Blogging in A PCI Compliant Ecommerce World: Tips and Tricks

It came up in an office discussion the other day here at Mountain Media what would be within best practice and of maximum benefit when it comes to blogging for ecommerce sites. Sure, you can write your topics surrounding your products and give customers more insight into what it is your site sells, or you can give anecdotal stories about your company and who you are or even post photos of your staff with a story from the day. But what we were discussing in our offices went much further than just topic selection.

I thought it would be best, then, to attempt to clear up some of the questions that many marketers and business owners have when it comes to blogging for an ecommerce site. With some help from our Project Manager here at Mountain Media, Matt Sawyer, we were able to come up with some tips and tricks for implementing, designing and populating an ecommerce blog.

Start with the Hosting

When we design and implement a blog for an ecommerce client, we typically use a third-party blog host (WordPress is obviously our go-to) and, working with the DNS provider (which is us in many cases), deploy the blog located at a subdomain of the clients’ websites. For example, if we’re working on a site with the domain name www.awesomepartyhats.com (this isn’t actually one of our sites, just using an example!), we will deploy the blog at blog.awesomepartyhats.com.

The other option in terms of hosting and deployment would be to place the blog in a location that is an extension of the client’s existing domain name – so rather than blog.awesomepartyhats.com, we might set it up at www.awesomepartyhats.com/blog. Both have their positives and negatives.

Obviously, an extension of an existing domain will help you build links to the overall domain itself should people begin to share and/or link to your original posts. This is a major SEO win for the domain as a whole and can help big time when it comes to improving your overall search engine visibility for your website and your business. However, with ecommerce sites, it’s not always this easy.

Here at Mountain Media, this is much easier said than done. Because we are a Level 1 PCI Compliant payment solutions provider with our Web Payment Software application and we handle cardholder information on a regular basis, it would be against our high-set standards to incorporate a third-party blog host provider into one of our securely hosted domains. This is something you should always think about if you have an ecommerce website that you’re interested in blogging for – check with your DNS provider to make sure that whatever blog you’re hosting and deploying will fall under that same umbrella of PCI Compliance where the rest of your website already is. If you can’t host a third-party blog, you’ll have to have one custom designed, coded and implemented as an additional page of your website, which could run up your marketing and programming costs with your site’s host provider.

PCI Compliance is big with ecommerce sites because they handle so much cardholder information – and you don’t want your customers to trust you any less because you’ve implemented a blog that is no longer in compliance. And while hosting a blog at blog.awesomepartyhats.com won’t be as big of an SEO win for that business as www.awesomepartyhats.com/blog would be, your main concern should be compliance and trust. Stay within your limits and implement a blog that works for your whole website, not just your SEO efforts.

Move on to the Design

Since it’s not as easy to gain SEO benefit with a PCI compliant ecommerce blog, you’ll have to find another way to leverage this blog space to work for the rest of your website overall. Start with the design of the blog. Even if you’re using a third-party blog host such as WordPress, you can still have a custom theme designed that matches the design and branding of the rest of your website. Work with your site’s host provider and graphic designer to have the design code properly copied over from your website to your blog.

This can help in your branding efforts, as visitors to the blog will recognize the color scheme, logos and font choices from your website, as well as have this third-party blog appear as if it’s been a part of your website all along. It’s consistent, and people (especially customers) love consistency.

Populating Your Blog

I’d like to get to a few things under this section for populating your blog once you have it designed and implemented in a way that’s compliant with your PCI level and that works for your SEO efforts. This is where the content that you post to your ecommerce blog will really come into play, as that is ultimately the determining factor in your blog’s success for your marketing and SEO strategies.

  • Posts About Products: If you’re going to post about the products that you sell, don’t just give an overview of the product itself – that’s boring, to be honest, and nobody will want to link to you or share your post. Instead, find a way to make the product interesting. Does it have a particularly awesome history or background to it? Did you get an interesting story from a customer who recently bought the product? Are there similar products you can compare and contrast this one to? Can you offer a giveaway of this product?
  • Answers to Questions: These kinds of posts can be absolute gems for your blog. Pick a question that you are frequently asked about what you sell, and don’t be afraid to tackle topics that your competitors are afraid to answer. Marcus Sheridan knows a thing or two about that, and he can track over $1 million in sales back to one blog post that answers a very broad question that his competitors have always been afraid to address. Find something that your customers are actively looking for more information on, and give them exactly what they want to know.
  • Thought Leader Posts: Another great way to attract attention to your ecommerce blog is to put yourself in a position as a thought leader in your industry. Give advice on how to set up or use certain products that you sell, recommend one product over another and explain your reasoning, give a description of what a particular product can do for you that people might not have though of before – get creative. Establish yourself as a leader and people will naturally follow you.

Use caution when inserting links into your blog posts – don’t over-stuff the links back to your own site, but place them strategically throughout sporadic posts instead. This is far more natural than linking to your website several times in each blog post, but it’s important to remember to incorporate self-serving links at the same time. It’s a constant struggle between too much and not enough, but as long as you remember to keep the linking natural, you’ll be fine. If it doesn’t fit in a particular post, then don’t add it.

With that said, remember, too, that linking to your own website, especially if your blog is located on a subdomain, can be excellent self-serving backlinks. And while people linking to and sharing your posts won’t necessarily help your website in the same way a blog located at an extension of your domain would, search engines will still manage to associate share links with your site itself, in turn boosting your SEO signals.

And linking out to other sites isn’t bad – in fact, it’s a great idea! Many ecommerce business owners don’t feel comfortable linking to other resources with similar information to their own sites because they’re hoping to promote their own business with their blog. Don’t be afraid, though – linking to resources that are similar to your business and your industry only helps search engines associate your article and your entire blog with a particular topic. It’s the power of co-citation, and search engines love it, so make sure you’re linking out to resourceful, trustworthy sites and other blogs that are similar to your own in order to establish that recognition.

Blogging for ecommerce websites can be different for a number of different reasons, but as long as you implement your blog in a way that works for you and the security of your website, keep a consistent design with that of your site and know the types of posts and links that will work, you’ll be just fine, and your blog can end up being a top source of traffic for your website regardless of where it’s located on the Web.

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