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From the SERP to the Shopping Cart: The Best Content for Your Online Shop – Part 1

In this series, we look at the most important points a webmaster must consider and the impact they have in online marketing. We show you what to pay attention to at each individual contact point and consider essentials that the respective content must contain.

In Part 1, we begin with the most important types of external content.

SERP Snippets, Ads, Social Media and Newsletters

Online stores do not have sales assistants. Nobody greets the customers at the door, gives them detailed advice or explains the advantages and disadvantages of a product. Nobody escorts them to the checkout and afterwards thanks them for shopping online at your website. All this is part of e-commerce, and these tasks are the responsibility of the content found in and around the store.

At each point of contact on the customer journey, the shop owner needs matching content that appropriately appeals to potential customers. Optimal content is also essential to accompany the customer when he or she decides to purchase a product. But what should the content look like?

In this series, we look at the most important points a webmaster must consider and the impact they have in online marketing. We show you what to pay attention to at each individual contact point and consider essentials that the respective content must contain.

In Part 1, we begin with the most important types of external content.

1. External Content – How to Catch the User's Attention

External content means content not present on your own website. It serves to attract readers to your domain, to acquire customers or to generate commitment. External content should generally be written so that it attracts attention and interest or stirs the reader's curiosity.

Some of the most effective ways of appealing to potential users outside your website include the following:

SERP Snippets

Snippets are the brief preview texts Google presents on its organic search engine result pages (SERPs). These contain a title, URL and a Meta description of a page.

For online shops, there’s basically two snippet options that appear in search engine results pages. They either offer their customers product pages or advice pages that enlighten them about the product’s benefits. Which search result the user will see depends on the initial search and optimization of each site.

  • With “Informational Search Keywords,” a user should generally be directed to information pages. If the user types something like "Samsung Galaxy S5 Durability," a good online store should provide a page that fully informs him or her on this topic.
  • With “Transactional Search Keywords,” however, users should be provided with a page that allows actions to be completed, such as purchasing an item. With online shops, these options are usually product pages. A Transactional Search Keyword might be, for example, “Buy Samsung Galaxy S5.”

As an online shop owner and depending on which pages you optimize – product pages or advice pages – your Meta tags should contain appropriate additional information. Ideally, your website will appear in both Informational and Transactional keyword searches.

What Should Be Included in a Snippet?

Choose your words wisely when writing title and description Meta tags. Use short sentences to make reading as easy as possible. Moreover, you have only limited space available to accommodate the complete message: approximately 70 characters for your title and about 155 characters for your description.

Be sure to use your keyword in the title, again in the description and, if possible, also in the URL: Google bolds keywords, which serves as an eye-catcher for your readers.

And finally, a call-to-action, such as an invitation to visit the site, is always very useful.

Overall, the art of creating snippets is to customize the content within a restricted space so it convinces and appeals to a user who will want to know more. Remember your title and description text should not be repeated.

Meta Tags for Advice Pages

To create a snippet for an advice page, anticipate what the user might be seeking. What information will he need after typing "Battery life iPhone 6" ? What does she need to know if she's looking for "Car paint for small scratches"? The title and Meta description (and the page behind it) should be optimized for these kind of searches.

At best, the snippet itself will tell the user part of the answer. If so, the reader will immediately recognize that the advice needed is likely to be on this page. But be careful: Do not falsely advertise – be sure the website behind the SERP listing actually answers the user's search question.

Unnecessary product information or grand sale offers shouldn’t be in the Meta description of an advice page. Those searching want some helpful information; they are not (yet) seeking to make a purchase.

The title functions as a short and precise heading that is designed to attract the user's attention. A short description can serve as a focal point and provide an accurate indication of what the user may expect from the underlying page. For example, “How to repair paint damage on your car's bodywork.”

Meta Tags for Product Pages

For product page Meta tags, the snippet should provide the user with some facts about each product. While this can be done very simply and directly, it’s much better to make the text more appealing and exciting to address users at an emotional level. 

Many online shops remove a product page Meta description altogether. When this occurs, Google provides an automated description, but the shop owner is then throwing away a prime opportunity as the snippet can be designed to stand out from the other SERPs results.

Take-Away Points:

  • Optimize SERP snippets for Informational or Transactional keywords.
  • Insert keywords in the title, description and URL.
  • Include a call-to-action if possible.
  • Get straight to the point: Put the most important information first.
  • Use brief, clear forms of expression.
  • Attract attention to your title.
  • Don't make false promises: The website behind the click must deliver the expectation.

2. Ads

“Ad” refers to commercials designed to encourage users to visit a website. Ads can be roughly divided into display ads and search advertising. Display ads include advertising formats the user encounters on a website, such as banners, pop-ups or text ads, while search advertising consists of ads displayed to the user within the search results of a query entered into Google.

The majority of display ads are more like graphic elements that include text segments. Although our discussion will focus on the textual content of display ads, text used in search advertising follows a similar pattern.

Construction of an Ad

Display ads, as well as ads used in Google AdWords, typically feature a headline and a URL, plus one to three lines of text. As with snippets in search result pages, these ads are also intended to catch the reader's attention and encourage the user to click.

What Should be Included in an Ad?

The page that the user clicks to enter should match the display ad, and you should therefore include the keyword and maybe even reflect the page design.

Advertisements generally work best with correct spelling and vocabulary. Occasionally, the use of text abbreviations or slang may serve as an eye-catcher if used in a headline or URL. In Google AdWords, as with organic snippets, the keyword appears in bold and is thus clearly highlighted. An AdWords text must include the keyword in the headline, text and/or URL.

In many cases, a call-to-action makes sense, but it’s not always necessary. You can prepare the user for what’s on the following page with phrases such as "Cheap, Buy Now" or "Register Now."

Headline

Ad headlines should have an advertising focus, and appropriate keywords and eye-catchers here can increase the CTR. So words and phrases like "now," "offering," "low" or "starting from" will show up frequently.

Text

The text of an ad should make the offer very clear. To achieve this, the use of short, clear sentences is very important so that the user only has to think about the content.

URL

The URL can often be modified in the display, which gives advertisers additional design options and also allows URLs to incorporate keywords and/or messages.

Take-Away Points:

  • Adopt a definite promotional tone.
  • Incorporate keywords in your title, description and URL.
  • Insert a call-to-action.
  • Utilize eye-catchers such as "now" and "low."
  • Write clear sentences.
  • Mention your shop's special features.

3. Social Media

Social media is an important factor in online marketing and a strong contributor to website traffic. Online shops can also benefit from social networks if they publish the right content.

If a post is crafted well, it can tempt many users not just to click on the post, but – thanks to the inherent virality of social networks – they may also share it with their own fans and followers.

What Should Be Included in a Social Media Post?

Creativity and experience can be used to create interesting social network contributions for almost any product.

Stimulating an exchange between a store's users or between the store and its users is a great way to generate both commitment and online traffic. Asking questions about products also works well, but a call for interaction can really motivate your followers – for example, asking users to photograph themselves using a product, requesting product reviews or polling customers to share their experience or give their opinion on current events. Amazon, for example, recently asked its users to share photos of their dogs.

Social networks are made for communication and provide online shop owners with an excellent opportunity to listen to their customers. Take your users seriously and talk with them, providing not only product pages but also help and creative advice.

What to Consider When Writing Posts

Writing a successful viral teaser is often a matter of luck. Generally it’s impossible to predict if and why one post will spread like wildfire while another won’t. Nevertheless, there are some simple methods to increase the probability of a click.

Be simple and concise: Try to write your teaser using clear, short sentences. Get straight to the point, and put your important information as close to the start of the teaser as possible. Theoretically, you have an unlimited amount of space for a social media teaser, but studies have repeatedly shown that shorter teasers are more effective. Use enthusiastic and active language without passive constructions and nouns.

Write appealing posts: To ensure that readers notice your posts, use appropriate keywords in your teasers that describe at a glance what happens once they click. Posts containing pictures are much more likely to be viewed than those without.

Be creative: No other channel allows you to reach so many people that quickly with short texts. And even if the reach is not necessarily sustainable, it’s worth maintaining a social media presence in order to build a community.

Take-Away Points:

  • Interact and communicate with your followers.
  • Post interesting product advertising.
  • Listen to your users.  
  • Write in short, clear sentences.
  • Use words and pictures as eye-catchers.

4. Email

Email is one of the most effective marketing tools for directly targeting customers and prospects and bringing traffic to your page. First, your email recipients have already expressed an interest in your shop by providing their email address or by signing up for your newsletter. Second, because of the data already at your disposal, no other method can offer the same level of targeted focus.

What Should Be Included in an Email Newsletter?

A newsletter typically consists of a subject line, a title and an introductory text, one or more teasers about articles, pages or products, a complimentary close and contact details.

Subject

After the sender details, the subject line is your email's first contact point with the recipient. If the reader does not find it convincing, the chances of your mail being opened will decrease. Many readers receive dozens of newsletters and promotional emails every day, which they delete unopened. So your subject line must carefully tread a fine line between engaging wording that will prompt a click and a run-of-the-mill spam advertising message.

The subject should be concise and to the point with the most important keywords in the beginning. Focus your subject line according to your target group – for example, address men and women in different ways or personalize the subject line using data such as the name and location of the recipient. But be careful: This method risks being considered spam.

In any case, the subject should encourage a click and then fulfil the expectations raised. Avoid stock phrases like "Our current offers for X." Instead, try to entertain your readers and pique their curiosity: "How to bring back your car's showroom shine."

And one thing that always helps is to experiment. So why not create different subject lines and analyze which type resonates best with your readers?

Salutation and Introduction

Your newsletter's form of address is a matter of taste. Some readers prefer a “Dear Mrs. or Mr.” while others prefer "Hello." Newsletters may vary considerably according to the industry, content and relationship with the readers. Addressing the reader by name – whether first name, last name, or both – is always the most important consideration because it establishes a personal relationship with the recipient from the beginning.

Your introduction should be brief because anything overblown may lose your readers before they reach the important content. Use short, clear sentences to prepare the recipient and move them on to the core content.

Teaser

As with SERPs, ad and social media teasers, your newsletter teaser should be clear and concise. Even if you have more space available, remember your reader has very little time for lots of information. Users probably just skim the newsletter anyway, so make it easy. Perhaps you could highlight the most important features or set them apart with a colon in front. Your reader should recognize the teaser as soon as possible, and graphics may help to achieve this.

The farther down the newsletter your teaser appears, the lower the probability that it will be clicked. So put your most important teaser near the beginning and make it clear where the reader should click. The headline itself should be clickable, and a link should also be placed at the end of the teaser, possibly with a call-to-action such as "learn more now!"

Be accurate and stylistically appealing: Avoid long, complex sentences; use active rather than passive verbs; and check spelling and grammar carefully.

Complimentary Close and Contact

The close should be short and polite, and many readers will appreciate a direct contact and a contact address. Think about whether you should send your newsletter in the name of a particular employee (such as the CEO) or whether the sender will be an entire team or the company. Whatever you decide, your readers should be given the opportunity to respond to a direct contact.

Take-Away Points:

  • Adopt a subject-specific focus relevant to your target group, use a concise format and avoid spam advertising.
  • Avoid standardized wording; the subject line should be enticing.
  • Personalize your greeting, and keep the introduction as short as possible.
  • Place your teasers where they will attract attention, highlighting the most important.
  • Include an address and contact person.

Don’t Miss This:

The next part of our series deals with publicly accessible content on your website. Discover the most persuasive content to use for your readers on your landing page, your product and category pages and in your blog.

 


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