If it’s your first time here you might want to read this post on link building for ecommerce sites first.
I recently started reading the Hobo web blog (which is really good for practical SEO advice by the way) and this post caught my attention. Shaun’s advice on using article marketing to build links with keywords which you’re already ranking for is similar to the way I use articles to boost up the rankings of product pages (or any deep page on a big site really). So I wanted to share this tip and some others for how ecommerce site owners can effectively build lots of links to lots of pages, ideally without lots of work.
To understand how and why this works you first need to accept 2 of the less spoken about but absolutely fundamental underlying principles of SEO.
- Not every link you build has to be grade A, 100% clean, natural link building gold like many SEO’s would have you believe. Bulk links still play a quite significant part, in fact I’d go so far as to say the majority of links on the web are pretty crappy. Also while I don’t buy into the ‘bad links can’t hurt a good site’ idea because they definitely can, the stuff I’m discussing here won’t have any negative side effects.
- The majority of product pages on ecommerce sites have no external links, they’re ranked on the basis of, predominantly, domain authority instead. It’s usually only after a product page is ranked at number 1 it acquires natural links as anyone talking about that product online in forums or on blogs will just paste the top result in Google into their posts as a reference. For this reason, provided you’re doing the other stuff right, have built a domain with some trust from decent links to top level pages, you’ve got your technical stuff right so there’s no duplication issues etc and your internal linking makes product pages easy to spider then a few links even of low quality to product pages usually has excellent effects on rankings.
OK if you’re down with those ideas, here’s how we go about building these deep links. In no particular order…
I still use various types of ‘article marketing’ quite a lot as part of the overall link building mix. The type of article marketing I’m talking about here is pretty old school. Start with a list of your products and associated keywords, group them into pairs in a logical fashion. Most article sites will let you include 2 attribution links in each article.
Next get busy brainstorming a big list of article titles which are loosely associated with each product/ keyword pair. Get the product name in the title some how if you can but don’t be too pedantic. For example if your product name is ‘Sony RX-142 recordable DVD player’ an article title like ‘how to choose a good recordable DVD player’ is perfect. Don’t use brand names in your articles or titles as some article syndication services won’t accept them.
You’re going to need lots of article titles here, possibly hundreds so it’s a big job. The easiest way to do it is to search some of the more popular article directories like ezine or go articles for your base keywords (like recordable DVD player) and see what titles come up (like this), then just use these or adapt them slightly. There’s no harm in this kind of light plagiarism in my eyes anyway, your articles going to be 100% unique even if your titles not.
Next the real work starts as you need to produce all the articles you’ve just brainstormed. They need to be 500 words each, in reasonable English and unique. I don’t use article spinners or anything like that as these articles rarely get published by article directories.
Probably needless to say I wouldn’t recommend writing all these articles yourself. You should be able to farm the job out fairly cheaply to English speaking writers. I use text broker mostly and pay around $5 for a very basic article. You can find cheaper but I’ve never seen a legible article for less than $5.
Once the articles are written, add author attributions to the end which include links to the 2 product pages you assigned to that article. I also like to include a unique reference number in the attribution link so I can easily track where the article has been picked up and where my links are.
With all your articles written you’ll need a distribution plan. You don’t want to just ping out hundreds of articles at once. I tend to use content crooner for this (used to be article marketer- I have no idea why they changed the name!!). I like this service because they have reasonably strict editorial guidelines which are actually enforced meaning they don’t release spam or spinner content. Because of this articles you syndicate through them get picked up by more sites, meaning more links. Also the most important thing the system let’s you do is schedule articles for release meaning you can upload all your articles for approval in one hit then just sit them in a queue to be released every couple of days to give you a steady link growth. The only other syndication I’ve used recently is iSnare. I still use this a bit to mix things up but the distribution doesn’t seem as good and the approval time is long, like 2 weeks or more where as content crooner is more like 2 days.
Ezine articles while not technically a syndication service in the same way works well too as these articles get picked up by plenty of other sites. If you’re doing lots of articles you might want to use a few distribution services.
It’s important to track the links you pick up from this technique (and every other technique I talk about here). Things change in SEO and I wouldn’t expect this technique to work forever so keep tabs on a) where your articles are getting posted and b) the affect new article links are having on the rankings of your product pages.
This ones a bit easier as there’s no content production required. It’s less effective, especially when used in isolation but still has a positive overall impact by increasing the volume of links to deep pages.
I’m assuming you know what social bookmarking’s all about and basically how it works. If not read this.
If you’re using this technique I’d tread lightly and just add a few bookmarks for each product page, not hundreds. Mix up bookmarking services which follow links with those that use nofollow to make your link profile look a bit more natural.
There’s plenty of companies offering social bookmarking services. SocialMaximizer is a pretty good one with decent management facilities if you’re making big orders. Paying per bookmark can get expensive though when you’re looking at thousands of bookmarks, especially as most of these will never get indexed.
The alternative is using software. Bookmarking demon looks spammy but works pretty well. I’m dubious of anything fully automated when it comes to link building but this is one technique where I don’t think you gain anything by doing it the manual (hard) way rather than the automated (easy) way.
These links will probably only help you if your sites well established already or if you’re targeting very uncompetitive product terms but they do help. Again this technique is probably time limited and won’t work very well in a few years so don’t rely too heavily on it as part of your link building strategy.
Blogs and social hubs
This is the most involved technique I use for this type of link building but it’s also the most lucrative.
The idea is to maintain a mini-network of your own blog sites and pages on social sites like hubpages and squidoo which you can use to freely add links back to your product pages on your main site.
I came up with this idea a few years ago when people started selling ‘link wheel creation’ services. Although link wheels are garbage and I wouldn’t use these services the concept it fairly sound. If you control a lot of domains, even if these don’t have a great amount of trust with Google in their own right the fact that you can freely add deep links to any page you choose gives you a huge advantage over other techniques which rely on other webmasters to play ball and publish your article or get your bookmark page indexed.
Now to be clear I’m not advocating the use of a full scale link pyramid here. You should create unique content for every site you setup, keep it relevant and make it useful.
Let me illustrate with an example.
You’re an electronics retailer and one of your product categories is TV’s so you setup a blog, on a domain you own, let’s say www.myworldoftvs.com, use something like wordpress to manage it. Get your writers to produce a bunch of posts about TV’s. You can have fun with this and do some link bait type stuff which might do well on digg or stumbleupon. Or just write some useful how-to articles.
You’ll need each property to stand up on it’s own feet on the search engines so you can get it indexed with some directory submission, do some article marketing, buy some sponsored reviews or even setup a little link swap page. Just get the site on the radar.
Now you have a site which you can add as many links on as you like to your product pages. Either add the links in the sidebar or in the content of your posts or even just create some big list pages.
Once again these aren’t the best quality links in their own right but they are
a) from a relevant site
b) optimised for anchor text
c) directed at a deep product page.
I said at the start of this section you could also use social sites like hubpages or squidoo to do something similar. Setting up blogs on wordpress mu sites like wordpress.com or on blogspots is another option. The benefit of this is you might get some authority passed down from the root domain making your pages more powerful. Its also cheaper as there’s no domain and hosting costs. The big disadvantage, and why I wouldn’t recommend doing it this way on any great scale is your content could get removed or changed at any time by the site owners. As far as possible I’d choose to keep this technique on my own sites.
Twitter and facebook
Yes I know these links aren’t followed but bare with me a moment…
One of the ideas I’ve had in my head for a long time and I think seems to work, although I can’t prove it in any real way, is that Google is using a new (or probably not so new) scoring system around popularity signals. This is seperate to trust or relevance and doesn’t necessarily rely on good old fashioned followed text links so anything from tweets to facebook likes to unlinked mentions to social bookmarks to Analytics data to search query data and beyond is all contributing to some rankings, although conventional SEO wisdom may say otherwise.
Some of this stuff has been formally or informally backed up by Google like the introduction of real time search which shows just how much of an active interest Google has in Facebook, Twitter and the real time web in general.
Anyway if you buy into my theory read on, if not you can skip this bit.
I don’t have a real process for building links on these sites although anything you do on facebook and Twitter needs to start by building up a decent following. On Twitter that just means getting followers and people who will be willing to retweet your links. On Facebook that means getting a popular page with lots of fans likes so when you push a link out it gets a wide distribution through news feeds.
Once you have that sort of following it’s pretty easy to use your social presence to push out your deep links as long as you do it in a useful interactive way so don’t just drop a link like…
‘hey guys, buy this recordable DVD player – now’
but more like…
‘hey guys, Sony have just released this new recordable DVD player. What do you think of the touch screen function. Let us know’
Ok I’ve never owned a recordable DVD player but you get the idea right!
I’ve talked about this a few times before and this article on making affiliate links SEO friendly is still relevant.
Now I don’t recommend this as much as I used to because I think affiliate marketing is too important a channel for ecommerce businesses to let SEO have a baring on it. However there’s plenty of good reasons to run your own affiliate program if you’ve got a strong brand which affiliates will want to work with. Most importantly you don’t have to pay commission to a network meaning you can offer a higher payout to your affiliates (or just take a bigger profit). So if you’re looking at managing your affiliates through an in-house program anyway, then you should definitely look at potential SEO benefits which you can take from it.
Systems like idevaffiliate and post affiliate pro will let you setup your affiliate links in an SEO friendly way, meaning when an affiliate links to you, providing they don’t nofollow the link or pass it through an adserver (both of which are likely unfortunately) you will get some benefit from the link just as if it was a normal organic link.
Because affiliates are also inclined to link to product pages this becomes a great way to get deep links- just look at amazon.
You can also offer widget style ad units to your affiliates which contain a block of products with deep links. If you build widgets for popular cms’s like wordpress and joomla to work with your affiliate program the affiliates are more likely to leave the links as you designed them, rather than going to the trouble of messing around with the widget code to add nofollows to the links. If there’s one thing you can rely on with affiliates it’s that they’ll take the easiest and therefore most profitable option available.
Although Google have kinda changed there tune on affiliate links now and said they should be treated as paid links I’ve seen no evidence of this being enforced on ecommerce affiliate programs which are setup without an obvious footprint. Whenever I talk about SEO friendly affiliate links I reference the botw.org affiliate program because it does a great job of implementing affiliate links in a way that they can pass PageRank without leaving a footprint. It also gives a number of options for how affiliates can link which is important to making your program a success. For example both the links below are affiliate links (as is the one above) they both also pass PageRank from my site to BOTW:
I think that’s enough tips for one post and plenty for you to be getting on with. If you apply everything I discuss above you should easily be able to build 5-10 links to each of your product pages. Trust me when I say this makes a very big difference to your rankings, long tail search traffic and most importantly revenue.