Link building for eCommerce websites
Link building plays a vital role in SEO. According to the general consensus, the links contribute for more 50% to your SEO success. With Technical SEO and eCommerce Architecture, the area represents the third most important pillar of the field.
When you are creating a link building strategy, you should bear in mind the authority of the site that is linking to your content.
There are also other properties of links that matter:
- Link origin and Link target
- Anchor text
- Nofollow attribute
Boost your eCommerce SEO efforts with 12 link building tactics that can deliver results in a relatively short time.
In the architecture of a highly visible eCommerce platform we covered how to find and incorporate high potential keywords in your website. The definitive SEO checklist for successful eCommerce websites explains all the boxes you need to tick from a technical point of view. If you've taken these articles to heart, you're well on your way to a highly visible eCommerce website.
The last pillar of SEO we need to talk about is how to do link building for eCommerce websites. Links play a vital role in SEO. The general consensus is they contribute for more 50% to your SEO success. In the article about your eCommerce website's architecture we've covered the role of internal links. Internal links are links within a website. When we're talking about link building we mean links from other websites, also called external links.
Within SEO, most eCommerce websites struggle the most with linkbuilding because it's something they can't fully control. However, link building doesn't have to be that difficult. Like all aspects of SEO is requires a good strategy and hard work.
After reading this article you'll know how to approach link building for your eCommerce website. We'll leave you with some interesting link building angles that work in almost any niche.
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Link building explained
Link building is the process of getting other websites to link to yours. All links are counted as votes for your websites, passing on authority, relevancy and trust.
Authority plays a major role in SEO. There are three types of authority:
- Domain Authority: takes into account all links to the domain.
- Page Authority: only takes links to the page in question into account.
- Link Authority: is about the authority a link passes on from page A to page B.
The higher the authority the better. For instance, receiving a link from a website like CNN.com be every SEOs dream.
A relevant link is a link to a page from a topically related page. If you're selling televisions, it's great if you get a link from a blog post about the best televisions to watch Netflix on. Subsequently, the relevancy of links influence to the topic relevancy of your website.
Trust is the degree to which search engines trust your domain. The higher the better. Trust is earned through age, sticking to Google's guidelines and by getting links from trustworthy websites. A good example of a trustworthy website is a newspaper.
Keep building trustworthy links in an ethical way and you aim to service your visitors well. Trust will follow naturally.
Building links that pack a punch
Links pass on authority, relevancy and trust. What else should you be on the lookout for?
These are the other properties of links that matter:
- Link origin and link target
- Anchor text
- Nofollow attribute
Link origin and link target
When we're talking about link origin we mean the page a link is placed on. Say you're linking from your homepage to your 'About us' page, the link origin is the homepage. The link target is the 'About us' page.
Ideally, the link origin and link target share the same topic. Having links to the homepage is great, because you can funnel the homepage's authority through to other pages in your website. If you want to be rank with other pages than your homepage in competitive niches, having links to these pages is essential. Links to pages other than the homepage are called 'deeplinks'.
The anchor text is the clickable part of the link, usually underlined and blue.
Ideally, the anchor text contains keywords you want your website to rank for. We call this 'exact match anchor text'. Don't over do this though, having too many links with exact match anchor text may give off a signal to search engines that you're trying to game the system and may result in a penalty. It's important the anchor text varies and looks natural.
The nofollow attribute is used to indicate that a link was paid for or that you don't want to be associated with the websites you're linking to. When a link has the nofollow attribute, only part of the link authority is passed to the link target. It's normal for websites to have links with the nofollow attribute, so don't obsess about it. Besides, links carrying the nofollow attribute aren't worthless. Wikipedia links are nofollowed, but they still carry relevancy, trust and some link authority.
Keeping your link profile natural
All of the links to your website together comprise the so called 'link profile' of your website. This is basically your website's fingerprint when it comes to links.
It's important your link profile is 'natural', and doesn't stand out in a negative way.
But what's natural and what's not? That depends on the industry you're in. In some industries it's normal to have lots of links with exact match anchor text. Before stepping up your link building game it's important to get a feel for what your competitive landscape looks like. That defines what you can and cannot do.
Analyze the link profiles of your top 10 competitors to get a feel for what's considered 'normal' in your industry.
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12 Link Building Tactics
At this point, you may be asking yourself "How am I going to convince people to link to my website? What's so special about my website?". There's several reasons why you are getting those links, rather than your competitors:
- You're not afraid to step outside your comfort zone and ask people to link to you.
- You have a solid strategy you follow.
Doing link building for an eCommerce website is about putting yourself in the position to get links. Unless you're selling highly innovative or provocative products, you're not going to get much links to your category and product pages. You need to find a work-around to make sure the authority, relevancy and trust of your category and product pages increases.
Product pages are notoriously difficult to get links to.
However, this is not an obstacle — it's an opportunity. If you can build just a couple of decent links to your product page, you’ll separate it from all others on the web which don’t have links pointing to them. Then Google is much more likely to rank you number #1 for your target terms, than the others.
That's where these twelve simple, but highly effective, link building strategies come in:
- Create a blog section
- Create a frequently asked questions section
- Create a dictionary section
- Create a manuals section
- Reach out to partners
- Make donations
- Get credit for images that are used by others
- Find unlinked mentions of your brand
- Broken link building
- Ego baiting
- Be controversial
1. Create a blog section
Creating a blog section on your website allows you to publish link-worthy content. Link-worthy content can be anything that's newsworthy, informative, trending and interesting. For instance if you were to create an infographic, this is a good place to publish it.
It's important to keep in mind that creating and publishing link-worthy content is only the first step. The next step is to tell the world about it. Reach out to industry leaders and tell them about your content.
2. Create a Frequently Asked Questions section
You can probably write down twenty frequently asked (FAQs) questions about your niche right now. If you take a couple of hours and look for suggest searches in Google, the questions people ask on platforms such as Quora (opens in a new tab) and Yahoo! Answers (opens in a new tab) and play around with tools like AnswerThePublic.com (opens in a new tab) you'll be able to come up with 100+ more FAQs.
Prioritize them according to search volume and start writing. Categorize the FAQs to give visitors an easy way to navigate around them. In order to be successful, you need to go all out and make the FAQs as great as possible. You can even include visuals, videos and links explaining the topic. Stick to the inverted pyramid method (opens in a new tab) to make sure your answers answer the question right at the beginning.
For the television eCommerce website, you may for example have the following FAQ categories:
- What televisions can I mount on a wall?
- What's the maximum weight for a wall mount?
- How to install a television mount?
- How do you install a television wall mount on drywall?
- Making decisions
- Which television has the best picture
- Which television brand is the best to buy
- Which television should I buy
- Which small television to buy
- Which television technology is better for eyes
- Which television is best for gaming
- How do you install a television wall mount on drywall?
- Which audio systems would you recommend for television brand X?
How the FAQ section will get you links
People like getting fast, complete answers to their questions. Providing that means you're adding value. People will be open to sharing your answers on social media and places like message boards.
Also, if you rank well with your FAQs you may be eligible for featured snippet results. This is a good example of a featured snippet:
Distribute the link authority
The links you've gained all carry authority. The authority is passed on to your FAQ pages, not your product category pages or product pages. Be sure to link from the FAQ pages to those pages and vice versa: those FAQ pages are adding value and help you build authority.
3. Create a dictionary
The dictionary approach is very similar to the FAQs, it's just a different content type. Follow the process and guidelines as described above and start writing:
- Prioritize the dictionary terms according to search volume and start with the ones with most search volume.
- Include visuals, videos and links.
- Apply the inverted pyramid method (opens in a new tab).
- Categorize the dictionary terms.
- Link from the dictionary terms to product category pages and product pages.
4. Create a manuals section
If you're selling products that include a manual, put all of the manuals online. If they are on regular pages you know how to optimize them already. If they're PDF files, keep in mind you can optimize those as well. Here's a good article on PDF optimization.
Creating a manuals section is mostly interesting if you're selling niche products which aren't very common. In that case, you can expect to get quite some targeted organic traffic. Be sure to link the manual pages from the category pages, product pages, and vice versa: those manual pages are adding value and helping you build authority.
Back in the early days of the web directories were the way to navigate and hear about websites. Well maintained directories are still a good way to build links.
Examples of directories:
- Industry related
- Local businesses
- Alumni business
- Chamber of Commerce
Please note: avoid directories which could be perceived by search engines as untrustworthy. Dead giveaways are spammy directories, listing controversial websites.
6. Reach out to partners
When it comes to link building, reaching out to organizations that you already have a relationship with are low hanging fruit. Start with this. Do you have any suppliers who may be open to this? Or are you sponsoring organizations? It's only fair you get some credit. Even if it's the local soccer club, they probably have a website which includes a sponsor page.
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7. Make donations
Organisations often give credit for donations you're making. Check what donations you've made, and see if they list donors with links. If they do, make sure you get a listing as well.
In the software development industry it's very common to use Open Source software. You can always decide to make a small donation to show them your gratitude, and get a link in the process.
8. Get credit for images that are used by others
When other websites use images from your website without your permission, it's only fair they give you credit for it with a link.
Finding website using your images
The first step is to find those websites using Google's reverse images search functionality, infringement.report (opens in a new tab) and TinEye (opens in a new tab).
Reach out and ask for credit by placing a link. Most website owners will be surprised to receive your message, and are often open to giving credit for the images.
If you produce original images then the chances are other people are going to "borrow" and use them on their websites. To most people this is a source of frustration, but to a link builder it's a golden opportunity.
All you have to do is use Google's reverse image search tool to check for 3rd party websites using your images without consent. Rather than asking for them to take them down, ask for a link as attribution for being the copyright holder.
9. Find unlinked mentions of your brand
When you come across unlinked mentions of your brand (or your name!), reach out to the website owner and ask them to include a link.
Finding mentions can be automated using a tool such as mention.net (opens in a new tab) or RankTank's Unlinked Mentions Finder (opens in a new tab), but you can also use an advanced Google query:
"brand name" -inurl:domainname.com
In our case, that would look like this:
Go through all of your brand mentions and see if you've already got a link. If not, reach out and ask for it.
10. Broken link building
Broken link building involves searching for website that link to resources that aren't available anymore and proposing them to link to an alternative resource on your website.
Step 1 is finding websites that link to pages of your competitors that don't exist anymore. With a tool such as Ahrefs you can find those quickly:
Create an overview of these websites and create alternative resources on your own website to link to. Now reach out to the website owners: explain that you saw that the link on their website is broken and mentioned that you've got a good alternative to link to.
11. Ego bating
Another effective tactic in link building is called 'ego baiting': featuring others in your content.
A benefit of this tactic is that the companies and people featured in your content will often help you promote it because they're mentioned in it.
Popular ways to do this is through:
- Expert roundups
Example: "SEO Link Building Experts – Interview Round Up (opens in a new tab)"
Example: "Health Expert Interviews (opens in a new tab)"
12. Be controversial
Playing it safe doesn't get you anywhere in a highly competitive landscape. In order to stand out and overtake your competitors, being controversial can help.
Brainstorm about topics that relate to your business, and that'll trigger people in reading your content. Example: "50 Seemingly Healthy Foods that are Bad for You (opens in a new tab)".
A lot of eCommerce website owners struggle with link building. This limits their SEO success, because links play such as big role in whether or not you're successful in SEO.
Don't make the mistake of thinking that link building is impossible. It's not, you can also build links. And you can start right away, using the 12 link building tactics that we described in this article.
Happy link building!