2020 has proven to be a massive year for eCommerce websites around the world, and the power of SEO and link building has never been more valuable.
Inarguably, some websites are outperforming others in revenue and sales, but why is this? And what can other eCommerce websites do to replicate this?
Presently the websites that are performing the best tend to have powerful link building strategies to help their key pages rank well in Google and other search engines. This, in turn, allows them to generate more sales for free after their initial investment, rather than only relying on paid search ads which only last as long as your budget allows.
When setting out to build links to your website, be prepared for a slow and time-consuming process that you may need to outsource to an eCommerce SEO agency.
What is Involved in Link Building?
The art of link building involves a great deal of research, resources, content writing, emailing, negotiating and patience. Not everyone is going to be great at managing all of these tasks, so within agencies, these skills are divided amongst a team. If you are doing this in-house you may need to do a lot of this on your own.
Why are Category Pages Important for eCommerce Link Building?
User search behaviour can vary depending on where they are in their buying journey. For example, some users might search for “pet shop” to find your home page, but their intention is vague. Alternatively, someone who searches for “dry dog food” has a stronger buying intent. More specifically, someone who searches for “Hill’s Science Diet Sensitive Stomach & Skin” knows exactly what they want to buy.
When building links, category pages are most likely to provide the most long term value to your site. This is because products might not always stay in stock or remain popular.
Where to Start
There are 5 main tactics you need to master when link building for an eCommerce Website
Identifying high margin categories, checking competitor link profiles, finding new link opportunities, pitching your article and measuring results. Let’s go through each of these and see how they fit into your overall link building process:
1. Identifying High Margin Categories
In a world where most eCommerce websites offer free postage on orders over a certain value, you need to ensure that you can keep your online sales profitable. Some products such as Apple’s range of computers and phones are notorious for having very little margin for the retailers to play around with. If this is something you sell, you might consider pushing your link building efforts into something more profitable, especially if your customers are likely to aim for free shipping.
Focusing your link building on specific categories can also help you measure your results and attribution better. Rankings, sales and traffic to this part of the site should have a more measurable success than if you used a scattergun approach or only focussed on the home page.
2. Checking Your Competitor’s Link Profiles
It can be hard to know where to start when looking for link opportunities. A great place to start is by looking at the backlinks of your competitors. You can do this by utilising resources such as Ahrefs, SEMRush and Moz.
By seeing which sites link to your competitors, you might be able to get links to your site as well. If your site has good prices or a better range, you might be able to convince the webmaster to add a link to your site in the article as well, or perhaps you can submit your own guest post. Don’t suggest replacing your competitor’s links with your own, this might cause unnecessary drama if they notice and retaliate.
3. Finding New Link Opportunities
Having the exact same link profile as your competitors isn’t optimal. You need to find new sites that can link to you as well. There are many ways to find new link prospects and opportunities. There are advanced ways to find websites that accept guest posts, but working with smaller bloggers who specialise in your niche but do not directly compete with you is also a great way to get links.
There are many advanced methods for using Google to find opportunities.
Using “inurl:” such as above allows you to search for only websites that contain “blog” in the URL. You can use this with words like “blog”, “news” or even “write-for-us” and similar variations to find websites that have blogs on them or publicly request submissions. You can do this in conjunction with keywords relating to your niche to find more relevant websites.
When you have found a site you think you might want to get a link from, check its SEO metrics using tools like Moz, Ahrefs, Majestic or SEMRush to see how authoritative these tools estimate the site to be in the eyes of Google. You want to get links from websites with good metrics, not simply any random or brand new website. Like with most things, quality matters.
4. How to Pitch an Article
To accumulate backlinks, you may choose to submit guest posts to authoritative sites.
Keep in mind that webmasters inboxes are always inundated by SEO agencies and freelance link builders constantly trying to sell them their services. You need to ensure your email (or phone call) can cut through that noise, which at a quick glance might look like you’re trying to sell to them.
In your pitch, suggest types of topics that are relevant to their audience and has not already been covered on their site. Webmasters and bloggers hate it when you haven’t done your research, and even referring to some existing articles on their site that you like might help pander to their ego and help get them on your side. If you pitch something that is already covered, or that contradicts their values or beliefs, you will not get far.
A pitch without topic ideas will drag out the process and waste everyone’s time. Ensure that you make it clear that any articles you provide will be custom written for their audience and will not have duplicate content and will not be published elsewhere. This ensures the article itself might rank well in Google and help the publisher get more traffic to their site.
Sometimes, having an article already prepared can work, but some website owners will prefer to have some say in the topic and may not want to just take what is given. You may need to experiment with these approaches as each industry and website type is different. You are dealing with real people here after all.
5. How to Measure Results.
A few months after a link is live, you may start to see improved rankings for that page and variations of the anchor text used in the article. You will usually need more than one good link to get much movement. But an improvement in rankings or more entrances to your website through this category is a good way to measure success. As Google and different SEO tools will find these links at a different pace to each other, you will need to allow for plenty of time for the improvements to take place, plus further time for the impact to be seen.
To help measure the ROI, you should look at both your last-click conversions and also your assisted conversions using your analytics tool of choice. Organic search can work well in conjunction with other traffic sources. Eg. someone might enter the site first by organic, and return later via direct when they have bookmarked the page or returned to the site by typing the URL when they are ready to purchase.
Ultimately, link building is a time-consuming task but is highly worth it when executed well and combined with good on-page SEO and content. It can help bring in free traffic to the website for years to come and is a solid investment. Without organic traffic from Google, even the best eCommerce website may struggle to make sales unless you have established brand recognition or paid search budgets. If you find link building is not something you can do yourself, don’t be scared to outsource it.