Ecommerce link building can be a huge pain in the ass, and it’s either done with great care or as straight-up spam. The Linkbuildr team has helped countless clients in this area over the years, as well applying Ecommerce link building principles to our own shops in our spare time. Those of you with SEO companies, who want to last more than a couple years in the industry, are going to have to be squeaky clean in your approach to this topic. In this article, we’ll take a look at some tactics that we personally employ, as well things we’d do for an ecommerce link building campaign for a client. Keep in mind that our main goal with such a campaign is to build some solid trust with the search engines, as well as with customers.
Photo Credit: Niall Kennedy
I hope to bring some fresh ideas to the table here, and not bore you with the same old tactics you’ve see everywhere else. Establishing a legitimate online brand isn’t cheap, so I’d prepare a budget of $50,000-100,000 USD over the next couple of years for those starting up in a competitive niche. I’m not making those numbers up, either!
Online shops in general are usually boring as hell and don’t offer any reason to get links. Unless your product is viral enough to advertise itself, you’re going to need a good content strategy in place to succeed. Successful link building is going to take not just links, but also excellent social engagement, mobile apps, link bait, blogging, and PR as well.
Build Trust And They Will Come:
One of the most important factors to consider in your ecommerce campaign is making your customers feel safe while they’re shopping. This also has a couple of different meanings, so let me get into that and then follow it up with some trust-building buys you can get right bloody now:
1) Security Seals
The proper placement of a security seal can and will significantly increase the conversion rate an online store. You’ve all seen many of these before, such as the ubiquitous Verisign one, and they are worth every penny. We always recommend placing these where your customers will see them straight away, as well throwing one down on the checkout page if you can, just to provide your customers with added peace of mind as they are filling in their payment information. An added bonus of these seals is that they sometimes produce a link, as some of them have companies/partners listed from their website.
2) Social Communities
Say whaaaaat? Depending on your niche, there’s a real good chance there’s a relevant online community out there which you could and should join. A good example of this would be the various Ning communities, which offer opportunities to network with other users in your niche, and also provide you with a badge that states “I’m A Member Of ….” which provides some subtle advertising value in and of itself. Being an active participant in these kinds of communities is a must in my books, as it will invariably lead to better sales and business partnerships.
Partnerships We Recommend:
– Safe Shopping Network
– Trust Wave
– Better Business Bureau
– Trust Guard
– Valid Safe
– McAfee Secure
– Merchant Safe
While these are the security partnerships we recommend most, there are many more out there which can be found using Google or by doing some first-hand research on the biggest online shops. It’s obviously not necessary to get all of those (that perhaps is a little too much), but definitely plan to register for one or more. I will quietly comment on how some of our shops have seen some almost unreal ranking boosts from being listed on a couple of these. It could be an anomaly, of course, but the lack of links the sites initially had, combined with how they’ve been ranking top 5 for over 6 months now, definitely has us thinking.
Do Your Payment Options Provide A Link Opportunity?
This link building tactic is not so much a tactic, as it is a unique opportunity that will only be available to the bigger and more well-established brands. That’s one of the reasons I feel comfortable publicly dropping this info without worrying that spammers will have a field day with it.
There are more and more unique online payment methods these days, and a lot of them can lead to a nice link. Everything from Paypal to Google Checkout and various mobile payment methods like to list their strategic partners. Even Visa and other credit cards link out to trusted stores online, and these are just the kind of juicy links you’re going to want in your search engine profile!
Verified By Visa Program:
This is an highly sought-after link that will only come to brands with the right connections and a large enough size. As you can see from the sites listed here, the Verified by Visa Program features only the biggest stores online, and I can say with confidence that we did manage to get one of our Fortune 500 clients on the list. Although it took a long time to do so, a link from such an exclusive list brings huge benefits.
Google Checkout Opportunities:
Google’s move against Paypal in the world of online payments was a welcome one, and when you dig deep, you’ll find a whole whack of link building opportunities with it. Here’s one example: GCOAccepted.com, a site which lists Google Checkout-friendly shops. Putting your Google search skills to the test will produce many similar websites, all of which are potential link sources if you use Google Checkout.
This is where you’ll find a ton of unique link building opportunities, each of varying quality, but all at least somewhat useful. Everything from forum posts, to blogs, to Q/A sites, and all sorts of old-school link/resource pages as well, can be taken into account with PayPal. This is just a good place to start to nab a few miscellaneous links, all of which will do an OK job of diversifying your link profile.
So Many More Options:
There are other credit cards and other online payment gateways to consider, and you can be sure there will be more to come in the future. You’ll need to sniff around Google a bit, but I can tell you there is a month’s worth of link building in this area, so get to work!
Contests, Contests, Contests!
I know this tactic has been done to death, but it needs to be said again because I’m still seeing companies pass on it. As our company slogan says, “we build brands and not just links,” which means that building online relationships is the key to marketing success, not just mechanical links. In this vein, contests are a great way to build buzz, produce a stronger connection with your fans, and draw in viral-style links as well. The Facebook & Twitter contest option is my favorite tactic as of late, so be sure to make use of these platforms as part of your contest.
Your Own Contest:
This is a contest that you host, via your website, social media profiles, etc. It should be a big gift giveaway, hopefully a product which you sell, and it should be done quarterly. The most effective strategy we’ve seen is launching the contest from your Facebook page, and providing backup with your official site blog and Twitter profile to get maximum exposure. We’ve also helped launch Youtube contests for companies, which is another awesome way to go; you get tons of user-generated content, which makes giving away something expensive worthwhile.
If your social media following is weak like a 1-month-old site’s link profile, then it’s time to look at a strategic partnering. This means finding an established blog, popular Youtuber, or robust forum community within your industry and trying to get them on board. I like to call this “social surfing,” as we ride their wave of their followers. I think everyone wins in this scenario because they get to give away something awesome (make sure the prize is fantastic), and you get exposure.
Generating contest buzz is crucial to getting the most out of it, so beware that a lot of prep work is in order. There are dozens and dozens of places you can submit your contest link to: bug people on Twitter, bug people on Facebook, and so on. Sit down way before the contest starts and put together a plan of attack, then stick to it. I previously talked about contests in our 2011 Link Building post, so read that section if you want some more ideas on how to approach this topic.
Twitter Is Good For Building Relationships… And Customer Interaction:
Ecommerce shops online are embracing Twitter more than ever. It’s definitely seen as a handy tool, and my main love with it is building relationships. For an ecommerce store, Twitter lets you advertise your business while mixing in a little fun with your customers (and potential customers). That’s one thing we always remind our clients to do: don’t just drone on about the latest product sales, because that’s not what it’s all about. Write some funny or intriguing tweets to keep your fans engaged.
There’s not much more that I can say other than to get someone fun from your company to manage the account. We don’t really recommend hiring a social media ghost writer, even if they claim to be some rock star. They don’t care about your company, your product, or your reputation as much as you do, no matter how much you’re paying them. Keep this one in-house.
This is another tip for big brands and up-and-coming big shots on the web. A lot of shops online push huge sales, which in return gives them some bargaining power with their suppliers. I’ll bring Zappos in as an example of this because you could make a positive example of them any day of the week.
Zappos stocks shoes galore, and they sell a s$#!load of product. You can see from either their link profile or Google that they’ve been listed on numerous supplier websites. These are my favorite kind of ecommerce links. I’ll throw you all a bone here and list the New Balance shop online page which gives a few power house online retailers a phat link.
Sniffing Out The Goods:
If you think your sales and brand are big enough to compete here, then start digging out your partnership opportunities. We regularly do this for clients and are usually shocked when they’ve never bothered to try, especially when these folks have company reps they could have spoken to. It doesn’t hurt to try or ask and even if you only get one link out of twenty, that’s better than nothing.
Hammering out link requests to suppliers is actually pretty easy to do. We recommend creating a spreadsheet and setting it up with supplier/contact/url-of-partner-page. Now comes the boring part. You’ll need to go to every supplier website and hunt around for their “Shop Online”, “Online Resellers”, “Buy Online”, “Online Partners”, “Online Retailers” sections, and so forth. Brand URL + those keywords in Google should do a quick and easy job of locating the desired pages. By all means, try out some other keyword combos, but those are the gems that will make you or your client’s life easier.
Sell Wholesale Or Have Affiliates?
Photo Credit: A. Carrell
This is another topic I covered in our 2011 Link Building Tactics post, so please check there for more specific ideas and link building tips. The gist of it? If you sell wholesale to smaller shops or have an affiliate program, then you can build links. I know this isn’t the most authoritative link building secret, but it adds diversity as well as a chance to make some more money. And I’m all about making more money!
There are dozens of blogs and forums from which you can announce and manage your affiliate program. This will not only bring in links, but new business as well, which is even more valuable because it isn’t entirely Google-related. If you have a good, steady income coming in that isn’t from Google, then you’re on your way to lasting a long time. Those who are only getting their sales from Google are just 1 algorithm update away from waking up in serious pain.
Datafeed/Shopping Comparison Sites:
This is another must for shops online, mainly because newer sites cannot rank for difficult keywords. A lot of the shopping comparison sites already rank well for the keywords you’re targeting, and this can be used to your advantage. Some of the sites provide a proper link back, and it’s usually a deep link, which is nice for a change.
A lot of the comparison engines out there are free, but some charge PPC and others have PPS situations. Obviously, the paid ones will require your judgment after testing them out and seeing if they’re worth it. In our experience, most of the pay-per-click models are not worth a dime. I like the pay-per-sale option, and on our biggest shop we see a lot of good sales come through it, keeping in mind we’ll hopefully get more out of a return customer later on down the road. If not, then at least you’re benefiting from the brand exposure, even if the profit margins are embarrassing.
List Of Datafeed/Shopping Comparison Websites: http://www.ecommerceoptimization.com/comparison-shopping-listing-guide/
I love coupon marketing because it lets you benefit in so many ways. First of all you can utilize this marketing tactic to get more deep links to your product pages. Secondly, you’re doing more to build up your brand name and image. There isn’t a day that goes by that our personal shop doesn’t have a coupon or two out in the wild. We also encourage our clients to do at least one coupon per month.
Why? Well, you’ll start to bring in those people who won’t buy at full price, and are only there for the bargain. You might as well make some money from these folks if you can. Having an active coupon set also leads to your shop getting a link from a lot of the bigger coupon databases online. They’ll usually make a store page for you once you get big enough, are big enough, or simply do a lot of coupon marketing.
How To Find Coupon Sites:
Social Shopping Networks:
Social web apps have obviously dived right into social shopping, and there’s something for everyone here. I’m sure some of your products are found on the sites listed below; if not, you can usually add them as the store owner without feeling guilty. Also, a lot of these sites provide a link, and it’s a great opportunity to add more deep ones.
These social networks are also a great place to network with customers and show them the personal side of your company. There are a lot of these social shopping sites out there, so stick to just a few and build up a good following on them. I personally recommend Kaboodle, Pikaba and Shopr.com. They all have a huge user base, provide links, and feature product inclusion. If you can, write unique descriptions so that you don’t outrank yourself or cause more post-Panda product page issues.
Mobile shopping is huge in Asia and Europe, and it’s finally gaining stride in North America. Chances are good that your site isn’t setup or ready for it, so where do you begin?
Depending on your shop software, you either have a pre-built option ready to buy like with Magento Commerce, or you’ll need a programmer. For those looking to start out in the ecommerce realm, then check out Big Commerce which is my next choice for my next shop.
Whenever a big player in the industry jumps on board with this, then you know there are link building opportunities to be had. We recently got one of our big ecommerce clients interviewed about their new mobile shop on a few industry blogs which was a big hit. It’s just another interesting way to make money, build buzz and get some links along the way.
Social Ecommerce with Facebook:
The latest “in thing” to do when it comes to selling online is the whole social ecommerce angle. Sadly I have no real hard data to tell you if it’s worth putting a lot of money into, but I tend to think it’s going to be huge. How does this differ from the social shopping sites…is that what I’m talking about? Not quite!
What I’m talking about are the Facebook store fronts you can have built and market with. We’ve already blogged about Vending Box and I’ll definitely mention them here again. I really like the platform because they only take a cut of your sales via Facebook…really slick! I don’t see why you shouldn’t have this already setup and going and let me tell you why. Facebook most likely has one of the best time-on-site averages in the world, and it’s only going to stay that way. Making people shop from Facebook is the logical next step, so don’t get left behind.
The other social ecommerce platform to check is Social Igniter, and it’s a web app I’ve been meaning to cover. I think it looks and feels much much better than Vending Box and they already have a few big brands on board which you can see here. I’d really take a good look at both of these software suites and see which is a good fit for your brand. Take note that if you’re a big brand and you join their platform, I can imagine a link will be coming your way!
Join In On The Discussion!
There are thousands of discussions from real people going on all over the web and social arena, so get in on it! You can find almost word-for-word questions about a product you carry, and they’re quite easy to find. We employ this strategy as a deep linking tactic several times a month.
Using only a few tools, you could find enough social discussion work to keep one employee, per client, working on it full-time. That’s not to say you should or will do that, but the point is that there are a plethora of relevant social discussions out there just waiting to be turned into links. So what does our company use? The combination of Google Discussions and a wicked web app called Social Mention.
The method we reommend is coming up with a document full of questions related to your product line, such as “where can I buy xxx” and “where can I get xxx cheap?”. You can filter your results by forums and Q/A sites, or combine both for an overwhelming onslaught of direct marketing opportunities.
I’m sure half of you folks are already using Google Alerts, but if you’re not then it’s time to sit down for 30 minutes and set up your account. You have a whole range of options to choose from, but be sure to stick to the ones that will convert into money so you don’t wind up wasting your time. I have over 15 alerts coming at me in the morning that I try and finish up before the 9am hustle begins.
This is my favorite free web application for getting social alerts from ALL over, and it’s aptly named Social Mention. I’ve gained so many links from using this tool in the past 6 months that it’s a shame I haven’t mentioned it earlier. As you can see from the list below, it tracks a whole lot more than Google Alerts!
Video Product Marketing:
Last year, we decided to heavily focus on video marketing efforts for our main shop and saw some amazing results. We used Animoto to create slide-show videos that showcased our products. These, of course, were placed on Youtube, and we made sure that the video description was unique and included a link to the product. We also set up tracking via Analytics to see how many sales came in through the video links. After one year, and over 200,000 video views (thanks to great rankings in the Google SERPs), we netted just over $15,000 in sales! That was a shocker to us, especially since we’re in a niche that isn’t the largest.
So for as little as $500(which factors in your time), you can have really decent-looking videos up and pimping your product. More views, more comments, and more ratings will all lead to better rankings for your videos. Make sure to advertise these videos via your Blog/Twitter/Facebook and whatever else you’re working with. We also noticed the videos getting auto-embedded through other online social media applications.
Why not? Let your customer see the face(s) behind the brand; this will lead to a more secure-feeling buyer. Connecting with your clientèle is the key to long-term success, and video is the easiest way to do this. We usually do 2-5 videos a year talking about company news, showcasing new products, or just doing something silly. It’s that simple, and it works!
Whether it be a professionally-done HD commercial, or the cheesiest piece of crap your digital camera can cobble together, give it a try! I know a lot of online shop owners who make some serious bank, yet they’ll usually never get around to dropping $10,000 on a really good commercial. You can hire very talented people within your city and keep everything on a tight budget.
We always highly recommend that our clients see who’s got the gift of gab on Youtube within their industry. Just like the contest partnering idea, you should give a product or two away to people with an audience. You can get a great review in (or a bad one), but at least you know your brand/product is going to be seen by a lot of people. To expand on that idea even more, do a video product review contest and get more people to make you content for free.
Niche Forum Marketing:
Ok, I know what you’re thinking… Let’s go spam some forums for a signature and/or profile link. Wrong! I’m talking about establishing yourself on a few targeted forums that are active, and very on-topic to your brand. Be very upfront about it and treat it as a social media marketing extension. Be there to provide brand support, chat with like-minded people, and build your brand up to be respected within its community.
We worked on a company that sold $20,000-$300,000 USD watches, and the owners all happened to be exotic car owners. A few of the Ferrari, Porsche and Maserati forums had watch sections, as well as users who had bought from them before, but most importantly they were thrilled to have reps on the forum. This has lead to so many sales it’s not even funny, and it has also lead to friends being made in both business and in real life.
The opportunity for spam is obviously there, but be forewarned that this can lead to brand disaster. We even email forum owners before signing up, or just after signing up, to let them know who we are and that we’re there to participate.
Content Marketing Strategies For Ecommerce:
A lot of people say article marketing is a dying tactic, and while we agree on some levels, you just have to be creative. Stick to the best content sites that don’t allow junk, such as Infobarrel.com, Suite101, Associated Content, and so forth. Develop content that isn’t a run-of-the-mill article, get creative, and have some friggin’ fun with it! Do not, I repeat do not, re-use the same content anywhere else.
Take advantage of guest blogging opportunities on good niche-related blogs, and benefit from the link efforts there. Stay far away from bloggers that look like they’re selling links, and that means blog content as well.
As with anything else mentioned here, don’t employ this as your sole link building technique. Lasting a long time in the SERPs means having a diverse link profile, and anything overly unnatural looking can (and usually will) lead to trouble down the road.
Need Help? Hire us!
We specialize in unique link building and social media marketing campaigns for ecommerce. If you’re looking to extend your marketing department with a team that actually care about your brand, then get in touch. We work with only a handful of clients at any given time to ensure your needs are being met. Our team is here to help execute a high-quality marketing strategy that will drive sales and build brand buzz.