Content Strategy

A Step-by-Step Guide to Content Strategy for Direct-to-Consumer eCommerce Companies

By January 1, 2020May 8th, 2022No Comments

Ecommerce companies tend to rely heavily on paid ads to build their brand and acquire customers.

However, that channel is not as efficient as it once was and it’s safe to say that we won’t see new ecommerce brands building their entire business on paid ads anymore.

Instead, the channels to look to now are content and influencer marketing.

In this post, we’ll focus on content marketing as a strategy to acquire customers.

The common misconception is that content does not convert into customers.

So what does?

Product pages? Sure. But that’s only if the person is ready to purchase.

That leaves the longtail of folks who are still seeking information and understanding the options they have.

So the question that naturally follows is, “How do we do content marketing right?”

This is the golden question that often comes as a Catch 22 for most businesses: How do we know what content works if we haven’t created content yet? How do we know what content to create if we don’t know what content works?

The unfortunate answer: it depends.

It depends on your business. It depends on the search volume for keywords related to your business. It depends on the urgency you have to generate sales from your content, which will dictate the order of the type of content you create. It depends on many more things, but instead of listing them all, let’s talk about a framework you can use, the same framework we use for clients for our content marketing agency.

Let’s dive into how to create a content strategy and roadmap for your ecommerce business.

How to Create a Content Roadmap

Once you get to creating a content strategy, you should already have a good idea of your ideal buyer persona. This will help inform how you categorize your content ideas later on.

The following six-phase framework can be used to create a content strategy:

  1. Identify keyword opportunities
  2. Identify topics that keyword opportunities fall into
  3. Categorize topics based on purchase intent
  4. Prioritize topic clusters
  5. Produce content
  6. Internal linking and backlinking

We’ll use Winc.com as an example throughout this post so you can see how we’d create a real content strategy for a real business.

Identify Keyword Opportunities

In the first phase, as the person running content strategy at Winc.com, you want to use various inputs to generate a list of target keywords.

Identify target product-related keywords.

This will be the easiest step as it will be based on your product(s) and what people would generally search for when looking for your product. In Winc’s case, you’d start with simple, straightforward keywords like:

  • red wine
  • cabernet sauvignon
  • malbec
  • pinot noir
  • white wine
  • pinot grigio

You can see that the list above is simply a list of products you’d carry. We’ll call this a seed list for generating more keywords.

Discover related keywords.

Once you’ve generated a seed list, you’ll look for related keywords. Depending on the tools you have, you can do this in two ways.

The first and easiest method is to use the Ahrefs’ keywords explorer tool. You can copy and paste your seed list into the tool and it’ll show the volume of each keyword, the difficulty, and most importantly the parent keyword for each keyword.

This is where you’ll be able to click in to see other related keywords.

From here, you may have to do multiple keyword exports and condense them into one sheet for the next phase.

The second method, if you don’t have budget for Ahrefs is to use you can use Neil Patel’s free keyword research tool, Ubersuggest to explore keywords and see the monthly search volume of each keyword.

Find more keyword opportunities by analyzing competitors’ websites and ads.

You can do this by searching your competitor’s website on Ahrefs and looking at the keywords they rank for or using Spyfu to look at the keywords they target with Google Adwords.

Let’s pretend we’re running content strategy at Winc and two of our biggest competitors are BrightCellars and Firstleaf. In reality, we’d dop the following analysis on both or even more competitors, but for the purpose of this post, we’ll keep the competitive analysis to BrightCellars.

Doing a search for brightcellars.com on Ahrefs, you’ll see that they rank for the following non-branded keywords with over 100 in monthly search volume.

You’d have to do an export and see which keywords winc.com don’t rank for using a VLOOKUP or you can use the Ahrefs content gap tool to see those ranking differences directly in Ahrefs. 

The flaw I’ve found with the content gap tool is that it only looks at keywords winc.com DOES NOT rank for. It does not compare the rankings of keywords that both winc.com and brightcellars.com both rank for. You’d have to do a manual analysis for that. Here’s a video showing how to do that analysis.

Since we’re looking for brand new keywords to target, we don’t need to worry about that too much right now.

In this, we can see that both are not ranking well for many keywords, but they’re ranking for different ones. If I were doing SEO at Winc, I would try to capture these relevant keywords from BrightCellars.

Filter for high opportunity keywords.

At this point, you might have a massive list of keywords with their estimated monthly search volume and relative difficulty.

Depending on how many keywords you’ve collected, you may want to create a filter for keywords that have a search volume great than or equal to 500 and/or a filter for difficulty less than or equal to 50.

You can adjust your filters to include or exclude more keywords. It helps to work with a small list of between 100-200 keywords for this exercise to start with so you don’t get overwhelmed by the next part.

Identify themes that the keywords tend to fall into

Now that you have all your keywords consolidated into one spreadsheet and filtered for high opportunity keywords, you’re going to bucket your keywords into topics.

Create a new column in your spreadsheet with the name “topic”. Now go through each keyword individually and give them broader topics.

Here’s an example of a group of keywords that might fall under the broad topic of “red wine”:

  • best red wine
  • best red wine for lamb
  • best red wine for beef
  • best red wine for pork
  • best red wine fruit pairings
  • etc.

Once you’ve bucketed each keyword into a broader topic, sort your keywords by topic.

You may want to do a pivot table to see the total volume for each broad topic. This will help you prioritize which topic is a bigger opportunity in terms of monthly search volume, number of blog posts you could plan for, and the average difficulty of each cluster.

Categorize your topic clusters based on purchase intent

Once you’ve bucketed your keywords into groups, the next step to prioritizing which group of keywords to work on first is to look at them through the lens of low, medium, or high purchase intent. Buyer intent is a rough estimation of how likely someone is to purchase your product.

Low Purchase Intent

These keywords tend to be informational and have high search volume. Folks with low purchase intent are still learning about their problem, need, or desire — sometimes they’re still learning they even have this challenge or desire.

Medium Purchase Intent

These keywords tend to be either informational or show that a searcher is evaluating products, indicating that they’re looking for the next step to take after educating themselves. They’re looking for options to potentially solve for their problem or satisfy their desire.

High Purchase Intent

These keywords tend to be product-focused and have a low search volume. At this stage, searchers are evaluating a shortlist of products and nearly ready to make a purchase decision.

Prioritize your topic clusters

You will have topic clusters that have high volume and low purchase intent and others that have low volume and high purchase intent. This is normal.

I recommend you start with high intent topic clusters since those are more likely to generate revenue. From there, you can move up the funnel.

There is no true right or wrong place to start as it’s up to your judgment. Just understand that you won’t just create one group of blog posts but many.

The mistake that people make is only focusing on low-intent but high search volume keywords because they drive traffic. Depending on where your business is, traffic might or may not be your goal. Traffic is often a vanity metric that’s relatively easy to improve but does not always accurately indicate business health.

Here’s an example of a new prioritized cluster I created based off seed keyword phrases “best red wine” and “best white wine.”

At this point, you’ve created a Content Roadmap Report. This spreadsheet can serve as the dashboard for all your content creation.

Produce content

Depending on how your team is set up, you may have a strong editorial team that can execute on the Content Roadmap Report.

In some cases, ecommerce companies have left content strategy as an afterthought and do not have content marketers who can produce high-quality content that’s both educational and optimized to rank for the desired keywords.

If that applies to you, let’s chat.

Internal linking and backlinking

Once you’ve produced content, it’s important to link across all related content to improve your site architecture.

A great example of a website with great website architecture is Care/of.

You can see in the images below that their website URLs have a clear structure for subfolders and all related content in a topic link to each other.

Creating content and building authority

In SEO, there’s a balance of creating high quality, educational content and building authority.

Producing high-quality content is difficult but straightforward.

Authority-building is less straightforward but often means getting cited by other websites or reported on as newsworthy. The ideal case for both scenarios is to get a backlink from the mention.

Creating high-quality content can make it easier to get cited, creating a link-building flywheel in which high-quality content is cited and because it gets cited by a few websites, other websites will view you as a reputable source for information, resulting in more citations.

However, creating high-quality content is necessary but not sufficient to get citations. There will be a point where it will be beneficial to have a backlink strategy.

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