Guide to Link Building for Ecommerce

Link building is critical to SEO, but tougher for commercial sites than for blogs and other content sites. Not only is it difficult to attract links directly to product pages, product pages can disappear when products sell out – along with their links. So ecommerce SEOs need to get creative.

Though social link building is hot, hot, hot, traditional forms have not lost their importance. This post looks at (trust me) ten ways you can find valuable backlinks to help your ecommerce site’s search rankings.

Low Hanging Link Fruit

Ounce of prevention

Before you look to build new links, why not protect the ones you have? How does your site handle product pages for items you no longer carry? It’s a bad user experience to keep them in the catalog, but dropping them means spoiling some SEO. Make sure you have a plan to either keep them (and updating the page to the new product version, merchandise with alternative product suggestions), or 301-redirect to somewhere on your site, be it your home page or a category page or the new version of the product.

Repeat business

Another trick is to reach out to sites that already link to you and look for new opportunities. Was it a blogger that loved your product? Was it a news item? It’s easier to get “repeat business” than approach brand new sites, so check your backlink results for opps to reach out again.

When evogear.com changed its domain to just evo.com, the team reached out to me to update links, and I ended up blogging about their brilliant idea here on Get Elastic, which earned them another link.

There are a number of backlink checking tools out there, both free and paid. The paid tools are worth it if you want to do serious link analysis (e.g. SEOmoz’ Open Site Explorer and Link Research Tools) will show you segmented links like social, news and blogs, and domain authority scores to help you hone in on the most valuable targets first. If you want a freebie, BackLinkWatch is decent.

Social circle

Not only can you create business profiles on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and others and link back to your home page, most social networks allow you to place links to other websites from your personal profiles as well. Encourage your employees to create LinkedIn profiles and add our site, even if they move on from your company these links can stay in their profiles.

But social profiles are typically low-value links because they are easy to set up. Help build up their clout by linking back to them from your site. Not just your business profiles, but also personal ones. Do you have a page with your employees listed?

Howdy partner

Partners and suppliers are great sources for links, but so are your technology vendors. Why not participate in a case study (your vendor will love you), and negotiate a direct link to your site as part of the deal? Bonus points if you can get a brief description of your site with semantically relevant keywords, for example “online textbook marketplace UniXchange…

Blog Baiting

Blogs are great to target because they are so plentiful, tend to be topical, have regular, subscribed readers and often list the blogger’s name and email address for easy contact.

There are a few ways to get on bloggers’ radars. Here are just a few:

PR pitch

Blogger outreach is very much like traditional PR — blogs are online media, after all. Remember, to get any traction you must first have something remarkable to pitch.

What makes a remarkable story? Check out what these retailers did:

Best Buy Remix

Best Buy’s Remix program offers developers a crack at building their own shopping apps with Best Buy’s API. Major tech blogs like Mashable licked this story up.

Moosejaw Mountaineering X-Ray App

The jaw-dropping moosejaw app that reveals what its catalog models are sporting underneath their gear was perfect fodder for the Huffington Post, Mashable and more.

Sears’ People’s Pick

Doing something innovative with social media will also get you buzz. Sears’ People’s Pick crowdsources its Black Friday deals.

Here’s a sampling of the sites that found this story blogworthy.

But don’t just send bloggers copies of your press releases, and please don’t start off the email with “I love your blog and really enjoyed reading {insert last post here}.” Rather, demonstrate that you understand the audience and the type of content the blogger usually writes about by explaining (briefly) how your story will delight the blog’s readers.

You can also pitch your executives as experts for interviews, for example to provide “predictions” or other business stories to various media (not just blogs).

Bonus tip: Infographics are also so-hot-right-now, so coming up with a killer one is a trendy way to win you some blog love.

Guest post

Offering to guest post can help you build backlinks via your author byline, often from a URL that is topically relevant to what you are selling.

Here’s a tip, use the Dogpile search engine that shows results from both Google, Yahoo and Bing using the term “your keyword] + “guest post”, and repeat searches with “guest author” or “guest writer” to find opportunities.

Don’t take it personally if a blogger no longer accepts guest posts or declines your offer. Bloggers often blog because it’s a way to get their own voice out there. Just keep hunting and you’ll certainly uncover opportunities.

Give it away now

Giveaway blogs are a great way to build links and get your product exposed to potential buyers. Giveaway bloggers are already open to promoting commercial businesses, so you’re likely to have better luck than with other types of pitches. Of course, you want to go for the higher trafficked blogs first, but even the lesser-read ones are still worth it for the link value.

Do-Gooding

Sponsoring good causes or holding charity events can get ya links and help out your fellow man. Just sayin’. evo is an example of both.

Find What is Broken

Here’s a trick from my link building days – it had a higher “conversion rate” (links gained/contacts made) than any other method. Find a page that links to your competitor or a related site and run a backlink check on it. If there’s a broken link, contact the webmaster to report the bug and suggest 2-3 additional links that may be of interest (including yours). Make sure they’re relevant! You’ve already offered something of value, which gives the webmaster motivation to actually go in and change code. But keep it ethical and be transparent about your affiliation with your own link suggestion.

I like to use iWebTool because it’s fast and free, but you can use any broken link checker you like.

The Old Fashioned Way

Of course, there’s the old-skool way of link building, scoping the backlinks of your competitors. So long as you’re patient to wade through spammy sites, you’ll find some good opportunities.

And don’t forget, social link building. Put these all together and with a little elbow grease you’ll have a nicely rounded link profile.

Got your own killer link building tip for ecommerce? Please share in the comments.

Looking for help with ecommerce strategy? Contact the Elastic Path Research & Strategy team at consulting@elasticpath.com to learn how our ecommerce strategy services can improve your business results.

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