Book Review: Content Rules by Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman

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While many content marketing books focus on content strategy (which is still important), you may still be left wondering how to create good content. If so, then Content Rules: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, Ebooks, Webinars (and More) That Engage Customers and Ignite Your Business by Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman aims to address this question.

If you read and implement a lot of what the authors tell you in Content Rules, you should be equipped with the knowledge and confidence to create content that will help grow your eCommerce business.

So what does Content rules cover, exactly? Well, let me tell you in this section-by-section breakdown:

Part One – The Content Rules

This is the most important section in the book. It provides you all the things you need to know before you start to create content for your eCommerce business.

It is highly worth giving you a chapter by chapter breakdown of this section, so here goes:

Chapter 1 – The Case for Content

As the title says, this chapter gives you a convincing case for content marketing. It helps you to understand how content can bring customers to your eCommerce site, get them to buy your products, continue to buy from you and even become a loyal fan. (In other words – how content can help you to grow your eCommerce business).

Chapter 2 – The Content Rules

This chapter lays out the 11 rules of content creation (with amusing illustrations) that are discussed in greater detail later in the book.

Chapter 3 – Insight Inspires

Before you even begin to create content you must do two things. One is to form an objective – Why are you creating the content in the first place? What is it that you want to achieve, as far as the big picture goes? The second thing is to know your customers. This chapter will help you with both of those things.

Chapter 4 – Who Are You?

Another thing you should do before writing your content is to get to know yourself. Doing so allows you to find your “voice” (which also involves knowing your audience). So, this chapter discusses ways to find your voice and to sound more “human”.

Chapter 5 – Reimagine; Don’t Recycle

This chapter discusses the importance of creating your content around one major idea, or one single theme. I think doing so not only makes your content more compelling, it also allows you to express unique views instead of just saying the same thing everyone else has.

Chapter five also suggests a possible publishing schedule that you can adapt to your own eCommerce business, and this will give you many ideas of different types of content you can produce.

Chapter 6 – Share or Solve; Don’t Shill

This is a very varied chapter, but it still focuses on the theme of creating excellent and engaging content. It contains the following:

  • 6 characteristics of a good piece of content
  • 24 tips to find ideas of what to write about (this should help you if you’re stuck)
  • A section on hiring others to create content for you, and what to look for in a potential writer (Handley and Chapman stress that it’s still better to create the content yourself if you have the time and resources…but regardless, even if you do outsource your content this book will still help you)
  • A section on gaining content from other sources, which includes curated content, cocreated content, licensed content and user generated content (Think: User Generated Reviews!)

Chapter 7 – Stoke the Campfire

You can’t just throw wood in a campfire and hope it burns. Likewise, you can’t just throw content out there and hope it grows your eCommerce business. You must have a strategy, and you must go about it the right way. This chapter will help you do just that using this nice campfire analogy.

Chapter 8 – Create Wings and Roots

In order for your eCommerce content to be successful it must be findable, accessible, and shareable. This chapter goes into these factors in a bit more detail (with more of a focus on the “sharable” aspect). It also has a section about Twitter and how to get the most of it.

Chapter 9 – The Care and Feeding of Fans

It’s not enough to create valuable content that people will want to share. It’s also a good idea to listen and respond, both to the people engaged with your content and people talking about you. This chapter discusses the best ways to respond to various types of individuals.

Chapter 10 – Attention B2B Companies: This is the Chapter you Are Looking For

This chapter mainly focuses on Business to Business (B2B) companies and reiterates what has been said earlier on in the book. So if your eCommerce business does indeed sell to other businesses, then you should find this chapter helpful.

Part 2 – The How-to Section

This section focuses on the best practices for various different types of content, that you may or may not need for your eCommerce webpage. I won’t do a chapter by chapter breakdown of this section. Instead I’ll outline the types of eCommerce content it can help you with:

eCommerce Blogging – A blog forms the “workstation” of your content strategy. It not only can draw traffic to your site, it also gives you credibility, and helps you connect with customers – both potential and current customers. It is only in rare cases that it wouldn’t be a good idea for an eCommerce site to have a blog.

Ebooks for eCommerce – Ebooks are a great way to capture emails for possible future sales, as well as etablish yourself as an expert. Not everyone will buy from an eCommerce site the first time, and not everyone will buy from someone who does’t display sound knowledge of their product.

eCommerce Case Studies – Case studies (or as this book calls them, “Customer Success Stories”) are one of the best ways to help you gain credibility in the eyes of your customers.

eCommerce FAQs – The FAQ section is one of the most important pages to have on your eCommerce site – and a well designed and written FAQ page can have a significant increase on your sales. It is a great opportunity to engage potential customers, but unfortunately most eCommerce sites I see have a very bland FAQ page.

eCommerce Product Videos – Videos are a great way for you to promote and sell your products.

Part 3 – Content That Converts: Success Stories (With Ideas You Can Steal!)

This section consists of a number of success stories, of businesses who have actually implemented successful content strategies to gain more customers. It tells you the types of content they created, and the results this content gained for them.

Unfortunately it doesn’t cover any eCommerce cases, but you’ll still gain a fair numbers of ideas from this section that you can apply to eCommerce store.

Part 4 – This Isn’t Goodbye

This section simply contains a “12 point checklist” that you can refer to after you have read the book through, and while you’re implementing your content strategy. It makes things very simple.

The Bottom Line

After reading Content Rules you should be confident that your content will be effective in bringing you success. Although the book is generalized, you’ll still gain plenty of insights into marketing your eCommerce business through content. (The authors themselves  state that their content creation tips and strategies apply to businesses of all types, and I strongly believe that it is helpful for eCommerce stores too.

To sum up, Content Rules will tell you all the things you need to know about planning your content strategy and in creating good content – all in a way that is clear and easy to understand.

Get Content Rules now on Amazon

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