Content strategy for online shops: Planning is everything

Content strategy for online shops: Planning is everything

Bill Gates already knew 20 years ago: “When people are bothering to connect a computer to read something on the screen, they have to be rewarded with well-founded, up-to-date content that they can browse at will,” he wrote Microsoft founder in 1996 in his famous essay “Content is King”.

When the first commercial website operators made their attempts to go online in the 1990s, the focus was on one thing: to show a presence. Thousands of nonsensical content was generated and huge amounts of links were bought to increase the visibility of their own site. The SEO industry did everything for top-ranking sites: a keyword density of eight to ten percent of the entire text was not a rarity. However, with the introduction of the Panda update, the visibility of inferior websites was significantly reduced – Content 2.0 was born!
Today it is clear that a wise content strategy helps to increase the conversion and at the same time the ranking of online shops in the long term. In the first part of the series the focus is on:
Content Audit
Content Planning

The second part is then about the concrete implementation of the content strategy .

Basis: the conception
A comprehensive and detailed concept is the basis of every content strategy. In order for all requirements to be taken into consideration, the team should be looked for ideas for the construction or the relaunch of the website. At the beginning, the definition of short-, medium- and long-term goals, while respecting the USPs of the brand and the KPIs for the website. Also the correct naming of the navigation points for a user-friendly design as well as the definition of the topics and content formats belongs to it. The task of a content strategy is to ensure that the desired target group receives all content at the right time. Concrete design proposals, the elaboration of usability requirements or technical requirements are not yet important at this stage.
Company orientation
The website is the link between the online shop and the customer. The shop owner wants to convey to his existing and new customers the uniqueness of his products and his concept. If, for example, a cosmetics company, which works without animal experiments, should also be pointed out prominently.
Also a technical innovation, which is considered an integral feature of the brand, must be clearly identified as such. For this purpose, the formulation of USPs is: short slogans which a) highlight the product features, b) demonstrate the advantages, and c) show the customer benefits. If this is ultimately confirmed by a verifiable argument, the customers know what to expect when purchasing the product.
Definition of target group
For whom is website content actually created? This question can be answered by a target group analysis. If a website already exists, analysis tools help with the evaluation If the online shop is rebuilt, creativity and a thorough research is required. Typical criteria such as age, job description, place of residence, daily work, gender, etc. help in the creation of buyer-personas.
It shows which prior knowledge and needs the personas should or should have and how the content needs to be aligned with these criteria. The definition of the target group also includes the small spark of courage to address a niche target group. Influencers and bloggers act as intermediaries and spread good content to the right target group.
Analysis of Customer Journey
The definition of the target group is underpinned by an analysis of the customer journey. In this process it is to be clarified how many steps a user has to go through to the conclusion of the purchase. It also analyzes which Landing Page is landing with a particular keyword and whether this page contains the relevant information that is needed. This is later a necessary criterion for the content planning and implementation to provide the content for the respective pages along the customer journey.
Content controlling and analysis
KPIs contribute decisively to the success measurement as well as the goal achievement of a shop. This is the only way to evaluate the measures for the optimization of website content and, if necessary, to adapt them. Typical KPIs are website usage numbers such as page views, unique visitors, conversion rate, dwell time, traffic and traffic channels, or returning visitors. Heatmaps are a perfect tracking tool to recognize user behavior by building the site

Content Audit
The purpose of a content audit is to determine and analyze the actual state. This can be used to stabilize and, if necessary, optimize existing customer confidence as well as the quality of the domain. Strengths and weaknesses in the navigation or the content of a website are structured, controlled and analyzed.
You can use this information to identify the set screws that you want to rotate to close the gap between the goals you want to reach and the status quo: Does your content support the targeted image build-up of your online store or is there potential for improvement?
Quantitative Audit
Depending on the age of a website, the content is more or less comprehensive, which makes it difficult to quantify the content of older websites. Crawling tools, on the other hand, make this process easier and provide a detailed list of all subpages, including metadata, H1 headings, word count, and current page status (online, offline, 404, 302, etc.).
It is equally important to include the various content formats in the content inventory: images, videos, PDFs, interactive elements, etc. The qualitative audit is used to extend the table by evaluating the content.
Qualitative audit
This process serves as a basis for the content analysis, which, in addition to the understanding of the technical data, also requires personal thought. In this step everything is about the quality of the content and the page structure.

For example, pages that are frequently called should always be viewed in combination with the bounce rate: if the content is informative, users stay longer on the page, but the opposite is the case, the bounce rate increases. If the entrances to the websites are so high, the topic seems to be appealing to the users and in principle interesting. For the further content strategy applies: Extend existing contributions and structure them. New contributions are addressed to this topic and the individual steps of the Customer Journey. The same applies to pages with a high number of backlinks. This is a good parameter for orienting the later topic search in the interests of the backlink donors and creating corresponding content.
Reporting of content auditing
After the complete content audit follows a reporting. This document should be comprehensible and clear to all parties involved and is used in further steps to create a content plan. Based on the reporting, further topics are being sought in order to create an attractive and informative content on the website of the online shop. Regular content audits are an important to-do for a content strategy! With them, the content planning can be designed with the utmost care to greet the responsible editors.

Plan content meaningfully
Important for the content planning is a profound knowledge about the current content on the website as well as detailed analyzes of the target group. It is also a good idea to include a secondary target group which is smaller but equally important for branding. On this basis an optimal editorial plan is created.
Regardless of whether the website is a homepage, a category page or a landing page: within the first five seconds, the user should receive an answer to his question. The clear user guidance through good content is therefore fundamental.

Content Collection
In addition to the content audit, all ideas for topics and content formats have to be combined. The definition is helpful in the analysis, defined target groups and competition monitoring. Brainstorming should be done in the team. Employees from every department are welcome to contribute their know-how.

Content filtering
Hundreds of ideas for topics, content types and formats were recorded. Now it goes to the concretization. Content that does not fit the concept of the content strategy and the orientation of the online shop are deleted. The focus is on the important content that interests the target group and drives the company forward. From these characteristics, the right balance should be created in order to create long-term value-adding content. The filtering process also includes the prioritization of the content. Which content should be created or reworked first – which last?

The structure is also concretized: Which presentation is best suited for which content type and for which topic? In the final step, these measures are defined for all stakeholders.
Tip: Themes that were filtered out during this process should not be forgotten. Perhaps they are needed in a different context.
Content Consolidation
A final document includes both the brainstorming topics as well as the filtered topics. After the future contributions have been defined, they are transferred to the steps of the Customer Journey. It is thus bindingly determined which content on the homepage, which is integrated on the landing page, etc. A team that has been set up will review the content again and release it for production. Now a usability person should be brought into the boat. It has to be clarified whether an implementation of the content and, above all, the planned content format is meaningful. Likewise, the content should lead the users through the online shop and encourage them to buy.
The finished content plan
The final content plan is useful for creating a theme plan that serves as a guideline for the people involved and is regularly expanded. In addition, new content ideas can be entered here, which are part of the content strategy in a further filtering and consolidation process. The necessary information in the content plan are: content type, topic, description, content format, target, target group, SEO-relevant, cost factor and step in the customer journey.
The planning of the content strategy encompasses a wide range of challenges that require both high-quality tools and logical thinking. Collaboration with colleagues is an essential foundation for successfully implementing the strategy. In the second part of the series, you will learn how content production is optimized along the Customer Journey and what guidelines should be taken into account during production.

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