How to be an ecommerce blog that’s not “just an ecommerce blog”: 5 traffic-killing mistakes

Despite the ecommerce industry’s double-digit annual growth rates, 80% of stores tank within the first two years. Out of the millions that currently exist, only a few hundred thousand are consistently profitable. Naturally, inadequate customer service, slapdash branding, and poor product quality are all reasons for such high failure rates.   

But the number one reason why ecommerce businesses fail?

Traffic.

To stand out in an oversaturated industry, you have to position yourself as more than an online seller of goods. You have to become an integral part of your audience’s lives and a sought after source not just for products, but education and entertainment.

And that’s exactly where most ecommerce blogs fail. They’re “just ecommerce blogs”: a hastily thrown together hodgepodge of pitches, promotions, and products.

To save you from that fate, here are the five most traffic-killing mistakes ecommerce blogs make…and how to get them right.

No clear goals

Whether or not the great Peter Drucker ever uttered the words, they’re true: “You can’t manage what you can’t measure.” More to the point, you can’t improve or even reap the rewards of a blog you don’t measure.

We’ll get into how to measure below. But, of course, the first step is setting clear goals.

Unfortunately, unless you know what you want to achieve with your blog, it’ll lack direction and depth. Distracted by vague goals and vanity metrics, your already taxed time and talent will be wasted.

The solution? Define a set of SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely.

Image Credit: Capterra

Better yet, start by defining just one or – at most – two goals. “Focusing on one metric gives you a definitive and persistent goal you can work towards and gauge your progress every single day and week,” writes Richard Lazazzera, the founder of A Better Lemonade Stand.

Blogging goals should be distinct from and yet, integrated with your overall ecommerce goals.

Naturally, ecommerce goals revolve around sales, conversion, or customer-service metrics. Blogging goals, while a key component of improving conversion rates, are more content-specific.

For example, you might aim at engagement: X number of comments and shares within Y months. Or traffic: boost visitors by X% from Y channel by Z date. But the mother of them all is lead generation: Collect X qualified leads via overlays, inline forms, and clickthroughs to the contact page from blogging within Y quarter.

No actionable analytics

Goal-setting is just one piece of the performance puzzle; the other piece is goal-analysis.

With a ton of free analytic tools at your fingertips, there are no excuses not to measure your blog’s performance. Figuring out which posts struck a chord (and which ones left people cold) saves time, reduces stress, and hones your quality.

To do this you need real data that connects content to commerce.

As Shanelle Mullin put in over on KlientBoost’s Ecommerce Data Myths:

“The biggest best practice myth in ecommerce is the very concept of best practices, which are typically nothing more than common practices.

Merchants should conduct their own research. Then they can make acquisition, optimization and retention decisions based on their own data instead of someone else’s.

Sometimes your research will confirm “best practices,” sometimes not. What’s important is that you know for yourself (versus simply believing what you read somewhere on a blog).”

Thankfully, you don’t really need anything fancier than Google Analytics. Not only is it one of the most popular and cost-effective tools, it also offers ecommerce-specific traffic reports to gauge your performance.

Image Credit: Shopify

For ecommerce bloggers, the most useful feature is Google Analytics Goals.

Kissmetrics’ 4 Google Analytics Goal Types That Are Critical To Your Business will guide you to the right kind of goal as well as walk through every step to create and monitor them.

No target audience

Ecommerce blogs often obsess about what to write about – keywords, topics, ideation, and creation – when they should be concentrating on whom to write for. A blog with an ill-defined audience is either too restricted, thereby running out of topics quickly, or (as is more common) too broad, lacking direction and converting power.  

When you write for everyone, you write for no one.

In fact, without a clearly defined audience, you inevitably end up writing for the one person you shouldn’t be: yourself. Self-centeredness is a plague, especially with online content.

Begin with the demographics of your audience, but go deeper through personas. For help, two resources stand out. The first is Jen Havice’s How To Create Customer Personas With Actual, Real Life Data over at ConversionXL. As Havice explains:

In essence, personas are fictional representations of segments of buyers based on real data reflecting their behaviors. Their purpose is to put the people behind company decision making in the shoes of the customer.”

The other is one of my own: The Only Copywriting Formula You’ll Ever Need. It’s about fear, the “most primal” human motivator, and how to unleash it in your content. At the end are thirteen questions to crawl inside the hearts and minds of your target audience. Here’s a sampling:

What does your audience hate… about their life, about their job, or about your particular type of product or service?

What are the real-world consequences of these problems? In other words, how can you quantify, in real numbers, their hates and headaches?

What’s the most awkward, confusing, or inconvenient thing about your type of business?

What are the two to three biggest barriers to becoming a customer?

What nightmare or hell (be as vivid and emotive as possible) does your business save its customers from?

The big idea in all that is to define your audience as concretely as possible and create content for them … not you. Study their browsing, shopping, and purchase behavior. Monitor online conversations. Conduct surveys. Provide on-site customer service.  Encourage them to connect via email.

The deeper you probe, the more educational and entertaining your posts will be and the richer your relationships.

No real salvation

This fatal mistake flows right out of the last one.

Far too many ecommerce blogs are little more than self-centered announcement platforms to sport new products, new features, new staff, or new wins. PR banalities that mean nothing to your audience.

The ugly truth is visitors don’t care about your product features, your staff, or your accomplishments. All they care about – and all they want to know – is how can you help them.

Before creating any post, ask yourself two questions:

“What hell will this content save people from? What heaven will it deliver them unto?”

Everything you create must get them one step closer to their own personal paradise. If that sounds oddly theological, it doesn’t have to be.

Take something thoroughly non-spiritual like property management software. What hell do landlords what to be saved from? The overwhelming complexity of choosing the right solution, getting bamboozled by the demo process, and ending up with an overpriced product that doesn’t meet their needs. What heaven do they want? Non-biased advice from property management experts.

That’s precisely the salvific principle behind Rentec Direct’s nearly 3,000 word post How to Pick the Best Property Management Software and What to Avoid:

Image Credit: Rentec Direct

And just to prove that it’s not about them, they even go so far as to say in the introduction:

These are not endorsements and we won’t mention a single product by name.

Instead, this is your personal guide to choosing the right software…and avoiding the pitfalls.

True to their word, the post never pitches their product.

Or take computer-kit manufacturer Piper’s How to Bridge Academics and Invention in Elementary Education. The heaven is one their audience – elementary STEM teachers, administrators, and advocates – can immediately identify with: “to help us grow intellectually, help us make connections between disciplines, and give us an opportunity to try new things.”

And who helps to get them there? Piper.

Image Credit: Piper

Your own blog posts should follow the same salvation-offering ethos. Only then – when it genuinely helps your audience – will they begin to trust you and come back as customers, again and again.

No authentic humanity

Big words.

Those seductive, polysyllabic combinations that make us feel smart and knowledgeable. Buzzwords, clichés, and insider jargons belong in this category. Think “bleeding edge,” “innovative,” “disruptive,” “empowering,” and on and on.

Not only are they annoying, they actually have the opposite effect than intended. The delightfully titled research paper, Consequences of erudite vernacular utilized irrespective of necessity: problems with using long words needlessly, found that complex language makes you (the writer) look dumber, not smarter.

Why? Because they negatively mitigate neurological fluency. That is, they make you hard to understand.

Worse, pompous phrases also make your readers feel incompetent, intimidated, and resentful – the very opposite of how they should feel. Close the door on platitudes right now and opt for simplicity, eloquence, vigor and wit instead.

Be authentic. Be human.

How?

Write the way you talk. Imagine you’re having a conversation with a friend or trying to talk your great uncle through a problem. Keep it casual, conversational, and clear.

You can do this in two ways. First, invite an outsider to read your blog before you publish. Their job shouldn’t be to proofread, just to call out anything and everything they don’t get. Second, read it out loud to yourself into a voice recorder. Anything that trips you up, get rid of it. Anything that doesn’t sound like a real human when you play it back, cut.

Ann Handley, the bestselling author of Everybody Writes, says it best:

Good writing serves the reader, not the writer.

If you sell in a particularly technical ecommerce industry, then work through Henneke Duistermaat’s – the queen of personable prose – How to Write Gobbledygook-Free Content. Or better yet, grab Unbounce’s Dejargonator Extension inspired by Henneke herself:

Image Credit: Unbounce

Your blog is an invitation to connect, not a chance to show off. Self-centered content will drive away traffic just as much as jargon-filled buzzwords.

More Than Just an Ecommerce Blog

Done right, blogging enhances your brand image, conversion rates, social proof, and sales. Done wrong, it hurts your reputation, dulls your profits, and alienates your audience.

Avoiding these mistakes is the first step towards being more than “just an ecommerce blog.”

  1. No Clear Goals
  2. No Actionable Analytics
  3. No Target Audience
  4. No Real Salvation
  5. No Authentic Humanity

Of course, those five mistakes aren’t the only traffic-killers.

Be sure to sign up for the Klaviyo list below because in the next couple of weeks we’ll be diving into five more mistakes. The first one on that list – No Calls to Action – is the cardinal sin of low-converting ecommerce blogs. (Plus,  it’s so much easier to fix than you think.)

Have an ecommerce store? Want to do more with email marketing? We have a newsletter for that.

Blog to narrate your stories. Blog to start a dialogue. Blog because you care.

Aaron Orendorff
Aaron Orendorff is the founder of iconiContent and a regular contributor at Entrepreneur, Mashable, Lifehacker, Fast Company, Business Insider, Shopify Plus, and more. Connect with him about all things content, copywriting, and bunnies on Facebook or Twitter.
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