For quite some time, the term “link building” has become something of a taboo in online marketing circles. It started out as something every single online marketer did to promote their websites. And then, when Google began implementing one algorithm update after another, many websites that have accumulated an unbelievable amount of links over the years saw their search rankings plummet. It was then that link building was categorized as a black hat SEO tactic, along with keyword stuffing and duplicate content.
What many failed to realize is that link building, in and of itself, is not really a black hat tactic. Rather, it is the improper and unprofessional manner in which most online marketers acquired links in the past that Google deems black hat and now penalizes. There were those who paid for links and those who begged for it, posting comments on blogs and sending emails with the same “Hi, could you please link to my site” kind of message. Remember that link building does not and should not involve begging; it is about working to build a strong link profile based on high-quality content.
In short, link building is about earning links the right way. Think about what kind of web pages you normally link to when you’re online. You don’t link to product pages, do you? If you’re like most people, then you probably link to articles that speak to you, videos you find inspiring or hilarious, and other pages that catch your interest. This is what you need to keep in mind if you want to see a significant boost in the visibility of your e-commerce website.
Remember that an e-commerce website is different from other kinds of website because its primary purpose is to sell products, and as indicated earlier, product pages don’t get that many links, if at all. Considering the kind of web pages most people often link to, you may think the best way to gain links for your e-commerce website is to work on content marketing, and you may be right. However, content marketing can encompass a lot of things. What you need to do is simply to give people a good reason to link to your e-commerce website.
So, how do you go about it? Here are a few recommended tactics:
1. Conduct Surveys
You may not realize it, but surveys can be very important not only for link building, but for myriad other purposes. Remember that a survey can provide you with a boatload of data about your target market! Those data can give you valuable insights as regards their needs and how you can provide them with what they need both in terms of products and information.
Now, how do you use surveys to gain links (and possibly even social shares)? Take your cue from VisualDNA, which uses a formula that’s heavy on the visuals and makes surveys easy to take and highly shareable. These surveys usually end with an overview of the user’s personality, a tactic that has been proven popular among online users. You’d therefore do well to create a short quiz that’s relevant to your product offerings or your niche and then give the quiz a great design and an interesting premise. People will be sure to enjoy not only taking part in it, but also sharing it on social media.
2. Provide Product Guides
Few online marketers seem to realize just how effective this tactic is, because it is one of the least often used ways to build links and drive traffic to a site. The aim of the guide is to help your customers find the product/s that best meets their needs. This can be written in various forms—a static web page, a long-form blog post, a PDF download, or a quiz that leads to product recommendations based on the customer’s answers. The quiz form is generally the most popular form of product guide.
Let’s say you have an e-commerce site where you sell apparel. You could have a page that asks, “What’s your style?” where the customer is given several options to click on (corporate, casual, formal, etc.). You may then provide further options on the next page (tops, bottoms, footwear, accessories, etc.). This is an excellent way to showcase the range of products you have to offer and to create internal linking opportunities. Note as well that blogs tend to link to related product guides, which opens another window of opportunity for you.
3. Create “Best” Lists
Let’s face it. People love it when we stroke their egos. The same is true where blogs are concerned. This is why, if you want to gain links from a few niche-related blogs, one of the best ways to do so is to include them in a “best” list. Going back to our earlier example (you have an apparel e-commerce website), you could create an article highlighting the “best fashion blogs,” post it on your site, and then let the blog owners know they’ve been featured on your post. You’ll be surprised at how quickly they’ll either link to your post on their blog or share it on social media; they may even do both.
4. Leverage Video
There is probably at least one video that covers every topic you can think of. People who are always on social media have repeatedly shown how valuable video can be as an online marketing tool. Considering how much people love to watch and share videos, it goes without saying that videos can be of great help to your link building efforts. How-to videos, unboxing videos, and user videos are perhaps the best types of video you can use for link building purposes.
The secret to creating effective how-to videos is to focus on informing, rather than promoting. You could, for example, make a how-to video for mixing and matching clothes stylishly. While you can feature some of your products in the video, the video itself should focus on teaching viewers how to choose pieces that go well together. Unboxing videos are simply videos that feature someone giving a detailed review of a particular product while it is being unboxed. Make sure the review is as objective as possible.
User videos may include unboxing videos, but is not limited to that. They could also be simple videos of customers talking about their experience with your product or your brand. People are naturally drawn to videos that feature “ordinary folk” to whom they can relate. They are therefore more likely to link to and share this kind of videos.
5. Leverage Blogs
Bloggers who cover the same or similar topics tend to form communities and alert each other whenever there are deals, promotions, and competitions that they feel their readers can benefit from or would be interested in. It therefore helps for you to design great deals and promos and launch interesting competitions, and then let niche-related bloggers know about these deals, promos, and contests at least a week before you run them.
6. Give Customers a Voice
It always pays to interact with your online audience and take note of what they say, as their feedback can provide you with valuable insights as to what you’re doing right and what you’re doing wrong in terms of product development, marketing and promotions, and customer service, among other things that affect your business. When you give your customers a voice, they’ll realize their importance to your business and reward you with their loyalty.
Note that giving voice to your customers doesn’t just involve engaging in conversations with them on your blog or on other social platforms. It is also a good idea to set up a “personal stories” page on your website where you allow customers to share their experiences with your brand. You can also post interviews with celebrity supporters on this page, or personal stories you know your target audience can relate to. People are likely to share this kind of posts.
7. Work on Your Website’s Design
People will be more likely to link to your web pages and share your content if your website has a clean and organized design. When people visit an e-commerce site and feel like they’ve just walked into a high-end retail shop, they’re likely to come back for more and even recommend your site via social sharing. As you very well know, social sharing is currently one of the most effective ways to gain valuable links.
The above tips are certainly very effective for earning some valuable links for your website. However, you should never forget that, having an e-commerce site, your goal isn’t really to earn quality links. In fact, building links is simply one of the means to achieve your goal, which is (or should be) to improve your conversion rates and increase revenue. After all, what’s the use of having an e-commerce site if it isn’t earning anything? And what’s the use of having hundreds of links if they’re not doing anything for your conversion?
SEO isn’t just about gaining online visibility; it is also about knowing what to do with that visibility. Use the above tips not only to gain links, but also to shape your brand and instill its relevance to your target customers’ lives.