E-Commerce Link Building — The Challenge That Won’t Go Away

Eric Ward on
  • Categories: Channel: Retail, Link Week Column
  • Based on about 1,000+ meetings with e-commerce sites (about one per week for 19 years), I can confidently make a few observations about e-commerce site link building.

    Here, I will examine some of the most common link building tactics employed by e-commerce sites — including common problems with tactics and creative ideas for making them work to the fullest.

    1. Adding A Blog In Hopes Of Attracting Links

    While it is theoretically possible to garner links by adding a blog to your e-commerce site, there are a number of challenges that come along with this approach.

    The objection I hear most often is that sites that sell products directly don’t really want to be content publishers, often due to a lack of resources or a lack of interest. Adding a blog is often done reluctantly.

    I think back to the scuba site I once worked with, where the owner said, “I want to be in the water all day, not typing.” He had no interest in blogging himself, and he had no interest in hiring a writer because that person would not have his diving expertise.

    There’s also the lesser-discussed issue of blog promotion. Your new blog is invisible unless you publicize it, which small businesses rarely understand.

    Adding to the blog-as-link-magnet challenge is the fact that many e-commerce blogs write posts that end up being nothing more than extended product reviews for their own products. Do I really need to read a 300-word blog post about the baseball I’m buying for my kid? It’s a baseball. You throw it. Done.

    What Might Work: Quit making the blog about you-you-you. Make it about them. Who is “them”? Interesting people, places, events, happenings, experts and other businesses. Yes, I’m suggesting you use your blog to write about other businesses, not your own. Why? Give and you shall receive.

    Side Note: What Red Bull has done with RedBull.tv is a great example of a product/brand-turned-content-publisher, though they aren’t the classic e-commerce site I’m referring to with 500 products and a shopping cart.

    2. Creating A Facebook Page, Then Telling Every Passing Car To Like You On Facebook

    Everyone from the dry cleaners to the smoothie shop to the bakery is asking us to like them on Facebook. I’m immune to it at this point. I cannot think of a single time I liked a business’s Facebook page as a result of being told to do so on a sign.

    What Might Work: Don’t tell me to like your Facebook page; instead, tell me how to enter your new contest and win something awesome on your Facebook page.

    3. Creating High-Quality Website Content

    While most pure-play e-commerce sites don’t want to get into the deep content creation game, they still want to rank highly. They just don’t know how. And we all know where that’s gotten us: over a million infographics about car care (I wish I were kidding).

    We are in the middle stages of a content creation bubble that is only going to get bigger. Imagine how many thousands of dentists with websites are being told by content strategists right now to add content related to preventative tooth care. That sounds like a great idea. Then again, do we need 3.8 million articles about how to floss your teeth? Or 2 million videos?

    I had no idea flossing was such a challenge.

    And since this is column about links, who exactly is going to link to those 6 million pieces of content about flossing? (I know dentists aren’t technically e-commerce sites, but the flossing example is too good to pass up).

    What Might Work: For less than $500, you can buy 500 mint-flavored floss packs. Host “The Great Floss Toss,” where people drive up to your office, and you toss them a free pack of dental floss. Let the right folks in the local media know about Floss Toss. Invite a few TV stations to cover it.

    Offer the news director a free teeth bleaching if he covers it. Film it yourself, and write about it on your site and your Facebook page afterwards, including pictures of all those happy kids and parents — all of whom might mention it on their own Facebook pages later. Too much effort? Then you are missing the point.

    Mommy is going to post this on Facebook with a link to that nice dentist’s website!

    4. Algorithm-Based Backlink Seeking

    If you do a bit of backlink auditing for e-commerce sites, you notice some common patterns — most of which are going to stop working sooner or later. Here are some example link types you’ll undoubtedly spot when you study e-commerce backlink profiles.

    What Might Work: Sponsorships for events like this one from companies that have a logical reason to do so.

    What Might Work:  On the other hand, when Ford sponsors The University of Michigan’s Solar Car Team, all I can say is this: Nicely played, Ford.

    What Might Work:  Have you ever heard of the Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers? Of course not. But check out this page  Were those paid for? Yes. And every one of them is as white hat as can be.

    Clint Eastwood once said, “A man’s gotta know his limitations.” Likewise, a website has got to know its limitations  — it must stop trying to be that which it is not, and reach out for links from those who know and respect that which it is. I know, another bit of Linkmoses Zen, but there it is.

    E-Commerce Linking Guides

    Lastly, below is a curated collection of 15 e-commerce linking and SEO guides that can help you along the way to building links for e-commerce sites. I may not agree with every suggestion, but taken as a whole, these are all worthy reads.

    1. 17 SEO Best Practices That Could Double Your E-Commerce Sales (SEL)
    2. Ecommerce SEO Case Study: White Hat Link Building (backlinko)
    3. Creative Link Building for Ecommerce Sites (MOZ)
    4. 50 Actionable Ways To Build Links To Your Ecommerce Store (BootstrappingEcom)
    5. E-commerce Link Building Strategies – Linkarati (linkarati)
    6. How to Build Links to Your Ecommerce Site (QuickSprout)
    7. Overlooked Link Building Opportunities for Ecommerce (PointBlank SEO)
    8. Untapped Link Building Techniques for Ecommerce Sites (Ecommerce rules)
    9. 6 Cool Link Building Tips for E-Commerce Site (Optimize)
    10. Ecommerce Link Building (Buzzstream)
    11. Linkbuilding: how to create links for your e-commerce (Screenpages)
    12. 7 Unusual Link Building Tactics for Ecommerce Sites (SEJ)
    13. 5 Top Link Building Strategies for Ecommerce Websites (Volusion)
    14. Easy Link Building for E-Commerce (SEER Interactive)
    15. Link Building & SEO strategies for e-commerce (State of Digital)

    As always, link, share and mention wisely.


    About The Author

    Eric Ward
    Eric Ward founded the Web's first services for announcing, linking, and building buzz for Web sites, back in 1994. Ward is best known as the person behind the linking campaigns for Amazon.com Books, Weather.com, The Link Exchange, Rodney Dangerfield (Rodney.com), the AMA, and PBS.org. His services won the 1995 Award for Internet Marketing Excellence, and he was selected as one of the Web's 100 most influential people by Websight magazine. In 2009 Eric was one of 25 people profiled in the book Online Marketing Heroes. Eric has spoken at over 100 industry conferences and now publishes LinkMoses Private, a subscription based link opportunity and strategy service. Eric has written linking strategy and advice columns for SearchEngineLand, MarketingProfs, ClickZ, Search Marketing Standard, SearchEngineGuide, Web Marketing Today, and Ad Age magazine. Learn more about Eric and his content publicity and link building services at http://www.ericward.com