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Episode 11 - Blogs in your Shopify Store

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 Hey Scott Austin here, and this is episode 11 of the Shopify solutions podcast. And in this episode, I'm going to talk to you about the different ways that you can use Shopify as a blog tool in your Shopify store. So let's first discuss why we should be blogging in a Shopify store at all. And there are two main reasons why you would want to blog in an online store. The first one is to bring traffic to your site. You may call that inbound marketing or content marketing or SEO. But what you would do with your blog is put up great content to draw people to your site. And the other reason is to engage users that are already on your site. So if you have customers on your site that you want to educate, inform, or give them more options or more in-depth understanding of your products or other things about what you're selling and your services, you could do that in a blog.

Now for most stores, the reason for the blog is going to be for traffic generation. Most of the stores that I work with are building out blogs and blog content to draw users to the site and just a few years ago it was the best practice for an eCommerce store to have a separate Shopify store and a blog, usually a WordPress site under separate domains. It might be and the store is under or the reverse. That blog could have been and the store was under and the reason for this was there wasn't a good blogging features and capabilities in Shopify and the other eCommerce platforms out there. That has changed over time though, and now Shopify is blog features are rich enough that I haven't had a separate blog site in WordPress that I built for a client in many years. All the new stores that I'm building out are building out their blogs inside the Shopify blog platform and I've even transferred many clients from a WordPress blog into Shopify.

And let's talk a little bit about the features of a blog. Essentially a blog is a collection of pages, but in Shopify and in other blog platforms, we get some features on top of just publishing pages out to the web. And one of those big features is an umbrella that you're putting over this collection of pages. Then make them a set, make them a combined unit, and that gives you the ability to do structured navigation. So instead of having to manually build out a navigation paradigm using menus and page elements on the different pages you're building out with a Shopify blog, you have navigation built-in. So each page has the ability to navigate to the next one and at the top level you can have a main blog page that lists all the blog articles and page and eats them if there's more than 20 or whatever the limit you've set for page nation is in your blog.

And because you have this umbrella over this set of content, it also has tools allow you to cross-promote. She can do things like most recent blog articles or tag all of the articles and allow your customers to filter the content by tags or navigate by tags and blog articles and Shopify have their own template so you can give them a unique look and feel and also a consistent look and feel under that blog umbrella and blog content. Just like all content types in Shopify have the ability to be included in Shopify site search. So there's many times when you're building out a Shopify store that you want a series of content and sometimes I build those in pages, but more and more as I develop websites, I'm starting to build out these collections of pages inside of a blog structure. So what I'm going to do for most of this episode, it gives you examples of different ways that different stores have used blogs to present their content to their customers so that you can learn from this and get ideas from this so that you can enrich your own stores with good engaging blogs.

I'll include a link in the show notes to each one of the blogs that I'm going to talk about now. So the first purpose for a blog is for content marketing for an inbound strategy for SEO. And my example here is core essentials. Core essentials is a San Diego based company that makes and sells fashion items for men, things like belts and sunglasses. And I was recently doing an SEO project for them where they had already had pretty good traffic from SEO, but we were trying to extend the keyword coverage that they have in that store. So we were enriching the content at the product level and at the collection level. But there were certain keyword phrases that we couldn't cover in the main shopping pages of the site. So what we did is built out in their blog articles targeting certain keywords for them. Those keywords can be things like fashion accessories for men or best apparel or unique belts.

Whenever we came up with a keyword phrase that we couldn't fit into the shopping experience, which would then give you a direct link into the browse experience of shopping. We would instead put it into a blog article so that Google would index that page and rank it for that keyword phrase and bring that traffic into the site. Now the articles you're going to make for this content marketing may not necessarily be about your products, but they're going to be relevant and appealing to your target audience and probably be about your space that you're in. So for example, with core essentials, they were talking about things that would be interesting to men and interesting to men who cared about their appearance and wanted fashion accessories. So a couple of examples of blog articles are father's day gift guide, top men's fashion trends of spring 2019 groomsmen gifts guide, classic accessories every man needs.

So these different articles we're targeting these keyword phrases that core essentials was going after in their SEO efforts. A second reason for a Shopify blog might be to just consolidate your platforms. So if you already have a Shopify store and you've got one of those older websites on WordPress and you kept that content on WordPress for the longest time, you can now transfer that over to Shopify. And one of the big benefits of that is you're now going to be on one platform. So you just have to know how to use Shopify. You don't have to worry about having you Shopify and using WordPress. And another benefit of that is going to be those two sites are probably on two different third-level domains, you'll get to combine them into one domain and that'll help you from an SEO standpoint and you can easily migrate your WordPress blog to Shopify.

Well, I say easily, it's not super easy. It's not as easy as migrating your customer catalog or your customer listing from Shopify or from another platform to Shopify. You can in a few steps, migrate your WordPress blog to Shopify. I did one recently. We had over 500 articles for a site called cool jams. They sell pajamas that are cooling pajamas, wicking pajamas, performance pajamas, uh, for men and women. And they've been in business since about 2008 and they had over 500 articles that were really relevant to their target audience with topics like best solutions for a hot mattress. What does sleepwalking mean? Why is sleep health important in all these articles over the past decade that it accumulated on WordPress? So I went through the, the few steps that you have to do to get from WordPress to Shopify of exporting all the content out in WordPress and then going through the WordPress or the, the export in file and changing all the URL links and all that stuff for all the images and downloading all the images and then getting all those images into Shopify.

So there's a few steps you gotta go through to make it happen. It took several hours to get that work all done. It actually took me a couple of days to get it done, but once it was done, all that content had been migrated from WordPress to Shopify. So it's now all in one platform for the store. And we even did three Oh one redirects for everything. So all the old URLs linked to the new Shopify URLs. So there was no loss in SEO juice from all of that. So one of the reasons you might want to have a Shopify blog is just to not have a blog on another platform. The third blog example I'm going to give you is from grip clean. They make heavy-duty soap for cleaning your hands. Um, and they're targeting things like auto mechanics or people that really get their hands dirty.

So they have a heavy-duty all-natural hand cleaner, they have multiple blogs in their store and one of the blogs is focused on video. So they've spent a whole bunch of time creating video tutorials about how to clean your hands or how to clean up different types of messes. So some of the articles are things like removing charcoal from your hands, cleaning air filter oil off your hands, how to clean an oil spill. So they've spent time creating videos for all these different scenarios for their audience. And this is for SEO purposes. So you could see someone doing a search for how to remove metal, cleaner Polish from your hands and their articles will show up in each one of these blog articles they have is actually a video tutorial that they posted on youtube using youtube embed codes. They easily add that video inside of the blog article, and then they also have some texts that describes what's going on in the youtube video because Google search will look for that text and index it for SEO reasons based on that text because it doesn't look inside of the content of the youtube video.

But this blog gives them a nice controlled area where they have all these, how-tos on how to clean all sorts of stains off of your hands and other places. These things occur. The fourth type of blog could be four ambassadors. So many stores have the concept of ambassadors who are influencers that they're promoting on their site, and also their ambassadors are promoting that store through the network. Those ambassadors have through social and other channels that they have. So the store I'm looking at right now, I built Lao last year, it called seven seas roasting, and they make coffee, and I'm going to read you the, the top line of their ambassador page, which is the top line of the blog. And it says in the ring on the field in a freaking monster truck, these courageous women and men unite to push the limits of convention rising each morning to be their best.

We'll be right there with them to fuel their journey, join them as they explore new territory. So you can see they're going after hardcore athletes as their audience here, and that's who their ambassadors are. And if you look on their ambassador page, which is their main blog page, they've got a photo for each of the ambassadors and a name of them. And in that photo it shows them doing something pretty extreme. Some of them are weightlifters, others are CrossFit people, others are yoga, some drive trucks and motorcycles, all sorts of cool stuff. And then if you click on any one of the images, that'll take you to the blog article where they show photos of the ambassador. Talk about the background of the ambassador and talks about what that their favorite coffee is. You know, cause they have different roasts and different flavors of coffee and it's a way for the store to give promotion and credence to their ambassadors and allow the ambassadors to point to that.

Ambassador pays that ambassador blog article on the seven seas roasting website. So it's a great way if you have an ambassador program to give your ambassadors some presence on your website and because it's in a blog, it's easy for your customers in your store to land on one page. And then with the built-in navigation of the blogs, click next, next, next and scroll through all the ambassadors and learn about all of them.

A fifth reason for a blog could be for a podcast in my example here is vis art inc they do hand-drawn artwork that includes hidden pictures and words that relate to an overall theme of the art. So it's one of those types of art where the closer you look at it and the more time you spend looking at it, you start discovering new little hidden elements inside of it.  And they're kind of fun to look at. And Greg is the owner of vis Harding and he does a podcast that's called the business of art where he talks to other artists and they talk about how they've built a business around their art and their passion. So Greg publishes his podcast through his Shopify blog. So each podcast episode becomes a blog article and he actually publishes his podcasts through Youtube. So he's got a video and an audio and he just uses youtube and bed codes to put those youtube videos inside of each of the articles. And then it's easy for customers to come and see what the latest podcast episode is because they're all in date order and they can scroll through the past catalog. So the episodic nature of a podcast is totally in line with the article based format of blogs.

A six use case for blogs is for a portfolio.  So for my company, JadePuma, I have a website that is a Shopify store, even though I'm not selling anything in it, I actually use Shopify to publish all the content that I have about our services. And one of the uses of the blog that I have in that Shopify store is for the portfolio. So each of my clients becomes a blog article where I talk about the services that we performed. Maybe there's a video walking through the site or the changes we've done. And then I've also tagged all of these articles with what the type of functionality was or the service that we provided to the client. So a platform migration or a new site build or Shopify plus or wholesale or using as a specific theme like turbo. So the customers can easily filter and say, Oh, show me all the store migrations that you've done.  And then they can look at the portfolio of store migrations and watch the videos that I've recorded or the case studies that we've written up in there. So using the Shopify blog functionality is a great way for me to show the depth and breadth of the services that we perform for clients at JadePuma.

So the seventh and last use case that I'm going to show you for a blog is for an idea showcase. And for this example I'm going to show you etchings expressions. What essence expressing cells is wine bottles that have been sandblasted or etched with a personalized, and they sell these as great gifts for like Christmas or birthdays or anniversaries. And they also sell them to corporations as corporate gifts, like employee of the month, or hey, you know, we're the Patriots and we just won the super bowl. Um, there's lots of use cases that customers may not have thought of using an etched and personalized wine bottle.

So etchings expressions blog is all about the different ways that their customers have personalized their wine bottles to give potential new customers ideas on what they can do with this capability from itching's expressions. So as you look through the blog, there's all sorts of past work that they've done where they made this bottle for someone's 50th birthday or this bottle for the golden state warriors or this design for a father's day presents. And they've done a really good job and they always do a really good job with their photography. So they do a lot of in house photography and their photos are really good and really highlight the quality of their etching cause the sandblasting goes deep into the glass and they really zoom in on their photography and have really good lighting so that the potential customer can really get a sense of what that bottle and what that design in that bottle is going to look and feel like without being able to touch it.

So the blog for them is a really great way to show the depth and breadth of the art that they've put into all these personalized bottles that they've built in the past. And that gives their new potential customers perspective customers a great idea factory to get inspiration from so that they can make their personalized gifts that much better. By leveraging the best practices from past customers. So that's seven different ideas on how to use a blog in your Shopify store. The first one was content marketing for SEO purposes. The second was a WordPress replacement. The third was for how-to videos. The fourth one was for ambassadors. The fifth one was for a podcast, the sixth one was for a portfolio, and the seventh one was for an idea showcase. Now one of the nice things about blogs in the Shopify platform is that you can have more than one blog.

So if two of these ideas or three of these ideas sound good to you and you want to incorporate them in your Shopify store, you can have a separate blog for each one of them. In my example here is honest paws. Honest paws make CBD oils and treats for dogs and cats, and they actually have three blogs on their website. They have one blog that's all about CBD, a second blog about pet care, and a third blog about pet medication. So in the first blog about CBD, they'll have content like is CBD oil, legal, CBD versus THC. You know the key differences. So they're just educating consumers on CBD. In the second blog about pet care, they'll have topics like how to get rid of fleas, a holistic guide or cat seizure, a step by step guide. So all of those articles are very focused on caring for your pet.

And the third blog about medication has content like Claritin for dogs, yes or no. Potassium Bromide and seizures Previcox no, the risk beforehand. So they talk about different types of medicines for cats and dogs and explain the pros and cons to you. So they've got three very distinct topics for these three very different blogs and they all work really well under that Shopify blog umbrella where each one of these blogs has its own umbrella. So if you want a navigation between the different articles in one blog, that doesn't affect the navigation of another blog. If you're doing tag filtering on one blog, that doesn't affect the other blog. So blog one could have one set of tags and blog two could have a different set of tags. So if in your Shopify store you want to have more than one topic and use that umbrella functionality of a blog, you can easily do that.

Inside of Shopify, it's really easy to just create a new blog at the top level and you do that in your Shopify Admin by going to online store, under the sales channels in the left Nav and then clicking on blog post and in the top left-hand corner of blog posts, there'll be a link for managed blogs and if you click on that, you'll see what blogs you have in your store, if any, and then you can add a blog. Also, if you want to add a new blog and when you create a new article, you can assign what blog that article is associated within your Shopify store. Now I'm going to give you two best practices that I have for blogs and the first one is your blog should be about quality content. I don't spend too much time and energy on blog design and making things look snazzy from a design or navigation standpoint.

I care a lot more about the content inside of that blog, whether that be copy, photos, audio or video. The purpose of a blog is to share the content in it with your customers, whether that's for customer acquisition, like SEO or engaging them. Your blog is really about the content, so having copy that's well-written, grammatically correct free of errors, having photos that are high quality, good resolution that tell a story. Those are important. If you are embedding things like audio or video, which are easy to embed. We've already talked a couple of times about embedding youtube videos. You can also embed audio like from a podcast distribution service or Soundcloud or any other thing like that. It's easy to embed that type of content into your article, but it's going to be really important that that's good quality content. So when building out your blog, I recommend you focus a lot more on the content than on the design.

Now, the other best practice that I have is that all of your blog articles should have a call to action. You spend all that time creating that quality content and driving users to that. Whether through offsite things like social or SEO or onsite merchandising and link building, you get that customer to that page. They engage with that content, they spend time with it, and at the end of that you want them to do something. You need to have a call to action on all of your blog articles. Now, that's not the same call to action on all of your blog articles. It should be relevant to the blog article. For example, if you have a blog article about 10 great father's day gifts, the call to action is probably going to be links to where customers can buy those gifts because starting a shopping experience at the end of that blog article make sense because the blog article was about shopping, but if your blog article is something like pet medicine and what medicines are good for your pet and what medicines are not good for your pet, starting a shopping experience straight from that blog article doesn't make sense.

It's too much of a disconnect from where you were educated the customer about something medicine that you might not even be selling on your website to Gen. Just shift to say, oh, go buy pet collars. So instead, another great call to action for blog articles is to sign up for your email list. So in a lot of the blogs that I build up from my clients, the dominant call to action is an email signup box, but an email signup box on its own isn't that compelling to most people. They're reading the article and at the end it just says, you know, give us your email address. They're not that inclined to do it. So one of the things that I do a lot of times is give the customer an incentive for that. So they've already been engaging with your quality content in that article.

So one of the great incentives is to give them more quality content. An example of that could be making an ebook from all of your blog articles or a set of your blog articles. And then that call to action can be, hey, did you like this article about father's day gifts? Why don't you give us your email address and we'll send you a free ebook with all of our gift guides. Or another one might be, hey, did you like our video tutorial about how to clean the oil off your hands? We'll give us your email address and we'll send you an email a day for the next seven days about how to clean the most common stains that auto mechanics have. So giving something to your customer for free in trade for that email address is a really good, best practice. So my two best practices are, have quality content and have a call to action. Now, in the end, there's no right or wrong with what you do with your blogs, so hopefully I've seeded some ideas for you on how you can use the Shopify blog tool to enrich your Shopify store. But feel free to try your own ideas. The tool is pretty flexible, it's pretty open, and I would love to hear some of the ways that you've used blogs inside of your Shopify store. Hope that helps. Thanks for listening.

JadePuma is a certified Shopify Expert. If you need any help with your Shopify store, we can help.