E-Commerce: Getting Noticed, Part Three

July 10, 2006

This is a continuation of a series of articles about the basics of e-commerce, and getting noticed on the web. My previous article was about “sell through” stores — the Amazon Marketplace and eBay Stores. I also wrote a bit about prepping your site for search engines, and using targeted search engines like Froogle and Shopzilla.

This post is about attracting traffic from personal blogs, and sending content to sites and people that specialize in aggregating interesting tidbits from around the web.

Blog What?

Blogging is all about people telling other people interesting bits of information.

The information part of it can be anything anyone wants to write about — a backpacking trip in Europe, politics, local news, software development, etc. Regardless, the critical part is that what you write has to be interesting to the people you want to attract.

But what to write about? And how much time will it take? A long article can take several hours; a quick post can take a couple of minutes. Here’s a few examples:

  • Regular Promotions — Announcing a deal a day, like woot.com. Under 5 minutes.
  • Related Deals — A snow sport store noting a ski pass deal at a local resort. Under 5 minutes
  • Calendar Events — a Fifth of July Fireworks Clearance Sale! 15 minutes
  • Customer Content — A customer writes in with her story about using your products on a trip. 30 minutes
  • Case Studies — When and where to best use a specific product, typically related to the current season or an event. 30 minutes to 2 hours
  • Product Comparisons — Why Widget X is better than Widget Y in some situations, but not in others. 2 to 4 hours.

All of these things are interesting to people who are keen on buying what you’re selling, and that’s what counts in e-commerce — getting the attention of people who are ready to buy.

And Then?

If you want people to read what you’re writing, there are two prominent ways to gather eyeballs:

  • Send your content to related sites and interested readers (syndication).
  • Get links to your site from people who are interested in what you’re doing.

Syndication is a big deal. The more sites you can get your content on, the more frequently it will be seen, and consequently the more traffic you’ll receive. A bunch of generous people figured this out a few years back, and today syndicating your content (and tracking how it’s used) is automatic, free, and easy. Case in point: if you’re reading this article, there’s an 80% chance you found it through another web site or syndication service, and I haven’t paid a dime for any of it.

That said, an lot of the people who read your content will be bloggers. Bloggers are always looking for something to write about, and they’re usually quite generous about linking to things they find interesting. Those links are important for three reasons. First, links back to your site generally improve your standing amongst search engines. Second, links are usually part of a personal endorsement, leaving a much bigger impression on people than a banner or text ad. Finally, it’s very targeted — blogs are read because they’re interesting to the reader, and if someone spends a lot of time writing about collecting clocks, or fishing, or base jumping, chances are their audience is likewise interested.

Add it all up, and blogging becomes a powerful medium for reaching customers.

What’s Next?

I’m going to get off the subject of attracting people to your shop, and focus on some general principals of converting them into customers. Stay tuned, and feel free to leave questions or comments in the meantime.

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