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eCommerce content marketing: How to move customers down your sales funnel

an image of Naomi Francis-Parker, accompanied by various search-related iconography

I find that a lot of eCommerce brands don’t see the value in creating content that isn’t directly related to selling their products. Though product is the cornerstone of any eCommerce business, there’s a common misconception that simply by offering something your customers want, they will visit your website and buy from you—no questions asked.


By their very nature, eCommerce websites are a shop window for products, but in a world where shoppers have more options than ever before, you need to stand out and demonstrate why your brand is the best choice.


One of the most effective ways to do this is through content that connects with users at all stages of the marketing funnel. You need to transform your website from a shop window to an informative, decision-making resource that truly adds value to your customers’ buying experience.


In this guide, I’ll explain why eCommerce brands need a content marketing strategy and lay out a framework to help you research, plan, and implement expertise-led content to appeal to customers at all stages of the marketing funnel.


Table of contents



The importance and value of content marketing 


Content marketing’s primary advantages are twofold:


  • Content marketing can benefit your SEO and help you rank more prominently in search results for your niche.


  • Content marketing can assist potential customers who want to know more about your product or topics in your niche.


Content marketing for SEO

Every serious business is fighting for a slot at the top of Google search results, and content marketing is one of the few ways you can truly get there by demonstrating your expertise.


Search engines operate on the understanding of topics, and your performance in the search results is influenced by how well your website presents valuable and unique knowledge (in the form of content) within your topic area. In other words, you need to show Google that your website deserves to rank for relevant topics and demonstrate why it is more deserving than your competition (who will likely be writing the same content).


These are the fundamentals of content marketing, and most businesses recognize that by having content on their website, they are more likely to rank for the topics they want and therefore drive more potential customers to their website via greater visibility on Google (or other search engines). 


However, when people talk about content marketing in the context of SEO, I find that this is often restricted to informational content led by keywords and search volumes that only cover the basics of a topic. 


Writing content purely to target a set of keywords with desirable search volume that happens to align with your niche will only get you so far. 

The internet is becoming increasingly flooded with such content in nearly all industries, making it increasingly more difficult to stand out from the crowd. That’s why you also need to consider content marketing for the customer.


Content marketing for the customer

To help cut down on low-quality content, Google aligned its search quality evaluator guidelines with what human users value and trust—expertise. This incentivizes you to leverage your experiences (as a business or business owner) as a point of distinction, proving to search engines and users that your content isn’t just a cookie-cutter article for ranking.


I’ve found that when this concept is explained to businesses, most assume that “experience” only applies to service-based businesses or bloggers who write about specific topics. Experience is seen as something that only an individual or a small group of individuals can provide, rather than a big brand—which isn’t true.

Expertise is born out of experience, so if your business has the expertise to sell a product, then you also have the experience of selling your products to (and sharing knowledge with) your audience. This is what users are looking for when they’re searching for content that is relevant to their query.


Content that is created for the user and can demonstrate experience through expertise (the other “E” in E-E-A-T) will naturally become content that ranks. In short, content for SEO and content for the customer are now the same.


Why eCommerce businesses need content


Nearly every eCommerce business that I’ve worked with assumed that content isn’t for them because: 


  • They think that content is for publication websites or blogs.

  • The content they created in the past hasn’t generated revenue.


To sell your products and to show users you know what you’re talking about when it comes to those products, your website needs to become more than a shop window. You need to evoke a sense of trust and the only way to do that effectively on your website is through different types of content that caters to potential customers’ needs, no matter what they are.


An image of the customer journey/sales funnel, with labels for each phase: awareness, interest, decision, conversion. There are also various content types associated with each stage (e.g., free trials for the decision stage).
Site visitors look for various types of content according to the stage of the customer journey they’re in.

It’s the same as someone walking into your physical store and asking a store clerk for advice. A good store clerk will provide as much information as possible to help the customer better understand a product or choose a specific product based on their query.


Having no content on your website (besides your products) is the same as having a store with no store clerks. 

Ultimately, your potential customers will leave to seek advice elsewhere and will likely purchase from the same competitors that gave them the advice they were looking for. This is why your website needs to be an information resource tailored for customers regardless of whether they’re ready to buy.


Product detail pages & product listings pages: Content that sells


This might sound basic, but your product listings pages (PLPs) and your product detail pages (PDPs) are not the same as your blog. Each serves a different purpose and caters to customers at different stages of the marketing funnel, so the content you provide on each page type should differ to match the corresponding user intent.


User intent

Description

Informational

The user is looking for more general information or answers about your product/industry.

Navigational

The user is looking to navigate to a specific site or page that they already know about. E.g., the returns or login page.

Commercial

The user is moving closer to conversion and wants to research/compare products, read reviews, and find other information that will help them make a decision.

Transactional

The user has decided to buy and intends to make a purchase or complete an action.


PLPs and PDPs, let’s call them “money pages,” both cater to customers in the middle of the marketing funnel at the interest and decision stages. These customers have an idea of what they want and they’re looking at their options to find the best product to meet their needs. For example, they might want a new pair of running shoes but aren’t sure which type to go for. They will be browsing your money pages and looking for information to help them make an informed decision.


In other words, they’ve just walked into your store and asked a store clerk for advice. This advice must match the intent of the query for the customer to move closer to conversion, so you would expect the store assistant to explain the differences between each type of trainer and suggest several options based on the customer’s requirements.


At this point, you wouldn’t expect the clerk to explain the history of running or how running affects your health because you will have likely researched this information before you decided to go into the store. In the same way, customers don’t expect your money pages to do this either.


This is the key difference between the content you provide on your money pages and the content on your blog. One is for selling and the other is for informing.


One of the most common mistakes I see eCommerce businesses make is putting as much information as possible on their money pages in hopes it will help them rank. The problem is that this is generally content for content’s sake and therefore adds no value for the user while providing a worse user experience.

Your money pages’ duty is to provide expertise to help secure an eventual sale and move the customer further down the funnel to the conversion stage. Just like it’s a store clerk’s job to do the same.


Therefore, the most effective content to have on these pages is FAQs with answers that are accurate, insightful, and aim to help customers pick the best product for them. This, coupled with some contextual information about the product collection and perhaps some of your bestsellers is enough to make your PLPs engaging and informative without turning them into a blog.


Bulk's whey protein PLP FAQs and bestselling products
BULK’s whey protein PLP contains FAQs and bestsellers to educate customers and help them find the best product. Source: Bulk.com

There will be times when customers need a little more information about a topic or want to learn more about something specific. You can guide these customers to your blog content with internal links. That way, you’re enhancing the experience without blurring the lines of intent. This also has the added benefit of improving the internal linking structure between your pages, which improves the topical authority of your site overall.


Informational vs. Commercial content: Why you need both


“We tried doing content but it didn’t convert, so we stopped”.

This is something that I’ve heard countless times from businesses and it does make sense—if you’re an eCommerce brand and your main goal is to sell products, then you naturally want to focus on content that converts. But with this mindset, you’re ignoring users at the top of the marketing funnel who are just starting their buying journey and are looking for a solution to their problem.


If your business has the solution, why not nurture those users early on with information that can help guide them down the funnel and turn them into your potential customers?


As users progress through the funnel, their preferences for content shift. Those in the awareness stage are more drawn to informational content because they’re researching the topic as a whole, while those in the decision stage are researching more specifically to find the exact product that addresses their needs, so they are more interested in commercial content.


More than half (52%) of customers go out of their way to purchase from their favorite brands (according to a study by Zendesk), with one of the most influential factors being support. Aside from the traditional customer service support that you provide, I believe that support can also come in the form of content that truly helps the customer and makes them feel confident about your expertise and your product.


If you want to be recognized as a business that supports its customers—rather than one that just wants to sell products—your website needs to have content that is both informative and commercial. Without both, you’re leaving money on the table.


Informational content: Examples and use cases

There’s a reason why even the biggest eCommerce brands have whole portions of their website dedicated to education—it’s because an informed customer is more likely to make a purchase.


By educating your customers, you make them feel like you understand their needs and are willing to help them without forcing them to buy something. This is why all businesses need informational content.


The types of content that users are looking for during the early stages of the buying journey are:


  • Informative blog posts

  • How-to guides

  • Infographics

  • Webinars


The purpose of this content is purely to educate and inform. This isn’t the place to push your latest products (that comes later) so don’t be tempted to treat this content as a sales pitch. That’s not to say that you can’t add internal links within the content where relevant, just make sure they’re subtle and make sense.


New Balance running blog
Source: Newbalance.co.uk.

New Balance does a great job of this by publishing dedicated guides that are purely informational, but with subtle links to their products throughout (as shown below). 


The product links aren’t intrusive and are less frequent than the links to supporting content, making it more helpful to users. This also helps build strong topical authority by showing search engines that there’s a clear link between each of the guides and the PLP.


A snippet of the New Balance guide to trail running
Source: Newbalance.co.uk.

The metrics you should use to measure the success of this type of content need to be engagement-based (rather than conversion-based). To determine how well your informational content is working, measure things like:


  • Impressions

  • Rankings

  • Clicks

  • Click-through-rate (CTR)

  • New users

  • Bounce rate and/or engagement rate

  • Average pages per session

  • Average session duration

  • Average time on page


The goal here is to make the content as engaging as possible to encourage users to explore more and move into the consideration stage. Make sure you’re writing multiple content pieces that each cover an entire topic so you can include links to other relevant content throughout. This will not only improve your user experience as you’ll have several resources that potential customers can explore, it will also strengthen your topical authority, which can lead to better visibility, rankings, and traffic.


Commercial content: Examples and use cases

Commercial content exists to help customers in the consideration stage make an informed purchasing decision. There is an educational element to commercial content that can spill over into the realm of informational content; this is fine, as a customer’s movement through the marketing funnel doesn’t have to be linear.


A venn diagram. One circle is labeled “commercial content” while the other is labeled “informational content.” the overlap area is labeled “education”

The types of content that users are looking for at this stage of the buying journey are:


  • Buyer’s guides

  • Product comparison guides

  • Product deep dives and demos

  • FAQs


The purpose of this content is to provide your customers with information about your products that will help them decide whether it’s right for them. The key with this kind of content is to describe your products as though someone had just walked into your store and asked a sales assistant for more information about a product (or a set of products) because they know what they want but they’re not sure which product to choose.


Buyer’s guides and comparison guides are great ways to help your customers decide, especially when two products have the same or similar features.


The metrics you should use to measure the success of this type of content need to be conversion-based as well as engagement-based. To determine how well your commercial content is working, measure things like:


  • Average pages per session

  • Average session duration

  • Average time on page

  • Returning visitors

  • Branded traffic

  • Revenue


Pay close attention to the user journey from these pages to understand how many people are reading your product-focused content and making a purchase off the back of it.


Lululemon guide to running gear
Source: Lululemon.co.uk.

Lululemon’s running hub is a good example of commercial content done well. The company highlights its products throughout but provides relevant information about why they suggest a particular product within the context of the original query. This is helpful for customers who need a little guidance before they make the final purchase and a great way to connect your blog with your money pages whilst remaining aligned with user intent.


Snippet of Lululemon guide to running gear
Source: Lululemon.co.uk.

How to plan your eCommerce content marketing strategy


Before you begin to plan your content marketing strategy, you need to decide which product category you want to focus on first. You can focus on more than one category (depending on how much time and resources you have), but I always recommend starting with one because it’s easier to plan and easier to build a robust topic cluster that way.


This product category will be the topic you want to increase your website’s visibility for, so knowing this before you start will help guide the content as you plan your way through the marketing funnel.


Once you determine your topic, you now need to plan according to each stage of the marketing funnel, starting with your informational content and then ending with your commercial content. For this example, I’m going to continue with the theme of a brand that sells running shoes and accessories.


01. Research your topic

The first step in planning your content is to: 


  • Research to understand what kinds of questions potential customers are asking about your chosen topic.

  • Research what competitor content already exists to answer those questions.


The easiest way to do this is to do a Google search using some of the primary keywords related to your topic and see what content comes up in the results.


In the screenshot below, I’ve Googled [road running for beginners] and all of the top results are informational. This confirms that the content I need to create on this topic needs to be informational to match the user intent and rank successfully for this keyword.


Google search results for road running

I can also see what the most common questions around road running are by looking at the People Also Ask box. This can help guide the content’s structure and provides good insight into what my content should include to ensure it adds value to the user.


I also recommend using an SEO tool like Semrush or Ahrefs to see what content works well for your competitors to give you an idea of which subtopics to start with as you build out your funnel content.


Screenshot of competitor top pages in Semrush
Analyze your competitor’s top blog posts to see which subtopics you need to focus your content on to engage the user.

For each potential piece of content, write down whether the content will be informational or commercial, as this will help you map your content against the marketing funnel. Some SEO tools even categorize keywords by their intent, but I always recommend that you actually search the topic/keyword to manually assess how Google treats the query.


02. Plan your pillar guide

This is where you get back to basics. As an expert, it’s easy to assume that most people know the basic information about your industry/topic because it’s second nature to you. The reality is that there’s always someone who is a complete beginner and these people are the target audience for your top-of-funnel content.


This content will form the basis of your pillar guide.


Pillar guides are all-encompassing guides that cover a topic at a general level to provide the reader with everything they need to get a good understanding before delving further. In our example, this could be a “Beginner’s Guide to Running.”


Pillar guides will naturally touch on all the nuanced subtopics that form the main topic, but only with enough depth that encourages the reader to explore that subtopic further. Your subtopics will then form all of your supporting content pieces and drive users further down the funnel.


Content cluster visualisation
An example of a topic cluster with pillar content.

To plan your pillar guide and figure out what you need to include, I always recommend using customer FAQs coupled with search data as sources of information. As an eCommerce business, you will likely have an idea of the questions your customers ask when wanting to better understand the topic you specialize in—these are the questions you’re looking to answer within your pillar guide.


Semrush keyword explorer results for running

Additionally, utilize a tool like Semrush (shown above) and couple it with Google’s People Also Ask feature (shown below) to find out what else users are asking about the topic. This will give you an idea of the types of information that people want to know and what you need to cover. Remember, the pillar guide is typically for beginners, so make it as accessible as you can.


People Also Ask results for running

In our example, the structure of your pillar guide could look something like this:


  • Why you should start running

  • Running vs jogging: What’s the difference?

  • Health benefits of running

  • Different types of running terrain

    • Road running

    • Trail running

    • Track running

    • Treadmill running

  • Different running styles

    • Recovery run

    • Long run

    • Tempo run

    • Fartlek run

    • Progression run

  • Running equipment

    • Shoes

    • Bottoms

    • Tops

    • Accessories

    • Socks


03. Expand your subtopics into smaller content clusters

Now that you have planned your pillar guide, you should be aware of the subtopics that will form your supporting content pieces. Expanding on your subtopics is crucial to deepening the user’s understanding and is the first step to guiding them through the marketing funnel.


Additionally, subtopics often lend themselves to long tail keywords, which are typically better at attracting high-intent customers.


Start with an informational guide

When expanding your subtopics, start with another informational guide that focuses just on the subtopic you’ve chosen (e.g.; trail running). Within this guide, you can start to discuss your products in relation to the topic, but make sure that the knowledge outweighs the product mentions to keep the guide informative and not overly sales-oriented.


For example, your informational guide could be “An Enthusiast’s Guide to Trail Running.” This would include information on:


  • What is trail running?

  • Trail running vs. road running

  • Trail running vs. track running

  • Trail running equipment

  • Tips for trail running for beginners


This guide is knowledge-led with just one section dedicated to products (“trail running equipment”) which nurtures customers who are still at the awareness stage whilst introducing products for them to explore. This is how you help guide your customers further down the marketing funnel.


While it may be tempting to link out to your product pages at every opportunity, those links might suggest to Google that this content is actually commercial in nature, which could negatively affect your search rankings for informational queries, but definitely affects your user experience (like your store clerk asking “Do you want to buy that one?” for each shoe a potential customer gazes at).


Build out your commercial guides

Now that you’ve subtly and naturally introduced your products, there will be users who have moved firmly into the consideration stage of the funnel. This is where the content will be led partly by search data but mainly by your customer data and expertise, and should reflect what your customers want to know about your products.


For example, you could create any of the following:


  • A product comparison guide explaining the differences between two similar products


Lululemon legging product guide
Source: Lululemon.co.uk.

  • A product highlight guide that explains all of the key features of a particular product


Nike Air product guide
Source: Nike.com.

  • A buyer’s guide that puts your products in the context of the topic


Brooks Running trail running gear guide
Source: Brooksrunning.com.

These are just some examples. Pay attention to which products customers are comparing yours to (or choosing over yours), then explain—via your content—the considerations that shoppers should look at. With a bit of creativity, you can build out many useful subtopic clusters to help audiences make their buying decisions.


04. Add internal links and review your CTAs

The key to any successful content marketing strategy (but especially a full-funnel strategy) is internal links and relevant CTAs. This helps ensure that your content cluster is structured in an intuitive way for the user but also for search engines.


Internal links need to point from your pillar page to your subtopic pages and vice versa. Your subtopic pages need to link to the relevant PLPs and PDPs to ensure the topical authority is clear as well as any link equity that you may acquire through link building.


Your eCommerce content needs to complement sales—not deter them


To futureproof your content marketing strategy and make sure that it’s relevant to your audience at all stages of their journey, start by thinking about what your customer needs to know about your products before they decide to make a purchase.


For your informational guides, keep these key things in mind:


  • Cover the basics—your customers don’t know what they don’t know.

  • Focus on the need-to-know information to help your customers understand your industry.

  • Use your internal data to understand your real customers’ questions.

  • Don’t try to force the sale.


For your commercial guides, keep these points in mind:


  • Speak about your products within the context of your topic.

  • Answer questions that real customers are asking.

  • Internally link to both your money pages and your informational content.

  • Integrate product mentions with genuinely useful information that’s relevant to the topic.


Your content should be complementary to your sales—not a detriment.


A knowledge-led content marketing strategy can help you generate revenue through information if you focus on educating the user and guiding them through the marketing funnel. By turning your website into an information resource, you’ll turn users into customers who are more likely to remain loyal because you’ve nurtured them every step of the way.


 

Naomi Francis-Parker

Naomi is the head of SEO at The Evergreen Agency and has over five years experience working with eCommerce brands. Her passion comes from an interest in the changing world of digital marketing and a focus on driving revenue through the collective use of content, promotion, and SEO. Twitter | Linkedin

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