The marketing of any ecommerce site is complex. It spans numerous variables from product imagery, pricing and usability through to advertising and beyond. One central tenet of achieving online success is making sure that your website ranks way above your competitors for relevant terms in Google. Forrester Research suggest that up to 70% of first time visitors to a website arrive there via a search engine.
Google is of course the world’s most popular search engine. So it’s essential we understand how it decides how to rank its results pages (as far as we can, anyway). The main deciding factor it uses in determining these rankings is the quality and quantity of inbound links that a website has. This has been the centrepiece of their ‘Page Rank’ algorithm since the search engine’s very earliest days.
So, how does a website go about building links and encouraging other sites to provide them?
The first thing to state is that this is not a game of numbers. Anyone who has read anything about the machinations of Google will know that Google can (and does) actually penalise websites who actively chase after bad quality or irrelevant links. This trend has increased in the wake of the search engines much publicised “Penguin” updates of 2012 and is very unlikely to stop.
The key thing Google is looking for is links from sites which are themselves already well regarded by the search engine. Effectively, Google sees these links as references for your site. Acquiring these links is therefore primarily about demonstrating that your site is a valuable resource and one that people will actively WANT to link out to.
The key to achieving this is something that sounds incredibly easy, but is actually very difficult.
You need to ensure your site is a genuine, valued source of information that people in your industry will be happy to link out to.
Simply produce content and other types of assets that relevant websites will find useful.
Except it’s not so simple. For an ecommerce site, it can sometimes be difficult because your primary content is a product. This can make it tricky to differentiate between you and a competitor for an identical item.
The answer is to produce ‘assets’ such as product reviews, demonstration videos, comprehensive technical specifications and so on. This will help because it makes your site stand out from the pack and should result in naturally attracting links to you, not your competitor.
Other types of media can also help. As I mentioned, videos can be powerful, but infographics which summarise complex data in a highly visible, easily digestible format can incentivise websites to link to them. ‘Widgets’ that other webmasters can embed within their site can also have the same affect.
Nor do ecommerce webmasters necessarily need to place content on their sites for it to drive links. An outreach programme where you approach authority sites in your market and offer them good quality, unique content can also drive links to your website.
There are of course many many sources of links across the internet. These can range from directories to blogrolls to specialist Search Engine Optimisation focussed linksites, which can be enticing if your keen to build links. But in general these types of websites are best avoided as they could do your site more harm than good.
The key to building links for ecommerce is content and assets.
If you ensure that your site is a good quality resource that will be valued by your consumers, the links will naturally follow.