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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The 3 C’s of Content Marketing

Content marketing has become the new buzz phrase in the digital space. It refers to the creation and distribution of media and published content in order to attract and engage a clearly defined target audience.

Most website owners understand the importance of unique web content. However, producing unique content that not only captures your audience’s attention, but also holds that attention, converting folks into profitable customers is still a budding concept. While most ecommerce websites do not rely heavily on content, they do use it to promote return visitors and customer loyalty.

The idea of content marketing is that you can communicate with potential customers without hard selling. Instead, you have a conversation with customers, giving them the information they need to make their own purchase decisions. In the process, you deliver a valuable message to customers who should reward you with their business and loyalty. The nuts and bolts of content marketing include social media, video and web.

You can develop an effective content marketing strategy by using, what we call, the “three C’s”: conversation, creativity and consistency.

Be Conversational

First things first, conversational content is jargon-free. Customers do not need to understand your industry, therefore they do not want to decipher your lingo. You should always write in a style that is straightforward and to-the-point.

The purpose of having a conversation is to engage in dialogue. Your content should stimulate a response from customers. Do this by asking your audience questions that will make them interact with you on a personal level. This will be rewarding to both you and the customer.

Get Creative

As a PR and SEO specialist, I get to wear many hats. One of my favorite hats is being able to get creative. Content marketing is the art of storytelling. The purpose of telling a story is to get the customer to take action. Unlike traditional advertising or sales, marketing is about soft action, like visiting your website.

Keep in mind, most customers visit a website for a particular reason. And when they do, they expect to be engaged in a business conversation (refer to C1). Therefore, if you can be entertaining and provide value, you can build customer loyalty, ultimately keeping customers coming back for more.

Practice Consistency

Probably the most difficult of the three C’s is being consistent. Constantly producing quality content while still meeting performance goals can be quite a challenge. We know. However, it’s important to develop a schedule that dictates when you should produce and publish content. We refer to this as an editorial calendar. An editorial calendar will hold you and your team accountable and ensure the work gets done.

In addition to increased online visibility and web traffic, the biggest benefit of being consistent is that you can establish yourself as an industry thought leader. And keeping your content fresh and consistent is the quickest way to portray yourself as an expert in your niche.

Content marketing is taking the digital world by storm. Don’t be left behind; educate yourself on the benefits of using content marketing. Become familiar with its tactics and most importantly, be consistent!

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Benefits of Using a Press Release

Back in January, I wrote about the benefits of working with public relations professionals. More specifically, how developing engaging, keyword-and-human-friendly content is the key to creating high-quality websites. I also briefly touched upon the press release as an effective SEO tactic.

Today, I am going to discuss the benefits of using a press release, in regards to your website and overall brand reputation. The purpose of writing and distributing a press release is to get your news in front of as many people as possible. An online press release distribution service is the quickest and easiest way to do this. The beauty of using a distribution service is that thousands of journalists have access to these services. And the media are always looking for new and interesting information that they can transform into a newsworthy story. Here are the benefits of using a press release:

Build Brand Awareness

A common goal of a press release is to promote your company, products and/or services to potential customers and influencers (bloggers and journalists) within your industry. A distributed press release can do exactly that. By developing newsworthy content and distributing it to the appropriate outlets, you can achieve your goal of getting your brand in front of the right audience. Likewise, you should engage your audience to ensure that people not only know about your brand but are also interested in it.

Increase Sales

In addition to building brand awareness, increasing sales is another goal of press release distribution. This tactic is particularly common among smaller businesses with limited budgets. Press releases that contain some type of free offer or incentive to the customer can generate serious business leads. You would be surprised how many people are willing to trade their contact information for free stuff. Even if just one lead turns into a hard sale, you will have achieved your goal.

Link Building and SEO Benefits

As a SEO specialist, I cannot forget the link building and SEO benefits of the press release. The mistake that many small businesses make is putting up a website and expecting people to find you without taking any steps to market the site. Well folks, let me let you in on a little secret: optimizing a press release is one of the easiest ways to market your website. The simple truth is that millions of people today use the Internet to get their news (myself included). By including high-quality and fully optimized links in your press release, you can build more backlinks and ultimately improve the search engine rankings of your website. Pretty awesome, right?

Position Yourself as a Thought Leader

As I mentioned in my most recent blog post, positioning yourself as a thought leader within your industry is another way to build powerful backlinks. Therefore, when writing your press release you want bloggers and journalists to consider you an industry expert. This can help you earn media coverage from influencers. It will also help you to build lasting relationships with bloggers and journalists. Plus, the more customers see you in the news, the more credible your business becomes. As you can see, the benefits of positioning yourself as a thought leader are actually three-fold.

To wrap things up, the benefits of using a press release are this: brand awareness, lead generation, SEO maximization and thought leadership. However, keep in mind that one press release is not going to solve all of your business goals and ambitions. The best way to get noticed is to create consistency by distributing well-written, SEO-friendly press releases on a regular basis. And when I say regular basis, I mean as often as something newsworthy occurs in your company be that events, promotions, awards, new products or services, and other accomplishments.

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Introducing the Web Payment Software Card Swiper App

Picture this: you’re out at a trade show or convention, selling your products or services to the thousands of people walking past your booth, when finally a customer approaches you with a serious inquiry into what you’re selling. They’re more than interested – they actually want to buy, right then, right there. They pull out their wallet only to ask you if you accept credit cards because they don’t carry cash, and what can you say, other than, “I’m sorry, we don’t have the capability of accepting credit cards on the go”?

Web Payment Software can now help change all of that for you. Whether you’re an existing WPS customer or you need a new account to accept mobile payments, the new WPS Swiper App is built to handle commerce on the go across any and every industry. Mountain Media is proud to announce the launch of this new Web Payment Software app that is now available on the iTunes store.

How it Works

Once you sign up for a Web Payment Software merchant account, using the new Swiper App is easy. With your new account, we’ll send you an iMag Pro Mobile MagStripe Reader that plugs directly into the dock connector of any iOS device, including iPod Touch, iPad and iPhone, prior to iPhone 5 (iPhone 5 support is coming soon – this card reader will plug into the headphone jack of the new iPhone 5 devices).

From there, you simply log in to your account from your iOS device and you can begin accepting credit card payments using the app. Enter the amount for the transaction and run the customer’s credit card through the swiper mechanism on the bottom of your iOS device. The card reader will automatically pull the information off the credit card and bring you to a screen that allows your customer to sign to authorize the payment. They can then opt to have their receipt emailed directly to them.

It’s as easy as that – accepting payments on the go has never been more fast and easy, and now every retailer can accept credit cards anytime and from anywhere.

The Benefits

For starters, the major benefit of this app is that it’s free to download, plus with the Web Payment Software transaction fees currently in place, you won’t be overcharged for any transaction made through the WPS Swiper app. Our fees are lower than PayPal and our other competitors, plus, you get more one-on-one merchant support from our developers and programmers should you ever run into any issues with your account.

The ability to accept credit cards from any location at any time can be hugely beneficial to your business as it allows you the ease of selling everywhere you go. Whether you’re heading to a trade show, a farmers’ or flea market, a convention or otherwise, you will no longer have the worry of attracting a customer who only carries plastic in their wallets.

So head on over to the Web Payment Software website to find out more or sign up online for a new account, then download the Swiper App and start accepting mobile payments right away! Be sure to check out our introductory app video, as well, before you begin using the Swiper App:

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