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How to build an effective blog for an e-commerce site
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Build a blog for an e-commerce site without it becoming one big ad

The trouble with some twitter, facebook feeds and blogs is that they read like one big sales pitch. There might be a few offers dotted in there that are of interest to your customers but bombarding people with them isn’t interesting or productive. People won’t follow a feed, blog that is the visual equivalent of a relentless telemarketing pitch.
Aside from this, blogs and social networks are a way of interacting / communicating with your customers, not a one way conversation of you pitching your wares.
So blogs need to be:

  • Interesting
  • Interactive
  • Responsive (can be updated to include conversations provoked by the initial post)
  • Informative / thought provoking
  • Mixed media - videos, pictures, graphics
  • A promotion for your brand, not just your products

So most of us know all this but it’s easier said than done. You sit down to brainstorm and are bombarded by ideas:

Blog Action Plan

..but where do you go from here?
Maybe you are in an industry that may be considered boring and have a total lack of inspiration. This is a common problem but with a bit of good old fashioned research, planning and lots of coffee it can be solved.

First of all, for the technical aspects of setting up a blog, read below (you can skip this step if your blog is already implemented).

How to integrate a blog

There are many platforms out there that you can use to create your blog, the most popular being Wordpress. With wordpress you have two options:

  1. Self hosted Wordpress website.
  2. Managed wordpress hosting by wordpress.com.

In our opinion, option 1 is the better of the two choices if you want to customise your blog to fit in with your website. This is because you can run it from your own domain name and also alter the layout to any style you like. If you use wordpress.com you will be restricted to the default themes on offer.

You can follow our guide at How to install Wordpress for a step by step guide on how to install Wordpress onto your hosting account.

What to write about

Right, so your blog is all implemented and working fine. You have a blank canvas so where do you start? This is the all important question and will probably depend greatly on your product / industry. However, there are certain types of blog post that any brand can use and benefit from.
Your first blog post should introduce your brand but also inform the customer of something that they may be looking for.

How to build an effective blog

Lists

One example that could work for this is if you were selling shoes and one of the various fashion weeks had just occurred. You could do a Top 10 of shoes exhibited on the catwalk at fashion week (make it specific - men’s, women’s or do one for both). Alongside the pictures, possibly videos and a well written post, you can suggest a similar style of shoe that you sell with a link. Don’t make this bit too obvious or in your face, just a complementary aside to the post.
Also remember that this is a blog post, not an article. Always include a comments script so that your readers can give feedback and interact with you.
You may not want to do a list based post which is fine. Lists are very popular but so are any posts that answer a question.

How to write a blog

How to

Maybe you own an alcoholic smoothie company. You want to promote your product but you also want to give something back to the consumer. So what do you do? Well as an introductory blog, you could have an example of how to make a popular alcoholic smoothie. You could publish a full recipe with pictures. You could add a star rating system for your readers to rate this smoothie and welcome their feedback. This could then become a regular monthly feature where people could list your recipes by star rating. This sort of post is perfect for interaction and for getting people talking.

The above two types of post are probably the best type to start with. You could do an ‘introducing ourselves’ post but unless it is literally all singing and dancing along with said singing and dancing on a embedded video, people may not be initially that interested. It’s a fact of life that you have to knock people’s socks off to get them to notice you amongst a sea of competition. By initially enticing them to your site with something they might need, you can build up trust and a conversation.

Types of blog posts that you may wish to publish later on:

Give away items

Competitions

Competitions are a funny thing. They attract a large amount of links and visits (a lot of which are not targeted). The good thing about them is that they are a way of giving back to your customers as well as a way to create buzz on your blog. You can choose to giveaway a popular product that you know will get a lot of attention such as a tablet or laptop. Alternatively, you could giveaway one of your own products. This keeps it relevant as well as promoting your product.
You can keep it interactive by adding a poll to rate the competition prize or start a conversation asking for new competition ideas. You can make this interesting by turning it into a contest, asking readers to design a new product or logo or by turning it into a photography competition.

Star Rating / Reviews

Reviews

Reviews are a popular feature on personal blogs but are a little trickier for an ecommerce website. Reviewing your own products is an option but isn’t exactly unbiased and is a little egocentric. One way of getting past this is by leaving reviews of your own products to your customers on your product pages.
Reviews for your blog can be of something related to your industry but not your products themselves. For instance, if you were a mail order butchers, you could do a review of the best seasonings on the market. You could then contact the manufacturers of the seasonings just to let you know that you have reviewed their product. They may then promote it with a tweet or facebook mention.

Blog Interviews

Interviews

These can be interesting if you manage to bag an interview with an influential person related to your industry. It may not be easy to get someone to agree to this so if you have good connections, that’s easier. However, most people like to promote themselves so are unlikely to turn down a polite request to feature in a blog (which let’s face it is free publicity for them).
Maybe you sell cookware and have managed to convince a moderately well known cookbook author / personality to do an interview. Intersperse the interview transcript with any appropriate graphics or pictures. Even better, if you know in advance that you are going to be interviewing this person then ask customers / readers if they have any questions for your interviewee. This works two fold as your user base feel more involved and you get some great questions to ask.
Hopefully some of the above suggestions will help you create a more interactive, interesting blog.

We’re sure you all have some great ideas too so please feel free to add these in the comments. Thanks in advance! Any good suggestions we will add to the list above!



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