Hosting a product or store-related blog not only inspires shopper interaction, but done right, it can help increase overall sales. There are some key strategies, though, and without them, you’re probably wasting a great deal of time.
Blogging is different than simply posting information about what you sell and why. It’s more about engaging readers interested in your products and inspiring them to interact. For example, a site that sells after-market car accessories might host a blog about car memorabilia, or in-depth how-tos on car maintenance and/or installations.
Many online store managers, however, mistakenly use blogging tools, primarily to spotlight products and over-inundate users with sales pitches. This rarely works for small business. Instead, you need to find your niche and focus more on branding (making customers remember who you are) and promoting community interaction.
Here are some key tips on successful blogging for small business ecommerce:
- Host the blog on the store’s domain or a subdomain. Don’t send visitors to a third-party site, which may or may not host third-party advertising. Domain changes, as well as design/layout differences, can confuse visitors.
- Use popular blogging software that supports many customizations via modules or plugins. This way you’re not tied to a specific developer should anything go amiss.
- Be comment-friendly. Don’t require accounts or logins. A big reason people don’t comment at many blogs is because they don’t want to create yet another account. It’s better to have to moderate posts than to require registration – in turn, you should receive more comments than if you require accounts. Some software allows you to take a user off moderation if he/she has a certain number of approved comments.
- Use pictures. They help break up lengthy text and make pages more appealing.
- Support the Gravatar. A gravatar is a “globally recognized avatar”, which is a thumbnail picture a commenter has uploaded to the Internet. These avatars make posters recognizable across the web and further personalizes the comments section, or even forum posts. By supporting Gravatars, blogs become more of a community rather than one-way conversation and anonymous posting. You can learn more about Gravatars at http://en.gravatar.com/.
- If you want to host advertisements for your own store pages, choose 1-2 key spots (such as a banner and a side graphic). Make sure the ads aren’t overpowering the content of the blog. The goal is to promote the store without making visitors feel like you’re force-feeding them.
- Add Social Media icons, especially for Facebook and Twitter. This gives visitors a quick and easy way to share the url of the post, which can, in turn, bring you more traffic. You can easily add a tweet “counter” by following instructions from TweetMeme. A simple way to add a host of other icons (for sites like Buzz, Digg, Reddit, etc) is to use the ShareThis tool.
- Let people be real. Of course, you don’t want to allow posting of profanity and overly negative comments with no basis, but you also don’t want to filter comments to display only the good. If someone disagrees (nicely, and with basis), then let it through. This not only shows that you’re open to suggestions, but it can also initiate additional comments, and potentially a great deal of shares across the web.
- Ask users to share experiences. Tagging a simple question at the end of a blog entry can inspire more people to talk about the topic.
- Supply an RSS feed. Savvy users love to follow RSS feeds because they can track scores of blogs across a single channel. If you want to promote traffic returning to your blog pages, provide an enticing summary of the post, followed by a link to read the entire entry. This works with both computer-based and mobile visitors, so long as the blog is “readable” on mobile devices.
- Include a mobile version. Blog entries can still contain images and other media. A mobile version merely simplifies the navigation. Many smartphone users rely on mobile sites for all their news and entertainment reading, so don’t rule them out.
This, of course, is just a short list of things that can help bring your site more traffic and loyal readers. Have your own proven methods? Please, share them.