The demise of content marketing has been predicted by some but for e-commerce sites the maxim ‘content is king’ still holds true.

In a recent poll online marketers were asked which single digital marketing technique they thought would make the biggest commercial impact for them in 2015. Content marketing was the clear winner with 29.6 percent of the vote, more than twice the amount of big data (14.6 percent) and around three times more than mobile marketing (11 percent) and social media marketing (8.9 percent).

An Econsultancy report also found that, 60 percent of companies see content engagement increasing and 30 percent of companies plan to invest more in creating original and unique content.

"They are making this investment to stay ahead of competition, as well as a way to improve SEO,” the report says.

Content is key but it must be created and used effectively to have a real impact. Here are some tips on making content pay.

There is More Than One Type of Content

Relationship-building content is the stuff that most people think of when content marketing is mentioned. This could take the form of a blog, a YouTube channel or various other platforms and should be designed to attract an audience, gain their trust and set you up as an expert in your own field.

This sort of content does not have to present the hard sell. It may refer directly to your products but more general articles, advice, guides and think-pieces can be just as effective.

Transitional content is designed to help customers progress from awareness of your brand to viewing relevant products and actually making a purchase. has some great examples, providing a 90-second video guide to choosing a fridge-freezer and a Q+A format guide to buying the right (Read more...).

Transactional copy is aimed at helping (and encouraging) the customer to make that transaction. This usually takes the form of ‘microcopy’ – small but important touches that engender trust or help you stand out.

Take a look at The Guardian’s free membership page and note the little guiding touches on the form itself.


Use Videos and Images

Written blogs and FAQs can be useful but they’re certainly not the only types of content you should be using.

According to comScore, 188.2 million people in the US watched 52.4 billion online content videos in December 2013, with the average American spending more than 19 hours watching online video.

Videos can be used to provide instruction, to present a product or simply to engage a potential customer at the relationship-building stage. Photographs and images are also important.

They can help catch the eye or break up walls of text when used in conjunction with written content and are essential for product descriptions. Take a look at Grazia’s Hot Drops section for a dynamic, fashion mag-style feature.


Use Instructional Content

In his book ‘Youtility’ marketing guru Jay Baer writes: “Today’s consumers are staring at an invitation avalanche, with every company asking for likes, follows, clicks, and attention. This is on top of all the legacy advertising that envelops us like a straitjacket. There are only two ways for companies to break through in an environment that is unprecedented in its competitiveness and cacophony. They can be ‘amazing’ or they can be useful.”

You can aim for amazing but anyone can be useful. From how-to video guides to infographics, detailed FAQs, content that informs and instructs the customer can be incredibly valuable and engaging.

Encourage Customer Reviews

Customer reviews are now an essential part of the decision-making process for the majority of online shoppers. A 2014 survey found that 72 percent of consumers said positive reviews made them trust a business more, with 85 percent of those reading up to 10 reviews before feeling they could trust a business. Some products will attract multiple pages of reviews, all of which provide fresh, original content for free.

There’s always the chance of negative reviews of course but these can serve as an incentive to improve products and levels of service. And if you have no reviews at all, potential customers might consider a rival who does, to be a safer bet.

For the foreseeable future content remains king, but knowing how to create, source and use it effectively does require a little forethought and knowledge. 

*Image via Shutterstock

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