Link building is a hotly debated topic by e-commerce SEO service providers, with the main point of contention centering around the risk versus reward. One thing has always been abundantly clear; Google will burn your e-commerce site if they discover efforts to manipulate your search results with link building.
Back in the day, the focus was on quantity over quality, and e-commerce SEO services heavily automated their backlink building to churn out thousands of backlinks every week.
A few algorithm updates later and we find that modern-day Google is a lot more discerning about what it considers to be a quality backlink.
Google has gotten better at ignoring low-quality backlinks, so negative SEO strategies have less chance of attracting a manual penalty.
However, it does pay to ensure your backlink profile is as clean as possible because high-quality links still carry a lot of weight when it comes to Google deciding where a website will rank.
Reputable e-commerce SEO services will ensure that only quality backlinks are acquired, but before any backlinking strategy is implemented, it’s essential that an audit is conducted on the site.
The inspection will show you where you stand with your SEO and provide insight into how well your backlinking efforts are holding up.
Here’s how to do an e-commerce SEO audit so you know if your site stacks up with regards to backlinks right now.
How to Do an E-commerce Site Audit
A well-built SEO-friendly website relies on more than just backlinks to achieve higher rankings in the search results page. However, the fact remains, if there are tons of low-quality backlinks pointing at your site, it could very well be the reason you are tanking in the search results.
Review Your Backlink Profile
A backlink profile will provide data about every link pointing to your site, but you will need access to a tool to find them.
Ahrefs provides an online tool which offers many e-commerce SEO services, but it can also be used to monitor a site’s backlink profile and comes with what is considered the most comprehensive dataset in the industry. Use Ahrefs site explorer to find information on your backlinks. You can monitor a single section of your site, such as the blog, but selecting “.domain” will provide a report on every URL of your website.
Go over your report to see if there may be links that are worth disavowing. Check the anchor text. Branded anchor texts are authoritative for ranking, but if you see many links with irrelevant anchor text, then it could be the result of a negative SEO attack.
Spikes in link acquisition, followed by sudden dips, may also be indicative of a spam attack. Keep an eye out for those, as it may be worthwhile to your rankings to spend some time in the disavow tool to remove them.
Once you have a good idea about the quality of the backlinks you already have then it’s time to get to work at improving your profile. If your site is new, then you won’t have any, but even if your website is years old and well established, more quality backlinks are never a bad thing.
Use the following tips to build quality links using strategies which won’t get your site burned from the SERPs.
How to Run a Sustainable Backlinking Campaign for an Online Store
1. Reach out to Sites in Related Niches
Sites which are in related niches to your online e-commerce store are some of the best backlinks you can get. Domain Authority is considered by many e-commerce SEO services to be a made up thing, but it can still be used as an indicator of quality.
Reach out to the owners and send out a nicely worded email asking for a link. This strategy won’t work unless the link you are asking for will provide value to their readers.
Another strategy you can use is to find broken backlinks pointing to the site from which you would like a link. Alert the owner of the website to the broken link and let them know that you have a high-quality page they could use as a replacement.
Site owners always appreciate a heads up about faults with their site, and they are more likely to provide you with a link out of gratitude.
2. Guest Posting
Guest posting gets a bad rap, but that’s because most people are doing it wrong. The negative reputation of guest posting comes from sites which use the strategy to swap reciprocal links, which is an unnatural way to build them.
Google doesn’t have a problem with guest posting. If you know of sites operating in your niche, and you know the readers of the other sites could benefit from your information, then there is nothing wrong with a guest post.
A guest posting strategy will work best when done in moderation, and your posts are spread out over many different sites.
3. Create More Content
Websites (not just e-commerce sites) with blogs have, on average, 434% more indexed pages than websites without a blog.
More content on your site means more opportunities to get indexed and ranked for relevant keywords. Also, if your website is regularly updated, the Google bots will have more reason to return and index your fresh content.
As the cycle repeats, you will find that you can rank for more and more keywords, and your site will grow in authority.
Having more content also gives other site owners something to link out to, and over time, you will find that your e-commerce marketing is attracting links naturally, which are the best kind.
As a further incentive for you to grow your content, 47% of buyers viewed 3 to 5 pieces of content before engaging further with an organization.
4. Work with Influencers
People talk about stuff they see on the internet, and they also put much stock in what an influencer has to say about a product.
Most influencers have blogs, and with the right incentive, you can convince them to put in a good word for your products.
Check out YouTube and Instagram for influencers operating in your niche. Once you find them, reach out and ask them if they would like to create a sponsored post about your product.
Of course, unless you’re budget allows, you are looking for up-and-coming influencers who haven’t yet reached the level where they can demand huge sums for their work.
With a bit of research, you will find a few influencers who will be happy to promote your site for a small fee or even a free sample of your product. Be sure to follow all the guidelines for working with influencers, because you don’t want to run afoul of Google or the FTC.
5. Don’t Participate in PBNs or Buy Links
Private blog networks (PBNs) are a huge industry, but for long term profitability, they are a risky venture. PBNs are a network of blogs you use to create artificial links to a site to increase its ranking potential.
There are ways to hide a PBN from Google, but it’s getting harder every day, and then you have the hassle of managing an extensive network of sites.
When Google finds a PBN, they are happy to deindex every piece of content, which cuts off the flow of ranking juice to your site. You also risk a manual penalty if Google deems you guilty of artificially inflating your search results.
Buying links is also risky because most links you purchase will be placed on low-quality sites or PBNs in danger of being discovered by Google.
Backlinks will be an important ranking factor for many years to come, if not forever. Using e-commerce SEO services which practice white hat link building strategies exclusively is the best way to ensure the long-term profitability of your e-commerce site.
Susan Mour is a marketing and creative content specialist at Smarketa.com with a primary focus on SEO, PPC, and customer satisfaction for e-commerce business.
Being a true humanist, she draws inspiration from everyday life and the issues people encounter on a daily basis, doing her best and above to help everyone around.