You’ve improved your page speed, you’ve optimized your product pages, and you’ve added your keywords in all the right places. Your store is ready to rank in search results, and bring in those valuable potential customers.
But we’ve got one more thing that may be the key to climbing even higher - link building.
So, what is link building? And why are backlinks so valuable for ecommerce SEO?
What is link building for SEO?
Backlinks are an element of off-page SEO i.e. anything which can influence ranking that doesn’t happen on your site. Think Google Business, reviews on Trustpilot, etc. You can’t directly control these external sites, but they can still impact your SEO and ranking with search engines. If you have a lot of positive reviews on your own site, but lots of negative reviews elsewhere on a trusted third party site like Trustpilot, that sends signals to search engines that your content may not be worth recommending to users.
Backlinks themselves are when another site links to your site. An example of this may be a review site’s gift guide linking to the pages of the products mentioned. Backlinks are gold for ranking as they act as a sort of vote of confidence from reputable domains. This in turn can indicate to search engines that your site can be trusted for high quality content. When we say reputable, we mean domains which have high authority with search engines, have typically been around for a while, and are considered a source of reliable, useful information for search users. It’s like the difference between a stranger recommending a recipe to you, versus a well-known and reputable chef. You’re going to trust the person with the most experience and expertise, and the same applies to search and its relationship with backlinks. The more backlinks from high quality sources, the better it is for your standing with Google.
These links aren’t only great for your search ranking, but for your business overall and bringing in more customers from other sources. Say, for example, a potential customer is reading an article from a site they trust for recommendations and they follow a link to your store. They’ll already have a positive perception of your brand because it was linked to by a source they trust. They’re also already interested in your industry niche, so they’re going to come to your site ready to engage with your brand.
Link building is the process of acquiring backlinks. The best way to build the number of backlinks for your store is through authentic, organic strategies. Not every link will be actively acquired, there will be instances where you earn a backlink without having to seek it out. For example if a credible website links to your site in an article after discovering it through their own research. Link building can be a challenging process, but one which is invaluable for bringing more engaged, interested customers to your store as well as building your SEO.
How to build links for your ecommerce store
Create shareable content that answers questions
The best strategy for link building really starts with your content. After all, that’s what other sites are going to link to and they want to know that what they’re linking to is of quality. Not only that, but the better the content you create the more likely it is that you’ll organically earn backlinks.
In order to create great content that other sites want to share, you need to think about what your ideal users and other sites are already looking for. Look at what kind of content high authority sites typically link to, and the kind of visual content they use in their own content. This will give you a good starting point to understand what they look for in the content they share with their audience.
Next, look at what your ideal audience is searching for; specifically, question based content. What information are they looking for around your niche? If you sell jewelry, are they asking Google about differences between materials? Or how certain products are made? Combine this with what you’ve learned about those high authority sources, and you’ll soon have a list of content you should create. The best format for this content will likely be blogs, as you can target a wider range of topics and keywords. And the best types of blog will be how-to guides, in-depth educational resources, listicles, recipes and buying guides.
When putting content together, you should consider including other elements that will not only add value to your content for users, but also for shareability. This might be a chart that depicts information in your blog article, a video showing how to use your product, or a visual how-to guide. This kind of visual content is generally considered to be more shareable, as it’s more engaging.
Regularly research content and reach out to creators
Once you’ve got shareable content, you need to look for places who will want to share it. Waiting to earn backlinks organically is great, but it won’t guarantee you actually get any. For your content to go further, you need to conduct research into the sites you’d ideally want to earn backlinks from.
Say you run a brand that sells cocktail bitters and syrups, you’d probably like some backlinks from well known sites like Difford’s Guide or Liquor.com. These are sites your audience spends time on, and who have high authority in your niche. You see they have recipes which involve a product you sell, and they haven’t linked to any specific brand. You could reach out to them and ask if they’d consider linking to your brand. Or perhaps they have an article about different cocktail ingredients, and you’ve recently published a blog about how bitters are made which may interest their audience. These are examples of where your content could be valuable to the sources you want backlinks from.
This is called “best fit” content - it’s where you identify where your content is going to be of interest or value to a third party. This can also help you to better understand the kind of content you should create in order to be linked to. That being said, always make sure your content has the reader in mind, and isn’t just created to fit another site’s content.
What to avoid in link building
1 - Offers which promise hundreds of backlinks
This is one of the more obvious “don’ts” in SEO and link building, but it’s worth discussing. Shady companies know that brands want to increase their reach and ranking, and will reach out to site owners promising hundreds of backlinks in exchange for a fee. This can sound great - the more links the better, right?
Well, backlinks are actually more about quality, than quantity. If you have just 5 backlinks but they’re from highly regarded, authoritative, trusted sites, that’s worth much more than 500 backlinks spread out over low quality link-farm sites. Plus if your site is found by search engines on these shady sites, it’s more likely to do harm to your ranking.
2 - Websites approaching to offer inclusion in articles in exchange for money
Alright, so we’re all familiar with spam and shady black hat schemes. We know not to take candy from strangers, after all, so hundreds of backlinks for cash from a random email seems fairly obvious. But what about when a more reputable site slides into your inbox offering a backlink for a fee?
While you still shouldn’t pay for links, Google or other search engines would most likely not notice or penalize your site. However, we still wouldn’t recommend it. Even if the article specifically mentions that it’s an advertisement, it will still come off as inauthentic to your target audience. It’s the difference between a genuine recommendation, and knowing that someone has been paid to recommend something. Plus if they’re selling links to you, they’re probably selling links to lots of other brands in your niche, diluting the value to your brand.
3 - Recycling or duplicating content to be included on other sites
One way to get backlinks is through guest blogging. As it sounds, this is where you’ll contribute some content for another site, and in turn they’ll link back to your site. This can boost your profile, both through the backlink and through having your brand prominently featured on their blog. If they’re publishing your guest blog, you must be a trustworthy brand.
However, guest blogging is also time consuming as you still have to create content. Which is why some brands recycle content, changing a few words or swapping some things around to make it feel like fresh content without the work of creating an entirely new piece. This is still considered duplicate content and should be avoided so as to not damage your own site’s SEO. The less obvious situation where you may find yourself recycling content is when a site reaches out to your brand looking for a few short sentences about a product. You may just send over a copy of the product description, however if this is just pasted into an article or directory, it can also be considered duplicate content.
Link building is one of the most valuable things you can do to boost your store’s SEO, but it’s also one of the most difficult to achieve. By creating top tier, shareable content and reaching out to high quality sites, your store will be better poised to earn backlinks and reach more of your ideal customers.