increase sales in the interim.
However, this doesn’t mean that you should discontinue your PPC campaigns as soon as your rankings improve. One study found that more than 64% of Google searchers who were looking to make a purchase clicked on a PPC ad first.
Although PPC ads won’t help your ranking, they are a crucial part of any marketing plan. And unlike traditional print ads, or other online “banner ads” you might have purchased in the past, you can easily track impressions, clicks, and conversions from these ads. This allows you to directly measure the impact your ads are having on your store, making it easy for you to adjust your budgets accordingly.
Google’s AdWords program and Microsoft’s Bing Ads (previously AdCenter) are the two leading providers of PPC ads, and can be set up to work with your store in a matter of minutes.
In the age of social media, email may seem like a thing of the past. However, email marketing is most certainly alive and kicking! In fact, recent studies show that emails sent to customers still drive a fairly high amount of clicks, traffic, and purchases:
- 77% of shoppers want to receive brand updates via email (Exact Target)
- Email marketing drives over $2.5 billion in sales yearly (Ad Age)
- For every $1 a brand spends on email, consumers spend more than $40 (Experian)
- Those who buy through email spend 138% more than those who don’t (Convince and Convert)
- 82% of consumers open emails sent by companies (Litmus)
Sending emails to your customer list is still one of the very best ways to not only drive sales, but also to establish and increase brand loyalty. Creating a list is as simple as placing a signup form on your website and directing visitors to it. Many ecommerce stores add a “subscribe to our email” check box at the end of the checkout process, which is an easy way to create return shoppers!
There are endless ways to market to consumers via email. You can advertise new products, send out limited-time discounts or coupons, offer free shipping, or even hold contests. If you have a content marketing plan, email is also a great place to get the word out. And there’s no better way to drive sales around the holidays than with a Black Friday email promotion!
If you’re looking to launch an email marketing program, you can start small with free providers like MailChimp. Need help making your emails stand out? WebFX offers email design services that will set you apart from your competitors and compel shoppers to click and buy.
Blogging and Content Marketing
Building a beautiful ecommerce store doesn’t necessarily mean your customers will want to shop there. Sometimes they will need a little more convincing to trust you – especially if your products aren’t an impulse buy. You may also want to create some more content that search engines can sink their teeth into, especially if your product descriptions are light on keywords. The solution? Content marketing.
Content marketing is the process of creating original content that will motivate purchases. You may wonder if this really works, or if customers truly want to read a blog post about your business – but it does, and they do! In fact, 90% of consumers find content produced by a brand useful, and 61% are more likely to buy from a company that offers it.
Creating a company blog is one way to convince potential buyers to trust you. It shows that you have a lot to say about your business and industry, and implies that you are both knowledgeable and a reliable source of information. As part of a larger content marketing strategy, a blog can bring in repeat visitors and even create a dedicated brand following.
Here are some other content marketing ideas:
- Ask for photos of your product in use by customers, and post them with a quote or even a testimonial. If you reward submissions with a free product or small gift certificate, they’re likely to share the link with others.
- Using research found online, create an infographic that offers interesting information or tells a story about something in your line of work.
- Do some research of your own: poll customers about a topic close to your business, then publish your findings in the form of a whitepaper.
- Create a few behind-the-scenes features (with photos, videos, or even an interview) that will delight your customers and inspire sharing.
If you run a blog, you might even consider establishing a guest posting program. Accepting guest posts – ones that are relevant to your business, of course – is a great way to help supplement your content marketing program, and can certainly take some of the pressure to post new content off of you. Guest posts might even help with your link building campaign, which we’ll talk about a little later.
When it comes to content marketing, it’s important to be transparent. Write in the same way you would speak to a customer over the phone or in person, and be honest about your topic of choice. And never disable comments on your blog! Inviting feedback and encouraging discussion will give potential customers the feeling that their opinion matters – all the more reason to make a purchase from you.
An ecommerce marketing plan is nothing without social media. Having a presence on popular channels like Facebook or Twitter is not only fun, but also crucial for your exposure to potential customers. Social media is extremely important to a brand’s online presence, and these stats prove it:
- Roughly 68% of consumers go to social media channels to read product reviews and feedback before buying a product. (Brandpoint)
- 42% of customers expect a response to a question posted online about your brand or products within one hour. (HubShout)
- 38% of those who like or share a product on Facebook later purchase it. (Vision Critical)
- A whopping 91% of ecommerce sites saw an improvement in their ranking thanks to their presence and activity on social media channels. (PRWeb)
As you can see, being on social media isn’t just about likes and tweets. However, your business may not need to join all or even most of the social media channels out there. Consider your time and resources before you start. Most brands don’t need a dedicated, full-time social media manager, but you should have at least one person on your team who can keep up with page activity, post new updates, and create future content. Make sure they know what they’re in for, too: social media monitoring can be a 24/7 job, especially in times of crisis. The last thing you want is for fans to be complaining about your brand with no response.
One important tip with social media: once you join, you can’t unjoin. Nothing will frustrate a customer more than visiting a Facebook page only to find it empty and abandoned. Create a calendar that designated when and what you are going to post, and stick with it the best you can. Check your pages frequently, and get back to customers as fast as you can. And if you absolutely have to stop working on a page, notify your fans, give them another way to follow you, then delete it.
Among other factors, search engines rely on links to determine how popular – and rank-worthy – and website is. The theory is fairly simple: if a website has a single inbound link, probably only one person thinks it’s worth visiting. If a website has a thousand links, well, that’s probably a pretty good site!
As an ecommerce store owner, you’re likely to receive a fair amount of links without any manual action from you – especially if your products are super cool! However, you may need to make a few pushes to get links, especially in the beginning, or if you’re competing on some major keywords. The process of manually acquiring links to your website is called link building.
There are literally hundreds of ways to build links to your website. However, in the past few years, Google has cracked down on what they considered “spammy” ways to acquire links – like submitting your website to directories or buying links from unrelated pages. At this stage, Google’s complex algorithm can determine your ranking based on your overall link profile… and if you have more “bad” links than “good” ones, don’t expect to show up anytime soon!
Here are a few easy, actionable link building ideas:
- Link to your website from your social media profiles.
- Reach out to relevant websites or blogs in your industry and ask for a link. They may want to share you with their readers simply because they like you.
- Create content worth sharing, like an interesting blog post or inspiring infographic.
- Offer one of your products to a blog for review, and ask for a link in exchange. They get a free product and you get a link!
- Do something newsworthy and make sure it’s publicized – like a charity event or donation. There will probably be a link to you in the writeup.
A/B Testing, Updates, and Optimization
The final stage of your ecommerce marketing plan includes making continued changes and updates to your online store. Unfortunately, you can’t simply build a great website, enact the rest of this marketing plan, and wait for the visitors to come pouring in. Things change quickly online, and you need to change with them.
Keep your eyes on your analytics software at all times. A tool like Google Analytics can tell you which pages are doing well, and which pages are doing poorly. You can also get invaluable insights on conversion rates, bounce rates, and page values. If you notice that a page on, say, fluffy duck toys is doing really well, but your fluffy bunny toys page is doing poorly – and you know both animals are equally as popular – you should definitely consider doing some testing to find out why.
A/B testing is one way to test two versions of the same page at the same time. One group of users will see version A of a page, while the other sees version B. Let’s say you think the copy is to blame on your fluffy bunny toys page. Using your A/B testing tool, you leave version A as-is, but model version B’s copy after the fluffy duck toys page. If version B sees a 20% increase in conversions, you’ve probably found your answer! If not, you can continue testing to identify the cause.
Finally, you will need to continue reviewing, updating, and optimizing your ecommerce store pages frequently. Make sure all of your product information is accurate and up-to-date, and that discontinued products are removed (and the broken links redirected somewhere new). Subscribe to marketing or SEO blogs, and keep an eye out for new Google updates. If a change to their algorithm may potentially affect you, you’ll want to take action as soon as possible to avoid a penalty – or worse.
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Is your head spinning?
At WebFX, we know how complicated – and time-consuming – an ecommerce marketing plan can be. Sometimes you just need a little bit of help. The good news is that we’re here for you! Our internet marketing services range from optimization to social media and everything in between. Whether your ecommerce store is big or small, our expert team is available to help you reach your goals.