Link Building for E-Commerce Site : It’s Not All About Paid Links

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Last week e-Commerce link building was discussed at WebmasterWorld Forums (also reviewed by SEroundtable). Why is it actually more difficult to build links to an e-Commerce website?

  • today almost every webmaster knows the real value behind a link; thus linking to a commercial site is either avoided or nofollowed: aka “they have enough money either way”;
  • an Internet shop most often lacks “linkable” content (unless that’s some unique store of handmade store or collectibles).

So what’s the way(s) out?

“Do what your competitors do and just buy some links”

There has been said a lot about both advantages and disadvantages of link buying already. So just to summarize:

  You have the full control of the anchor text, link acquisition rate, link placement, linking site topic and link power (toolbar PR of the incoming links).

  If the webmaster sold a link to you, how do you know he was smart enough to sell link in the past and no to get caught by Google? How do you know the site isn’t red flagged? You can make guesses (judging from its rankings, other sites it is linking to, etc) but you can never be sure.

Try other traditional link building tactics:

  • promote the company / founders’ personal story (via press releases and bloggers);
  • sponsor non-profits;
  • start a green initiative, etc

  These tactics will work only if managed by an experienced and creative person. So you will need either to outsource them or hire (and educate) a specialist.

  You will need much time to experiment with various tactics that will work in your niche. Copying your competitors’ similar techniques are not sure to work: you will have to invent unique ways to make it work.

Get creative: start a link bait:

  • start a widget bait;
  • develop related (and fun) online tools or FireFox addons;
  • create a viral video;
  • start a contest or giveaway;
  • well, there are plenty of ways.

  A well executed link bait (and social media bait) will not only result in more links but will increase the brand awareness, promote word of mouth and attract new customers;

  Link bait is hard to both plan and predict. An attention spike may result in negative feedback publicized and spread. Google’s take on link bait is also unclear: you never know how it can react to a sudden rise in backlinks.

Ann Smarty

Ann Smarty

Brand amd Community Manager at Internet Marketing Ninjas
Ann Smarty is the blogger and community manager at Internet Marketing Ninjas. Ann's expertise in blogging and tools serve as a base for her writing,... Read Full Bio
Ann Smarty
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  • Couldn’t agree more. Its not a case of using the standard methods. Store owners have to be more inventive. I came across one good idea on seomoz about how you could get people in other countries to link to you as you don’t compete with them. This gives you the opportunity to get relevant links from high quality sites.

    One of the big problems i find is small minded thinking. Many webmasters have gotten lazy and use the standard link or resource pages to include external links. Whats wrong with blog posts including external links or placing a link in a relevant context on any page.

  • I need an advice. It’s possible because of my back links to have decreasse traffic now.

    So i have my website: – it’s a new one based on german articles. I promote it and i had 400 UV/day …
    but now i have only 60 … and i do not know what is wrong.
    It is stack there.

    What should i do?

  • There is also the old fashioned way of attracting links, which is to use great content. I have long advocated for eCommerce sites to use great articles and content to draw in links.

    In the print catalog world this is called a “magalog” which is a combination of a catalog and a magazine. It has both products and articles. If it works in print it should work in an online environment. Develop great content to compliment your products and it will probably help attract some decent links.

  • I agree that it is very difficult to get links into an ecommerce website. However a lot of the suggestions you gave would involve a good amount of money for development, resources, outsourcing, etc…

    There is a great example by The Godfrey Group. They use their 120 page free idea guide book as link bait for people in the tradeshow industry.
    Feel free to check it out.

    • Mark,

      Like the idea of using free guides for link bait. Some retailers have this stuff just laying around printed, but don’t think to post it online or promote it.

  • Article Marketing.

    Answer questions in forums that allow signature or profile links.

    Be active in social networks that have dofollow profile links.

    Contact wholesale vendors and ask for a link.

    All of these have worked for me.

  • I like the pros and cons format you used. It’s a nice way to round up both sides of an issue.

  • I like the thumbs up/down too. Most ecomm’s have lots of photos, which means a Flickr account could provide lots of links and some traffic.

  • true most e-com sites do have lots of photos but most of them are uninteresting and therefore it would be pointless in just exporting them to Flickr. There would need to be some sort of angle on it. Anyone any ideas?

  • How about beating your competitors at something like price, service, quality of deliverables, etc. i bet you can get some links that way!

  • @Jaan, yeah definitely, but these most often remains outside SEO’s perspective. I was talking about what SEOs and link builders can do in the first place…

  • A great discussion on here. The new age SEO tends to be inclined more towards content and this is a slight hindrance for ecommerce sites as they are more about products. Companies do use methods to push fresh content through customer reviews, but reviews offer nothing in terms of gaining backlinks. A blog is a much better platform. I agree with most ideas outlined here. Development resources are the key for gaining trustworthy links from authority sites. Article marketing, directory submissions offer low link value.

    I would be interested in knowing more about how community building could encourage people to link. It’s a bit old age technique, but a forums offer customers to interact with each other, making them much more comfortable than emailing the business or commenting on blogs. Would they also help in gaining links?

  • Content creation is the key to improving your rank (esp. in Google) having USEFUL, valuable content to people looking for solutions or advice on your site helps greatly.

    Example: I saw the person above me has a florist site. Some related content for her site would be how to care for your bouquet, how to pick a florist, what flower colors mean, ect.

    I run two appliance repair blogs:

    where I post short, how to articles about common appliance problems and fixes. Since I sell parts, I occasionally post a part too. Works great.

  • I’ve either performed or managed link building campaigns for over 150 e-commerce sites. The difficulty comes only when they have nothing worth linking to; nobody wants to simply give someone free advertising. The ONLY exception here is if it is a truly unique product that nobody else is selling online, which is very rare to find.

    If you’re link building for a client with an e-commerce store, in my experience, keep in mind that most e-commerce start-ups don’t even know what distinguishes them from their competition. Really, the first step is for them to understand this core concept – next is to make it happen then market the hell out of it.

    Among the tactics that have worked best in my experience:

    1) If you have samples or something cheap you can give away, contact bloggers and authorities and offer to send them something. A $3 dollar keychain is by far worth getting a permanent link and a happy customer who can show it off for you. Politely request a link or a mention in the process.

    2) If you’re in a specialized industry, contact any “authority sites” on your topic. Make friends with them. One site we did this for ended up getting a whole page written by us and posted on their domain about services, which resulted in #2 in Google for their main term.

    3) I don’t take credit for it, but one client of mine posted alcoholic beverage mixes online and it was such a good collection it resulted in over a hundred links. Think of the ways people use or enjoy your products and make information that is useful (and free!)

  • Article marketing is more than submitting to free directories. I should have taken this further. When you write a process for doing something and the manufacturer picks up your article and uses it on their site and references your site, it is different.

    And blogs work wonders. Just installed magento. Now I am going to see what wonders they can work on a company site.

    “The ONLY exception here is if it is a truly unique product that nobody else is selling online, which is very rare to find.” from Adam. We were lucky enough to find a niche full of these. Where conventional stores tell customers the product doesn’t exist, we have it on our site. That’s about 75% of the testimonials.

  • sheeesh

    @artikel well for one thing your site is full of annoying pop ups. I was going to check for you and got really annoyed with all the unsolicited actions your site imposes on me. Closed it right away and never going back. Maybe you can use that as a hint?

  • Not to mention that Patridge “gets really annoyed at Lauren’s cats because they pee on her rug and on her bed.” A rep for Patridge said

  • Sheeesh… if that’s your idea of a hint I’d hate to be on the receiving end when you decide to do some straight talking!
    Thanks as always Ms Smarty for the great posts.

  • Ann,

    I have to agree with you about e-Commerce websites and link building, which are primarily based internal linking strategies and internal and external content. On things that has helped in past pretty good is allowing customers to post product reviews.

  • Thumbs up to the thumbs up and down in the article. Link building for e-commere site isn’t easy. all these pointers are great, you may also add a bookmarking button on each of your product pages.

  • Search engine the holds the key of success for every website.

  • Its time to be creative and produce natural ways of creating links, paid are fine to get you going but are recurring costs.

    The idea is to create something viral that people will link to, you will be suprised how effective this is(and how much money you will save)

  • Hi Guys,

    Interesting discussion.
    I am relative newbie to ecommerce and I wonder what the truth is behind paid links?
    On one hand I’ve heard stories about google being not too sympathetic towards the use of those (how can this be traced?) but as I can see Simon refers to them as “being fine” to start with.
    I am trying to stay away from those but it would surely help as we are only just beginning, on the other hand I can’t risk any penalization.

    Could you help me out ?