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Fashion ecommerce and lifestyle blogging seems like a match made in heaven, but very few are getting it right.

Here are four common mistakes and how you can avoid them. 

Last year I looked through 20 of the top fashion ecommerce sites to see where they were in their content strategy. I was curious because fashion and content just go so well together.

Unfortunately, only a handful were getting it right. A few months later, I decided to revisit them and see if there had been many improvements. While some had made great strides, others hadn't really, so I decided to write this blog.

In digital marketing, the blog is an absolute staple: often well-read and well executed in a manner that promotes services and thought leadership.

In ecommerce, it’s a rather different story. Granted, blogs are only one facet of a content strategy, but it struck me that so many ecommerce websites could do such a bad job.

In some cases, reading the blog left me wondering: why bother? Indeed, in some cases (such as Marks and Spencer) it seemed a wise idea to forget about it and take another route.

Fashion ecommerce lends itself to having a voice and content strategy due to its lifestyle links, but it’s vital that the execution is strong, or the blog will fall flat.

While I've looked specifically at fashion, I'm quite sure there are take aways for everyone, so here are the four most common problems (and how to avoid them).

1. Bad integration with main site architecture

Too many ecommerce blogs function as simple Wordpress bolt-ons that have little cross over with the main site. Debenham’s blog looks okay, but it’s near impossible to find when you’re on the main site, and quite hard to navigate back to the main site if you happen to land on the blog.

New Look does rather better with a social link on the main nav and plenty of content serviced through a ‘mega nav’.

To delve deeper into blog content, I headed to River Island. Confusingly, most of the links to content ended up in 404s.

When I did find something I could read RI In NY (bad headline!) it didn’t link back to any products – although it was published in July 2013. On the other hand, New Look does this well consistently.

It’s not clear why websites choose to drop the main website navigation when deploying a blog or choose not to sell anything. If products are referred to they should be linked to.

The crucial elements for success are:

  • Keep navigation elements consistent with the main site.
  • Link to products that are promoted and explain why they matter.
  • Include some blog posts / column navigation as links to your best products.

2. Inconsistency in typography and design

Another problem that stems from a blog as a bolt on is inconsistency in typography and design with the rest of the main site.

Given how easy it is to make these consistent, it’s surprising that major ecommerce sites would deploy a blog and not do this. I started this study a year ago, and many fashion ecommerce sites have made their main site and blog more consistent.

Serif font looks pretty, but it's inconsistent with the main site and difficult to read on a dark background. 

My biggest surprise was Next, which uses two serif fonts on the blog and sans serif on the main site. Additionally the colour scheme is grey type on a dark background (which is hard to read), when the main site is black on white.

The basic rule here is: keep it consistent!

3. Not applying SEO logic to headlines and content

This is the biggest shortcoming. Some blogs look great, but will probably never be found on search engines or shared on social media due to poor headlining.

Of course, there’s been a great call for social / clickbait style headlines or listicles with the rise and rise of Buzzfeed and Upworthy, but most ecommerce sites I reviewed don’t do this either.

Let’s take the first post from the Oasis Fashion Journal as a starting point:  

 

Classic mistake. The headline is ambiguous and best suited for a print publication with large images. On the web, such headlining is dead meat: make it obvious what the content is about!

To be fair to Oasis, quite a few of the other posts have decent headlining, but it’s not too hard to find other examples. While Next’s content is usually on the mark, the headlining rarely is.

'New Shapes For the Season' – which season? 'Mens: Tropic Thunder' – apart from the grammar, this could be about a film starring Ben Stiller and Tom Cruise.

The rules for headlining are not complicated, and they always pay dividends: say what the content is about in full, so the user does not have to think.

This means writing out full names, specific place names and dates, you can’t go far wrong with this. Even with this simple SEO rule, it’s surprising more haven’t gone for more list based content like: Six Men’s Haircuts for Summer 2014.

4. Broad subject matter

Most ecommerce blogs just aren’t specific enough. They talk about a broad range of subjects like a high powered lifestyle website would.

The difference between a blog and a lifestyle website is the former publishes one or (normally) less articles a day while a lifestyle website would be expected to publish over twenty. Thus a lifestyle website can better afford a broad range of subject matter.

If you take a look at Oasis’s Let’s Go Psycling post, this is a fine example of publishing content that isn’t really that relevant to the audience.

It’s an affinity, but there are more important things to be blogging about: like what should the customer buy? On the other end of the scale, there are skirmishes into buying advice, but on Next, these are supported by celebrities

It’s probably more on the mark than Oasis, but the likelihood of this content getting found against all of the celebrity content published daily is unlikely.

The final ‘broad post’ is the collection, or basically a roundup of products the editor likes. It rarely works in publishing - the main problem being that it’s not about one specific thing, which will always work against you.

Conclusion

So there are the four classic ecommerce blogging bugbears. One and two probably lie with your developers, but it’s a necessity to get them fixed.

If you can sort three and four out, then you might be rethinking your blogging strategy soon and for the better.

James Carson

Published 5 May, 2014 by James Carson

James Carson is Director of Content at Made From Media and a contributor to Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter and connect on LinkedIn.

24 more posts from this author

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Armando Roggio

If I may, I would like to comment about your point number three. I believe that you generally have the proper idea. I like how you put it, "The rules for headlining are not complicated, and they always pay dividends: say what the content is about in full, so the user does not have to think."

The key here, in my opinion, is that the headline is for the user, the human.

I would suggest that we should make our article headlines relevant and inviting for human readers first. SEO be damned. My job as a marketer is to communicate with humans. Google and Bing are supposed to find relevant articles that are appealing to humans. Generally, I try to do my job and let Google and Bing do theirs.

Of all of the considerations that should go into article development, SEO should be the last.

First, develop content that is honestly useful to the human reader (viewer). Second, communicate that content to the human reader in the most effective way. When these are done, in my opinion, it is alright to look at how a search engine may index the content. Where what benefits a search engine also benefits a human, fine. But if I must decide between SEO and writing for people, the folks win every time.

Thank you for allowing me to express my opinion.

almost 2 years ago

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Marushka

Thank you for these insightful eCommerce blogging mistakes ! I too am working at FuturOn, a digital marketing agency and will try to apply the SEO logic to headlines and content as well in my future blog posts

almost 2 years ago

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Suraj Rai

Hi James Carson,
Nowaday everyone wants to make online money. You shared good points about ecommerce blogging mistakes that were difficult to discuss. It helped me to increase knowledge about ecommerce blogging. Your all tips are really nice and helpful. Thanks to share such useful tips. I am going to follow these are suggestions to give new height in on online business.

almost 2 years ago

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Bill Conn

Great article. Thanks for the important reminders on best practices when it comes to posting content that feeds your goals.

As much as I'd love to agree with Armando and say "SEO be damned," when it comes to headlines, it's just not a reality. Like the tree falling in the woods all alone, the writing you so expertly crafted for human audiences will suffer the same fate....no one will hear it.

almost 2 years ago

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Armando Roggio

Bill, I appreciate your analogy, but remember that it is the search engine's job to find good content, and ours to create it. Google scours the forest and will find the splendid trees, if you will, and SEO can still be damned.

almost 2 years ago

amy watson

amy watson, Manager at DesignNBuy Web2Prnt Pvt Ltd

Great information shared. In the ecommerce market, one should definitely keep those points in mind when promoting the brand. I agree doing only for the purpose of seo and keeping creepy titles really affects the business value. So blogging is good, but it should be done in natural ways.

11 months ago

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sudhir kumar, Marketing Lead at Generate your online revenue more with referral marketing

Nice informative blog. Refiral is a referral cum viral marketing tool which helps to increase your online store traffic .it also helps in increasing conversions , acquiring new customers and retaining existing customers.With Refiral, all your customers — new and old — can become potential referrers for your store.We run referral crusades for online sites and needed to band together with your organization. for more info kindly visit http://www.refiral.com/

7 months ago

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