There are two key types of marketing — inbound and outbound. Here we’ll focus on inbound marketing, but you can find out more about outbound in How to Promote Your Store With Outbound Marketing.
Inbound marketing refers to the ways in which you attract traffic to you. The most effective inbound tactics are search engine optimization (SEO), content marketing and social media marketing. However, before we dive into these tactics, let’s take a look at buyer personas.
Understanding your buyer persona
A strong inbound marketing strategy starts with a solid understanding of your audience — who they are, what they like, what they don’t like, how they spend their free time, how much money they earn, how much they spend, what they spend it on, what values they hold dear, why…we could go on!
You’ll use this information to create a detailed buyer persona. This is a hypothetical representation of your ‘ideal’ customer, the person at whom you’ll direct your marketing efforts. When you understand exactly what makes your buyer persona tick, you can tailor your marketing to solve their problems, meet their needs, bring their desires to life — and encourage them to buy from you.
This is particularly true of content marketing…
Content marketing refers to the creation and distribution of content to a defined audience, with the intention of eventually turning the audience into customers.
Content can come in many forms, from informative blog posts and articles, to entertaining videos and podcasts, to educational e-books and research papers, and much more. Depending on your audience and what appeals to them, you might choose one, a combination, or all of the above.
For example, if you’re a beauty retailer, you might:
- Populate your blog with advice on make-up techniques and current styles.
- Create YouTube video tutorials on how to use certain products or create certain looks.
- Encourage your Instagram followers to tag you in photos of them wearing your products.
If you sell kitchenware, you might:
- Post recipes or cooking tips on your blog.
- Create short cooking segments or product demonstrations on YouTube.
- Offer e-books addressing a topic like cooking at Christmas or healthy eating on a budget.
You might notice that none of these ideas are explicitly promoting your brand, and there’s a good reason for this. While your purpose is to drive traffic and make sales, your content should focus solely on providing value to the audience, with no outward expectation of anything in return.
This sounds counterproductive — after all, what if they just read your blog and never buy anything? Isn’t that a waste of time and money?
No! Your customers are bombarded with thousands of marketing messages every day. As a result, they’ve become very good at spotting them and shutting them out. If you try to jump straight in and sell, they’ll shut you out too. While it takes a little longer, content will help you to bypass these filters.
By creating quality, consistent content, you’ll build a long-term, positive relationship with your audience, boost your brand awareness, and position yourself as a leader in your field. Then, when the time comes for your audience to make a purchase, yours is the first brand that will come to mind.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
SEO is the practice of optimizing your website so that it appears highly in search engine results for key search terms. For example, if you have a sportswear store, you might want to rank highly when somebody searches for terms like ‘running shoes’ or ‘yoga leggings’. The higher you appear in these results, the more likely the shopper will visit your online store.
Your search ranking on a site like Google is decided by complex algorithms. These take into account many different factors, but we’ll stick to the main four here:
- Relevance – how often are the keywords used on your page and where?
- Quality – how many sites link back to your page, and what are their rankings?
- Engagement – how many people visit your site and how long do they spend there?
- Unique content – how often is your site updated, and is your content original and valuable?
So how do you optimize your e-commerce site to hit these key factors? There are two main methods — on-page SEO and off-page SEO.
Off-page SEO, or link-building, involves having other sites link back to yours. This tells Google that others find your content valuable enough to promote, and Google will reward you for quality. As a bonus, the higher the ranking of the site that links to you, the more value that link will hold for you.
Link-building is rather difficult and time-consuming, so if you’re not experienced in SEO, it’s a good idea to call in professional help. However, on-page SEO is a little easier.
Boosting your search relevance with on-page optimization involves researching keywords your audience are searching for. You can use Google’s free Keyword Planner, or sites like Moz and SEM Rush, to find popular search terms related to your product.
Next, you thread these keywords strategically throughout your page’s copy. A word of caution —don’t be tempted to throw them in anywhere and everywhere, as Google will penalize you for ‘keyword stuffing’. Simply use your keywords naturally, and try to include them in the following key places:
- URL, or webpage address, e.g. www.onlinestore.com/silicon-kitchen-utensil-set
- Product title
- Product description
- Product tags
- Product features
- Body copy
- Page title (as seen in the browser tab and in blue in search results)
- Meta description (as seen under the page title in search results)
- Image ‘alt’ tags
What’s an image ‘alt’ tag? Well, when you upload a product image to your site, you should have the option to provide alternative text. It’s a good idea to provide a descriptive alt text, including your keywords, for several reasons.
First, Google scans your images and may penalize you for not having alt text. Second, if for some reason your images don’t load, the user will see the alt text and be able to understand what’s missing. Third, some people with visual difficulties rely on screen readers to browse the web, so your alt text helps the screen reader to describe it to them. The second and third points make for a better user experience, which will indirectly improve your ranking by boosting engagement.
Google evaluates your engagement level by assessing how many visitors you get, how long they stay on your site, how many pages they visit, and what percentage of visitors leave immediately after landing on your site (your bounce rate).
One way to build engagement and cut your bounce rate is to design your site for a great user experience. A site that’s easy and enjoyable to use will keep your visitors with you for longer, while an outdated design, confusing layout, and technical issues will turn them away.
Make sure your site loads quickly and works well by optimizing large photos, minimizing heavy files, and avoiding complicated scripts. Fix any technical issues, be sure to check for broken links, and use 301 redirects when you remove products that are no longer available.
Your content, specifically your blog content, can go a long way towards boosting your search ranking. Updating your blog regularly with interesting, substantial content boosts your traffic and engagement, signalling to Google that you have a quality site. And of course, more traffic means more sales!
The key is to write content that answers a question, need or problem your audience has. You can gain insight into this via your buyer persona, by conducting in-depth market research, and/or by using the Google Keyword Planner, as above.
Next, choose a search phrase and some related keywords that sum up your audience’s question. If you sell electrical goods, this might be something like ‘should I buy an iPhone or an Android phone?’
The final step is to write a blog post that answers the question in detail, optimizing your post with your chosen keywords, as described above. If you do this well, your content will appear high in the search results when your audience searches the term, bringing them to your blog and hopefully, your store.
Social media marketing
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube… your customers are more than likely using at least one of these major social media platforms, and you should be too! Social media allows you to connect with your target audience, promote your products, distribute your content, and direct traffic back to your e-commerce store, among many other benefits.
To build up your follower base, be sure to encourage your customers or website visitors to like or follow your pages. You can do this by including visible social follow links on your website and on your product descriptions, and by adding your social addresses to promotional material, business cards, email signatures, and signage.
As your followers grow, it’s important to engage with them to keep their interest. As with content marketing, think value first and sales second. That said, your followers are following you because they’re interested in your brand, so it’s ok to keep them informed about what’s going on. As well as sharing high-quality content, you can:
- Post links to your latest blog articles.
- Offer video demos of new products.
- Share company news and announcements.
- Launch new products.
- Hold competitions and product giveaways.
- Ask for feedback and conduct surveys.
- Answer questions about your products.
Be conscious that in today’s hyper-connected world, people expect to be able to have a two-way conversation with brands online. This is a great opportunity for you to build relationships and show a human side to your brand. Monitor and get involved in conversations, and respond to comments — especially negative ones — quickly and professionally.
Tip: If you find that social media is taking up too much time, try an app like Buffer, HootSuite, or Sprout. These automation tools allow you to schedule your posts in advance across various platforms, and best of all, they’re free!
What else can you do to promote your e-commerce store?
That’s inbound marketing covered; time to talk about outbound! Learn about the key outbound marketing techniques for e-commerce success in How to Promote Your Store With Outbound Marketing.
Link360 is an Inbound Marketing Agency Located in Greenville, SC. We specialize in generating leads for our clients through attracting visitors to their website, converting them into leads and closing them as customers. If you have any questions, or would like your own free Inbound Marketing Analysis, please contact us now.