How to start an eCommerce business - part 7
Finally launching your store after the huge amount of time, and money that has been invested in it is a hugely satisfying moment for any store owner. Seeing it under your domain, and being able to tell people, it's live, it's ready, makes it's all feel worthwhile. Hopefully early marketing efforts will also bring in some modest sales from early adopters. But now isn't the time to rest! Just after launch can feel like the perfect opportunity to take your foot off the accelerator with all that work behind you, but arguably now is when the real challenge starts. Getting people to actually buy from you in order to build trust and reputation, and establish that solid customer base is no small task!
What you've achieved so far with all the planning, preparation and building of your store is certainly considerable - you should definitely feel proud of what you've done. Now realising the work involved, you'll undoubtedly be able to understand why I stressed in part 1 of this series the importance of being prepared for what was to come.
Well, I'm here to tell you that while you've already done so much and should be proud of that, this is where the real work of getting people to actually reach in their pockets and start buying from you begins.
My stores live, so what's next?
You're stores live, it's working how you need it to, it's highly usable, and it looks great. Everything is in place for when customers actually hit your store. What's not in place however is a means by which to actually drive consistent traffic.
A new store that's just launched is, well new to everyone. Nobody else knows the full extent of the work that's gone into it, or the money and time commitment that's been spent. Most crucially this includes search engines which will always be a key, often primary source of traffic to your store.
At this point your stores domain is considered by search engines to be starting from zero in terms of reputation and authority. This starting point means you have to 'prove' yourself and the value of your offering in order for search engines to start recognising your store and your content as worth showing in a reasonable position in search results. Obviously, you want your store to show as high as possible, but reaching this point requires a few different longer-term areas to be worked on first.
Right after launch there's really two different approaches you can take to promote your store and drive traffic - organic, and paid ads. Assuming your store is good in terms of usability and looks, and meets the customers expectations, then paid ads can bring instant traffic to your store. However, the cost of paid ads is largely governed by your domains authority. In simplistic terms, the higher your domain authority, the lower your paid ads cost will be.
That's where content generation in order to build organic traffic comes in. If search engines see high-quality, regular content relating to your site, as well as other established sites linking to you, then that will gradually improve your store domain, allow you to rank higher in search results, and lower the cost of paid ads.
So if budget allows, it's a good idea to run some limited paid ads in the early stages, however, the long-term rewards will always come in the form of inbound and outbound marketing and social which will drive long term traffic to your store. In the early stages considered paid ads are designed to drive traffic while organic content is being generated and begins to have an effect on search results and domain authority. The anticipation is then that as organic sources start to drive traffic to your store, paid ads can be tailed off as needed.
Today we'll just be looking at ways of building organic traffic, but in terms of paid ads, you'll most likely find ads across social networks to be a more efficient spend at first until your domain authority has improved.
Build organic traffic
Getting good organic traffic to your store can be done in many different ways, so what I'm briefly covering here shouldn't be considered a definitive list. Ultimately the goal is to get site content out there that's attractive, relevant and therefore linkable for other people. If search engines see that you have high-quality content on your site, that's being added to regularly, and being linked to from other sources that are considered to be authoritative, you'll find the chance of people organically finding your store increases.
I will say there's no magic bullet here - organic traffic just takes time and effort to build, but in the long term, it's most definitely worth it as it will continue to drive traffic and sales with, in the end, little additional effort from you.
SEO and keywords
SEO is a huge area, but in this short section I'll just be talking about making sure your sites content is SEO optimised. If you can get this right, it's really the starting point of making sure search engines see your stores pages as 'rankable'.
Strictly speaking this section really belongs earlier on in the guide with SEO considered during the design and build stage, but as it's ongoing, it's actually perhaps more important for it to be here.
Everything about optimising your site's written content for search engines comes back to part 2 of this series and validating your store idea with market research. It should all be based on what you identified as the needs and interests of your target audience. When you know this, you can identify search terms, or keywords that relate to these needs and interests. There's a number of different tools you can use to do this such as Semrush, Ahrefs and Ubersuggest, but they'll all let you do effective keyword research.
Do your keyword research
Keyword research is about identifying terms that people are searching for which directly relate to the needs and interests of your target audience. Each keyword you identify will have a certain amount of competition from other people also targetting that keyword, and the effectiveness of your ability to target and actually get traffic from keyword search results depends on, you've guessed it, your domains authority. So at first, you want to be targetting keywords that have reasonable search volume, but low competition. As your domain authority increases and you are getting organic traffic, you can start to effectively target higher competition keywords.
Target short-tail and long-tail keywords
Keywords are also broadly split into short-tail, and long-tail. Short-tail is generally considered to be search terms of just one or two words, with long tail being 3 or more words. Targetting short-tail keywords will result in higher levels of traffic, but that traffic will be much less targetted. Long-tail on the other hand will result in less traffic, but that traffic will be much more targetted and relevant.
Create landing pages
It's good to target both short-tail and long-tail keywords, and most of the time, a landing page per term you're targetting is a great approach as it not only generates more content, but generates really targetted content for that particular keyword. This should result in search engines considering that landing page highly relevant for the term you're targetting, and so be more likely to rank higher in results.
Target customer intent
Yo'll probably also want to split keyword research and content generation according to customer intent. Which stage of the customer journey does a particular search term relate to? Is the customer just doing research so are not yet ready to buy, or does the term suggest that they've made a decision and are ready to actually make a purchase. You should split the keywords you've identified according to the different stages in your customers journey and tailor each pages content accordingly.
Increase presence and reputation with social
For a few businesses, social can actually be the primary source of traffic to their store, but for the most part rather than driving significant traffic, social is more of a means to engage with your customers on a more personal level. But it does also allow you to be discovered as a brand by new potential customers which in itself is hugely valuable.
Social is a great way to engage using all kinds of different content in a bitesize format that's quick, easy and interesting for people to digest. You can easily leverage text, images, video, presentations, live streams and more to get the interest of your customer base and promote your store.
Remember though that people aren't interested in a hard sell approach, and this extends to social media. Instead, they want to be engaged with interesting and relevant content which should only indirectly promote your brand and product. If you get this just right people will engage and share your posts with their friends, with the best case being that some content you generate goes viral and drives huge traffic to your store very quickly.
Get quality backlinks
Backlinks are a really important element in increasing your domain's authority and driving high-quality, relevant traffic to your store. Where those backlinks come from is also hugely important, and while it is possible to build a large quantity of backlinks to your store from places like free directory sites and a multitude of others, if search engines see this kind of activity with really no backlinks from reputable sources, these links can actually count as toxic and result in your domain being seriously penalised in terms of search engine rankings.
So it's important to understand the need for quality backlinks, and that one backlink is not worth the same as another. Quantity of backlinks from non-toxic sources is hugely important, but also one backlink from a highly reputable source will count for as much as many backlinks from less established sources.
How do I get backlinks?
There's really two ways to build backlinks. The first is simply to create great content that people want to link to. How do you do that? It just goes back to meeting the needs of the customer from your market research and keyword research and creating interesting content in line with that. If you strive to create the best content out there around the right topics, you might not get backlinks right away, but as time goes on and you continue to create relevant quality content, you'll be building a really strong base of pages that people will want to link to as they begin to discover your store and what you offer.
The second way to get backlinks is to actually contact relevant people and sites that already have influence and access to your customer base. These might be relevant blogs, eCommerce news portals, or even forums - anywhere your ideal customer already visits. Explain to them what you offer and just ask if you can have a backlink to your store. If they're happy to give you a backlink, quite often they'll want you to pay a small sum for the privilege, but considering that link has the potential to drive quite a bit of highly relevant traffic to your store, it's usually worth the cost.
While some consider influencers not to have so much of an ability to drive traffic and sales to you store as they maybe used to, the reality is that many brands still choose to use influencers to help them drive customer sales. For instance you only have to watch a few YouTube videos before you'll come across one which is 'brought to you by' this or that product or service.
So going down this route is certainly worth investigating, and the influencer will let you know how much they'll charge to advertise through their content. This approach does have the potential to drive quite a bit of traffic to your store quite quickly, but much like paid ads, it will probably largely die off not too long after the content is released meaning you might need to consider sponsorship fairly regularly for consistency. If you can also offer some kind of incentive such as a discount code to go along with the sponsorship that can help drive more actual sales.
Make YouTube content
People love video and will prefer watching over reading for anything approaching long-form content. So including video content in your store is a great idea. This could be information about your business and what you offer, or maybe a demo or promotional video of the products you sell. It can be a great way to build trust with your customers if it's produced and created by you rather than say a promo supplied by a product manufacturer.
Additionally, it can also work really well on social if you can give people some insight into your business, how you work, and what you offer in video form. It makes it that much more personal and relatable for the customer, as opposed to feeling like they're buying from some faceless entity.
Write guest blogs
While it's pretty much always a good idea to have a blog with regular content on your store, it's also a good idea to try and get guest post slots on other relevant blogs you're customers read. This is often a win-win for both parties. You get in front of more potential customers, and the blog you're writing for gets different high-quality content to engage the interest of their readers.
If the domain of the blog you're writing for has good authority, then the content you write here will rank higher than the same content on your store. So while it won't drive direct traffic to you, you'll still get traffic, and at the very least it will build awareness of your brand and product with the readers.
Be active on forums and Q&A sites
Being active on forums and Q&A sites like Quora can over time build good traffic to your store. Each individual piece of content won't do much on it's own, but if you keep at it, over time you'll build a really good base of quality answers that are relevant to your potential customers.
Much like the other points here, people aren't interested in the hard sell, and if you take this approach you're answer will probably just get taken down by moderators. So provide genuinely helpful answers that are relevant and useful to the readers. It is acceptable to add a relevant link to your store if it's actually a good addition to the answer, but don't always look to add a links.
Pick the most relevant questions you can, and if you're providing consistenly valuable answers people will investigate you by looking at your profile - and there's nothing against promoting your store and what you offer there.
Marketing and promotion of what you offer takes time and consistent effort, but once you have a base of quality content and links to your site, you'll see a return on the time you've spent building the organic side in the form of consistent, relevant traffic, and increased sales.
I like to summarise the task of building your stores organic presence as a 'be everywhere' approach. Remember that it's going to take multiple times of each customer seeing your brand and what you offer before they make a decision to buy. So the more they encounter you, the higher the chance of them making a purchasing decision with you sooner.
We're nearing the end of our series now, with the final part 8 next week where we talk about continuing the development of your store to ensure it's ongoing success. If you're on the lookout for a high-quality developer for your eCommerce store, check us out here at Developer Connection where we make it quick, and cost-effective to make your next quality developer connection.
Thanks for joining me, and I look forward to seeing you next week.