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Does Adding A Blog Still Help - Or Hurt - SEO for Ecommerce Sites?

     
5:33 pm on Jan 7, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Does adding a blog still help out for SEO (and sales) for an ecommerce site?

Or does it compete with the ecommerce pages ability to rank naturally?

Say I sell blue widgets. I have an ecommerce page at /blue-widgets.html

I want that ecommerce page to rank well in google.

How likely am I to help or hurt my SEO for that ecommerce page by having blog posts about blue widgets (in the same domain on a different directory)?

Thanks in advance.
6:24 pm on Jan 7, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Unless it's a pretty spectacular blog with some pretty spectacular unique content that is likely to draw attention (and traffic) on its own, even if the ecommerce side didn't exist - it's not going to help sales, in my opinion.

It depends on what you're selling, obviously. But when I shop, whether it's for me personally or business shopping, I basically just want to find what I want, buy it, and get on with my day. Don't usually want to do a lot of reading first.
6:28 pm on Jan 7, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Thank you, netmeg!
6:34 pm on Jan 7, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I would, and do, keep them separate. If you have a good solid eCom site, one that is recognized as an eCom site, one that falls smack dab in the middle of the eCom bucket when being classified as a site type, why would you want to muddy the water?

Do the blog separately, if it works it'll fall into the informational bucket and you'll get the appropriate traffic to it. Then you can increase sales on your eCom site by sending it traffic from your blog.
6:48 pm on Jan 7, 2015 (gmt 0)

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@ Shepherd:

thanks for your input:

I would, and do, keep them separate.


Do you mean on a seperate subdomain? Or a seperate domain altogether?

Or something else...?
7:14 pm on Jan 7, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Isn't this a bit like asking: "Does a Facebook page help or hurt an e-commerce site?"

And the answer is: "It depends on the Facebook page."
7:24 pm on Jan 7, 2015 (gmt 0)

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And the answer is: "It depends on the Facebook page."


Can you elaborate?

That is not a particularly helpful answer for me, unfortunately.
8:31 pm on Jan 7, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Or a seperate domain altogether?


Separate domain, leaves you with more options.
9:15 pm on Jan 7, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Honestly, it depends.

Most blogs (whether on ecom sites or elsewhere) aren't very useful or good. So in general, I'd say that blogs *usually* aren't worth having, because it's rare to see a great one.

That said, there are always exceptions. For example, I keep aquariums in my home as a hobby. One of the most authoritative and helpful sites on fish keeping is a blog on an ecom site that happens to sell a lot of aquarium-related products. In their case, I'm sure their blog has a tangible positive impact on their business. But it's something they take very seriously, and have spent a TON of time working on.
9:22 pm on Jan 7, 2015 (gmt 0)

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@ Shepherd:

thanks for your clarification.

@ Sand:

Thanks for your input.

I can certainly understand your point.

Although I have to wonder in the case of the aquarium hobby site:

Does having their well-crafted blog pages rank well in google (I am assuming their blog does rank well in google) mean that their ecommerce page(s) DON'T rank well in google.

I know it would be difficult to answer, but if one of their popular blog posts was deleted from their site, would google possibly rank one of the site's ECOMMERCE pages in its place?
9:57 pm on Jan 7, 2015 (gmt 0)

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No, they're very different. Their product pages target products. Their blog content targets things like 'how to care for x fish,' or 'what should be water parameters be for x coral', or 'what type of lights are best for x application' and stuff like that. So their blog feeds into their ecom when they recommend a particular product to recommend for a problem. I can't see their analytics or anything, but I doubt their blog is cannibalizing their ecom site at all seeing as the type content is very different.
10:00 pm on Jan 7, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Can you elaborate?


The general idea is the same as outlined by martinibuster and elaborated by me here:
[webmasterworld.com...]

Or let me ask it another way: "Does an email newsletter help or hurt SEO for e-commerce sites?"

Answer: "It depends on the newsletter."
10:51 pm on Jan 7, 2015 (gmt 0)

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It all depends on what your goals are for creating the blog, what you want to accomplish. Start with your aspirations. What do you want your site to be? What do you want the site to do? Get links is not an answer. Getting links was never the answer. Links are a means to an end. Links are not the end. It's 2015 so really, imo, we have to think in terms of citations which means thinking in terms of the precursors of citations. When I say precursor I mean it in the sense of a chemical reaction where something arises from something else that came before it. But to get there you have to define your end goal and from there backtrack a little and define how the blog fits into getting you to that goal.

I've been saying this for many years: Become the site you want a link from. What kind of site is that? I gave a presentation on community building at SMX West many years ago and I helped a gentleman work though this problem. He ended up adding a forum to his ecommerce site that sold a B2C product. It became the go-to destination for learning how to clean, install, maintain and most importantly how to choose the best product. A community was built around this topic. I invited him to PubCon and he followed me to a couple of the Vegas and an Austin PubCon. Last time I talked to him he related that he had sold the business to a larger competitor.

[edited by: martinibuster at 10:58 pm (utc) on Jan 7, 2015]

10:53 pm on Jan 7, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Personally, I tend to want to keep my eCom sites strictly eCom related to avoid any confusion (in the search engines eyes) as to what bucket they should be in. It's a tough trench to dig out of when you start ranking for only "informational" searches instead of "transnational" searches.

That said, I just took a look and it seems that Amazon has a blog, actually, many blogs and we all know they have no problem ranking for transaction searches...
11:41 pm on Jan 7, 2015 (gmt 0)

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thank you all, @ Sand, @ ergophobe, @ martinibuster, @ Shepherd

I guess my main concerns were touched upon by Shepherds post above:

It's a tough trench to dig out of when you start ranking for only "informational" searches instead of "transnational" searches.

It seems like this is the case for ONE of my sites, and I wonder if I might be doing this to my other site should I add a blog to it, too.

"That said, I just took a look and it seems that Amazon has a blog, actually, many blogs and we all know they have no problem ranking for transaction searches... "

Here's the thing about that though: I see ebay ranking well for a particular term, but it isn't their COMMERCE pages that rank well, but one of their info pages (created by one of their sellers).
12:51 am on Jan 8, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I have a commerce/transactional type site with a blog. I have the blog on the site, no subdomain, nothing like that.

I use it for one thing - long tail searches. It's an easy way to add large volumes of content all in one section of an otherwise transactional website. Then point from the blog article out to the money pages.

Every once in a while something comes up that triggers the thought 'there's a term I should rank on'. I write a blog post on the subject and promptly forget about it.
4:17 am on Jan 8, 2015 (gmt 0)

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@ wheel:

Thank you again.

Webmasterworld is a much better place when you are around posting regularly.
10:49 am on Jan 8, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I see ebay ranking well for a particular term, but it isn't their COMMERCE pages


Well, I consider eBay an eCom site about as much as I think Craigslist is a car dealership.

So along the lines of what Wheel said, If you have an eCom site that sells widgets and you want to put up some information articles about widgets, maybe just to target the longtail, well in this case I say go ahead and do that on the existing site (blog = CMS for eCom site).

On the other hand, if you want to create a serious information resource about all things widget, that should be it's own entity, separate from the eCom site (blog = in depth widget information website).
4:24 pm on Jan 8, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Martinibuster
Become the site you want a link from


That's a pretty great way to put it.

I use it for one thing - long tail searches


And if you watch the analytics and see you get a dribble of traffic from a term you don't expect, that's a sign you can rank for that term and can put more effort into it.

That said, I was thinking more broadly still. Let me ask yet another question:

If you came up with a strategy that got you banned from Google entirely, but year after year would bring in five times as many visitors and with better targeting and conversion rate than your visitors from Google, would you do it?

This is what I meant by my comments on blogs, Facebook pages and newsletters. I can think of one product right now that I have never purchased, but their blog is so good that I have both an email and an RSS subscription. If Google bans them tomorrow, they will be able to reach me forever with good content that gets me to click through to their site and, hey, they're running a special.

I recently took an actual go in to work job (really the first in my adult life). The social media presence was sort of perfunctory. Regular posting, but without any real jazz to it.

My colleague is primarily responsible for social media, though I've done a little, but in the first month we've dramatically increased Facebook reach. He's had some posts that just kill it, but even though I don't really do social media, I did one short post that had a reach of 8,000 and got almost 200 shares and comments. More importantly, you can see "likes on shares" which are mostly people who don't follow us who are liking the post on their friend's feed. And some of the comments were passionate and beautiful from ultra-engaged customers. If nothing else it made me proud that people feel that way about us.

So does that Facebook page help with SEO? Well, it's never going to show up in Webmaster Tools or Open Site Explorer or Majestic or whatever.

But
1. "likes on shares". That's killer in and of itself
2. long-term spillover into blogs, review sites, etc.
3. thousands of people per week we're now reaching without entering the Googlesphere at all.

So my original point was basically just a riff of Martinibuster's original point in the thread I referenced: don't get so low in the weeds that you can only see this or that exploit of the Google algorithm. There was a time when you could hit a home run with that sort of thinking. In the Penguin/Panda/etc world, that is only going to get you the smallest incremental gains.

Think of overall goals, broad strategy and making yourself engaging and useful. Then don't do stupid things in terms of SEO.

If you have the best technical SEO achievable and you are completely uninteresting and unengaging, you're screwed.

If you have content and products and insights and services that people love and care about, if every aspect of your business shows that you put customers first and care about them and want them to become repeat customers, you can get a lot wrong on SEO and Google will still be your friend.

Which brings it all back to Martinibuster's quip
Become the site you want a link from


Except I'm going to broaden that and say
Become the business you would want to engage with


How you start is up to you, whether that's a blog, a Facebook page, a newsletter, a conference you sponsor (did Brett build Pubcon to what it is now because it was good for SEO for Webmasterworld? I could probably ask my original question a hundred different ways) or whatever.

But if you want an answer to your original question...

If you have the time, energy and other resources to put into a blog (be honest with yourself*) that will say something new that other people aren't saying and that your customers would find useful and interesting, that your target audience would add to their RSS reader and share on Twitter, there is no question you should have a blog.

If you are starting a blog because it's "good for SEO," then please don't. The internet doesn't need your content.

*Note
And BTW, I've tried to write regularly for a small business where the business owners were disengaged from the blog. I did my best, but it was a business in a tough niche that I knew nothing about and cared about even less. That blog got no traction. I was learning the landscape, though, and think if I had kept going for two years, it would have worked, but they were not willing to pay for a blog post a week for two years to find out and they were not willing to personally write even a blog post a year. But since they wouldn't even take the time to log into Facebook and like their customers back and wouldn't log in to LinkedIn (more important to them than FB as it was B2B) and accept link requests from customers, it was impossible. They wanted SEO to be a magical divination of the Google algo that would give them results in 6 months.
6:12 pm on Jan 8, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I just took a look and it seems that Amazon has a blog


And yet, you had to look, which tells you Amazon's blog is a tiny part of their presence.

Amazon's weight is so massive they can do a lot of things that smaller sites can't do, both in terms of resources they can devote to an incremental gain (because a 0.01% increase for them can probably employ more people than most small companies in America) and because they are Amazon. On some level Google knows that if their algorithm takes Amazon out of the SERPS, that's ipso facto a flaw in the algorithm whereas if the algo takes my site out, it might be exactly the correct action or it might be a flaw in the algorithm.

So you have to be careful of thinking that because Amazon does something that can be taken as advice on what you should do.
6:28 pm on Jan 8, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Unless it's a pretty spectacular blog with some pretty spectacular unique content that is likely to draw attention (and traffic) on its own, even if the ecommerce side didn't exist - it's not going to help sales, in my opinion.


Amazon's weight is so massive they can do a lot of things that smaller sites can't do, both in terms of resources they can devote to an incremental gain (because a 0.01% increase for them can probably employ more people than most small companies in America) and because they are Amazon.


Agree 100%.
8:48 pm on Jan 8, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Thank you, ergophobe, for your well articulated response.
10:08 pm on Jan 8, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Hope it helps!
12:02 am on Jan 9, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Yeah, it does.

Although I have to say you are probably thinking at a higher level than myself.

Here's the issue: I have two ecommerce sites in two different niches.

One has a blog and gets a ton of traffic to the blog side, but not as much as it used to (three years ago) on the ecommerce side.

There is a big part of me that feels google has classified this site as an information site and that is HURTING the ecommerce side of things.

Now, For my other ecommerce site (no blog yet), I was interested in using things like facebook and other social media to market it, but the thought of driving traffic to a different site (i.e., facebook) instead of my own site leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

so I am thinking of putting a blog on this other site.

But just want to make sure that having a blog won't be "pulling away" visitors from the ecommerce pages over to the blog pages.

I know that might not make sense. However, on my other site that has a blog that gets significant traffic, I see all sorts of signs that google thinks of it primarily as an INFORMATIONAL site and not an ecommerce site.
3:48 am on Jan 10, 2015 (gmt 0)

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How ridiculous google have become for you even to have to ask this question?
10:21 am on Jan 10, 2015 (gmt 0)

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But just want to make sure that having a blog won't be "pulling away" visitors from the ecommerce pages over to the blog pages.


Yes, it will happen...

Thus insure that most, preferable all, of your blog pages have direct/indirectly something to do with the products that you sell.
And insure that you link, on every blog page, back to ecommerce/product pages where you sell.

Your customers might now visit the blog to learn/for tips/see what’s new/etc. etc., but end of the day they will still buy on your site.
And you most definitely will get new buyers from your blog.


We’re doing something similar on our ecommerce sites…

Some people, like netmeg, know what they require; they spend some time on the ecommerce/product pages, and only visit the blog when we launch new products…

The average repeat visitor spends 1-2 hours between the ecommerce/product pages and the blog…

First timers spend days on the site.


Some visitors buy only online...
Some make wish-lists, print them, and then visit our walk-in stores to buy...
Some visitors buy online and offline...


Most of our visitors are repeat customers.


We don’t have any ranking problems whatsoever.
2:00 pm on Jan 12, 2015 (gmt 0)

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The question you should be asking yourself is whether a blog will be a benifit to your users. If it will make their experience better then it is worth it.
3:02 pm on Jan 12, 2015 (gmt 0)

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How ridiculous google have become for you even to have to ask this question?


So true!

@planet - I've been wrestling with the same idea for over 5 years now and last August I went all in on CMS. All I can recommend is that you watch out for content dilution. Stay on topic and keep it relevant to you main site.
 

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