Creating Content for Ecommerce

Content: What is it good for?

What you’re about to read will be a little different from what you’ve heard before if you’re already an internet marketer, but stay with me. There’s a method to my madness. If you’ve never built a site before, I think it will make perfect sense. Ironic, yes?

You’ve gone through the Product and the Supplier sections. You know what you want to sell, and whether you want to stock product, dropship or both. So now what?

Your website is a store, and it shares some similarities with physical stores. Like a brick and mortar store, you have a structure and you have product to sell.

You have to do a much better job of telling your story than your local stores do.

When you go into a Home Depot to buy a can of paint you can pick it up and read the label. You can easily compare it with different sizes, types of paint and other brands right there. Hopefully there is a knowledgeable sales staff to answer any questions you may have, and to recommend other things you might need, like drop cloths, brushes, primer, etc.

Your website has to do all of those things, or at least as many of them as you can manage. How far you need to take this depends on a number of factors including your product price and the market you are targeting.

A website selling Prada purses had better have some fancy graphics and maybe 360 degree rotating images of the product. If you’re selling duct tape you can be a little more restrained.

Either way the first step is the same: Gather together all of the content you can about your product and its competitors. Let’s take a look at what we can put together.

First thing I want you to do is to make a folder on your hard drive and name it after your product or brand. Now let’s go get some bricks to build our store…

Content about your product

Information from your supplier and/or the manufacturer.

Go to your supplier’s website and take everything they have. All of it. While you can’t put up their content unchanged, you can certainly rewrite it. Here’s a quick list of the kinds of things you want:

 Product descriptions

 Owner’s manuals

 Warranties

 Assembly instructions

 Accessories

 Other products that can be bundled with it (coffee maker + coffee filters)

 Any product recall information

 Complete info on versions: sizes, colors, voltages, etc.

 Detailed specifications: weight, measurements, is it UL or CA approved

 Reviews and testimonials

 Any awards, citations, or other notable accomplishments that relate to the product / manufacturer.

 Images – take them all. It is always easier to get forgiveness than it is to ask permission. In any case, a lot of their pictures may be woefully inadequate for our purposes. More on that later.

tip indicator

Never use a manufacturer’s description unchanged! It’s on thousands of sites, and the odds of your page outranking all of those older pages on larger sites is slim, to put it mildly. Plug this into Google and hit search:

The Hitachi C10FCE2 10-Inch Compound Miter Saw has a 15-amp motor that is strong enough for the toughest cutting jobs

Don’t want to compete with all of them? Write unique content.

When you are using something from your supplier that is in any other format than text, change it. I know that Google can index .pdf files. I also know that they’re a pain in the neck. Your customer is not necessarily as computer or internet savvy as you are.

I just want to know how to drain this thing, not download a .pdf or have Firefox tell me to upgrade Adobe reader or some such nonsense.

Manuals & Instructions

Owner’s manuals in particular are a golden opportunity to gain instant trust and become “the authority” on a product. I suggest you re-write any owner’s manuals you can get, but don’t stop there.

Many manufacturers’ manuals suck, quite frankly. Sometimes they’re poorly translated form another language, and I have never seen one that couldn’t be improved.

One technique that has worked for me is to go to Amazon and find the product. Now run through the reviews, positive and negative. Chances are you’ll stumble across a piece of gold like “some people complain that the cover is hard to remove, but I found that pushing in on the release tab first, then twisting is the key”.

So rewrite everything they give you, and put it up on your site. If it was originally a .pdf, put that up as a downloadable file, too. If it’s not a .pdf, scan it and turn it into one.

Another trick is to dissect the manual instead of just rewriting it. Take the different sections and use them as articles on your website. Hey, you’re a subject matter expert!

We’ll be showing off this technique on our demo site, and you’ll be able to download the original manual as well and see how we went about it.

Pictures & Video

If your product needs to be assembled, you have a golden opportunity. You can use the line drawings in the manual (properly optimized with alt tags, a new file name, and a good description).

But if your product is available locally, go down to Sears or wherever and have a store clerk put the thing together. Take your camera and record it or take photos. Just don’t show his face. When you get back to the house put up assembly instructions 1000 times better than the manufacturer has.

And speaking of pictures, now is a good time to speak of pictures. Before you go to the store, toss a small tape measure into your purse. Why not show your customers how long the power cord is, or how far it is from the bottom of the lamp shade to the tabletop?

Exactly how does the filter slide into that thing? Be sure to get pictures of parts that latch or fasten together, or have grooves or some other alignment feature.

Take individual pictures of everything that comes in the box if you can. At least arrange everything together in front of the box. I love it when I go to a site and it says:

What’s in the box?
And then it lists everything. That’s great – a picture is better.

You can also do some comparison photos. If it’s possible, get photos of competing brands or different models next to your product. You may want to include your tape measure, or something else to provide scale so your visitors can gauge relative size.

What you need will depend on the product, but hopefully I’m ringing some bells here. Once you have done even half of this, you’ll understand how inadequate your manufacturer’s pics usually are. Normally all you get is a “hero shot” of the item on a white background, from the front. No problem with that, except that it wastes a chance to do what pictures do best: provide information.

Remember that giving as much real, practical information on your site as you can is how you avoid interacting with your customers except in the best possible way – by selling them something.

Show your product being used

If you can, show your widget in operation. Have pictures (video is even better) of the thing working, being assembled, being cleaned, whatever you can think of. If you can, get a girl into the picture. You don’t need a model – you need someone that looks like your customer, if you can figure that out. If you are selling to moms, get a mom type.

For typical consumer items, you don’t need awesome production values. Just do the best you can. You’ll get better with practice. The most important thing is to create the content and get it online where it can be found by the search engines and your customer.

The exception: If you are selling anything to guys, put a pretty girl in there if you can. Guys are easy marks for a pretty face. (Sorry guys it’s true) This is why you see smiling ladies everywhere in advertisements.

As I mentioned earlier in the book, this advertising technique is called “The Smiling Lady” and everyone from K-Mart to your local bank does it - because it works.
smiling lady

The Smiling Lady Technique

​Next time you go into your local bank, take a look at the photos on the walls advertising their loans, etc.

Lots of smiling ladies I bet. It’s easy to see why this works on men, but for some reason it goes over well with women too, so long as the pose isn’t overtly sexual.

​On my websites where I’m selling a consumer item, I use this technique to great advantage. You don’t need a professional model to do this. What you want is “the pretty girl next door”.

My model used to be my next door neighbor starting when she was about 18. She literally was the pretty girl next door.

I had her come over dressed nicely and took a series of pictures of her using our products every year through the mid 2000s. I ran tests and you could actually watch the conversion rate go up when her picture replaced one of just the product.

A little bit about working with amateur models: You better be able to make her laugh. Our photo shoots usually took a couple hours and ran into hundreds of pictures to get usable ones.

Professional models know how to smile. Girls like my neighbor may be pretty, but their expressions look forced when they pose for a picture. I am fortunate enough to be able to make people laugh, and this helped a lot. We just kept snapping and we got pictures with natural smiles like the one above maybe one pic out of ten.

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This is the end of the free content in this chapter. If you liked what you read here, there's more in the complete Grabapple Guide to E-Commerce. Check out the sales page for more info...