Search engine optimization, when implemented properly, can help your store rank higher in search engine results and deliver a steady stream of traffic and sales, day after day, week after week, month after month. This makes SEO ultra-valuable for ecommerce merchants in a world where paid ads keep getting more expensive.
SEO in its most basic form can be sub-divided into on-page and off-page. On-page SEO involve optimizations you do with each of your webpages to help search engines understand what your site is about so they can show it at to the right people, at the right time.
Unfortunately, there’s likely hundreds, thousands or maybe even tens of thousands of sites very similar to yours. So how do the search engines choose who to show on the first page?
That’s where off-page SEO comes in. Off-page SEO and the many elements that make it up, further help tell the search engines who’s more relevant and important. A core part of this comes from backlinks. Backlinks are simply links from other sites that point to your site.
The act of getting links from other websites is called link-building and is a core SEO strategy that most online businesses should be devoting time to each and every week.
Not All Backlinks Are Created Equal
Backlinks fall into one of two categories which are referred to as follow and nofollow. A follow backlink is simply a link that helps your SEO. It’s a link from another site that tells search engines, “I endorse this website”. Alternatively, a nofollow backlink, is a link where the person/website giving the backlink is saying “I’m acknowledging they exists but I’m not vouching for them”.
To make a link nofollow, an author simply needs to add an extra bit of text to the HTML of the link. By looking at the HTML you can also tell if a link is follow or nofollow:
Example of a “follow” link:
Example of a “nofollow” link:
For reference, low-hanging fruit like links from Facebook, Twitter, blog comments and forums are almost always nofollow links. From a sharing and exposure perspective, these are still great links, but recognize that it’s generally accepted in the internet marketing community that these links won’t give you any boost in search engine rankings.
Some Backlinks Are Worth More
Think of each link as a vote for your store, except one key difference, it’s not a democracy and peoples votes have different weight and authority. For example, a link from CNN is worth more than a link from someone’s personal blog that they just started three months ago.
How to Determine the Value of a Link?
There are several factors that go into how much value and impact a backlink could have for you. Some of those key elements are listed below:
- External links from high quality and relevant sites have a much bigger impact than irrelevant and smaller sites.
- Links from unique domains are more important than links from sites that have linked to you before.
- Links using relevant anchor text pass more keyword focused value. For example, a link is generally more value if someone links to you from keyword rich text like “men’s leather wallets” vs. “click here”.
- A page containing a high number of links will pass less value per link.
If you want to get a sense of how much authority a website has, thus, much impact a link from an external website could have, check out the tool Website Authority Checker. This tools will give you a few metrics which you can use to compare against other sites to understand how valuable a link from a particular site might be worth to you.
Never Buy Backlinks
We mentioned that backlinks can carry different weight, but it’s also important to note that some backlinks are just plain bad. Backlinks from scammy websites that search engines see as really low quality or websites that exists solely for the purpose of trying to manipulate search engine rankings can get your store penalized or delisted altogether.
Buying backlinks and backlink packages are not a good idea these days. There’s really no substitute for hard work and getting legitimate backlinks from credible sources.
Set a Backlink Goal
Backlinks won’t just happen. It’s something you need to be putting work and effort into building over time. It’s a long-term strategy but an important one at that. The best way to approach the process is to give yourself some goals to work towards. When you first start out, setting quarterly goals probably will work best.
5 Ways to Get Started with Building Backlinks
Now that you understand the importance and types of backlinks, how do you get them? Below we will list five ways to get started building backlinks for your store. Keep in mind there are dozens, even hundreds of ways you could build backlinks and it’s worth researching all possible options and understand which methods will work best for your business and brand.
1. Create Content That’s Impossible Not To Share
In it’s most basic form, content marketing is simply creating really great and compelling content, whether in written, visual, video or audio form that is so compelling, people naturally want to share it. This has been and continues to be one of the best ways to get a landslide of backlinks to your store.
“Create a site with high value information that elicits links by virtue of its awesomeness. That, my friends, is content marketing.”
As an example, Wendy’s Lookbook, a popular fashion blog, created a unique and comprehensive YouTube video on 25 Ways to Tie a Scarf. This interesting piece has so far received over 30 million views on YouTube.
Since her video was so well received, she created a blog post on a behind the scenes of the making of the video. That post alone garnered 117 backlinks (85 Follow and 32 Nofollow).
2. Have Your Products Reviewed
One of the most popular ways for getting backlinks and high quality traffic to your store is to reach out to bloggers to review your product. This will naturally garner a link back to your site.
To start, You'll want to familiarize yourself with the blogs in your niche and their relative size. Spend some time getting to know the authors and engage with their current posts to get on their radar.
Once you have built some rapport with the authors, you'll want to pitch them on your product. You can use the script below by making some minor modifications to it.
3. Write Guest Blog Posts
Maybe one of the most common approaches to getting a high quality and relevant backlink is to write a guest blog post on popular blogs in your niche. This approach works well for all parties because it provides the person and blog you’re reaching out to with content, and you receive exposure to their audience as well as that valuable backlink from it.
When pitching a guest post, keep the following in mind:
- Keep the email short and to the point.
- Always try to pitch via email. If you don't have the blogger's email, use this trick to find it.
- Lead off with a specific compliment about the blog or more specifically, a recent article.
- Clearly state that you'd like to guest post for the blog and offer three potential guest post ideas.
- Link to a sample of your writing online and share any applicable credentials.
4. Get a Link From your Manufacturer
For many ecommerce businesses that sell another companies products, it only makes sense to get a backlink from the manufacturer who’s products you’re carrying. Many times, it’s just a matter of sending them a polite email and asking them to add you to their directory of partners or retailers.
For example, Beardbrand lists all the retailers of their beard oil, both offline and online which not only help those retailers sell more, but helps with their SEO by way of a backlink from their high ranking domain.
5. Get In The Press
Getting in the press, even a local publication can provide a powerful backlink from high ranking news domains. There are multiple ways to achieve this, but depending on your product you may want to start with a smaller, local publication, slowly working your way up to larger publications.
That’s exactly what a Toronto street wear sock company, Huley, did in Toronto. By first getting in a smaller local publication, it helped open the doors and get the attention of progressively larger publications, garnering more and more backlinks and credibility.
Lots of Ways to Build Links
There’s many other ways than listed above to building backlinks for your store and some will work better than others for your store.
Check out Point Blank’s comprehensive list of link building strategies to get started on additional methods.
Link building is one of the most essential and important elements of any store's long-term SEO strategy. There’s only so much you can do to tell the search engines that your have a great store and products. Ultimately though, you need others to vouch for you, and that’s exactly what backlinks do.
Set a goal and devote a few hours to link building each week. Over time, you’ll build a much stronger domain that will rank for more keywords and deliver a ever-growing steady stream of traffic, day in and day out.
About The Author
Richard Lazazzera is an ecommerce entrepreneur and Content Strategist in charge of customer success at Shopify. Get more from Richard on his ecommerce blog.