OPTIMISING AN ECOMMERCE SITES INBOUND LINK STRUCTURE
Gaining More Value with Little Extra Effort
The internet is full of links that connect websites and specific pages. This is literally what makes the websites on the internet form a ‘web’ … a web of links. Your site will probably have links out to other relevant content on the web, and it will definitely have links pointing to it as well.
These links pointing to your site are called inbound links. They offer the greatest SEO benefit, but are also the hardest to obtain.
Whenever any webpage links to one of your webpages, the creator of the content on the other site's webpage will have linked to your page for a reason. Often, they like the content they are linking to because it has information that supports or builds on the material on their page, or (in the case of an ecommerce brand), because they like the brand and its products.
Google sees these inbound links as votes in favour of your webpage and site. These votes improve the SEO value of your site, and there are ways of optimising or improving the value that these links pass to your site. However, the task needs to be undertaken in the right way to generate results. The traditional ‘link building’ approach (which many SEO companies still practice) is actually frowned upon by Google, and can do more harm than good.
What is Google looking for?
Firstly, let’s identify exactly what Google classifies as a good link.
Their guidelines highlight the importance of a website being “EAT “– expert, authoritative, and trustworthy. Sites that are high-authority, top-quality and trustworthy are rewarded in terms of improved search engine ranking and online visibility. The more links you have from EAT sites, the better for your own EAT.
Google assesses your ecommerce site’s overall link profile in the following ways:
The volume of your inbound links (most importantly the number of distinct domains which are linking)
Their value, using the “EAT” model, which mainly relies on the “EAT” metrics of the sites which are linking to the sites which are linking to you
The relevance of the links - relevant content that links to you has more value than irrelevant content
The mechanism of the link, with text links that don’t block SEO value from flowing being more valuable than image links that do block SEO value, for example
A good link profile will feature positive signals from all of the above.
Link-building (when combined with other SEO actions) can drive your ecommerce site up the SERPS, and put you ahead of the competition.
So how can you start optimising your link profile?
Because acquiring new links is difficult to do purposefully, it’s essential to improve what you've already got. It’s important to analyse the links that are already in place, to check that they’re working as effectively as possible, and take steps to improve their value to your site.
When I examine an eCommerce site's link profile, I focus on the following:
The path of the link. Some of the inbound links to your site will lead to dead ends. There are various reasons for this; for example, some could be pointing at 404 pages, and some to pages with poor redirects. I identify these ‘dead end’ links, then plan how to reclaim their value.
Mentions without links. There will be times when your brand is mentioned online, but the content / page where you’re mentioned doesn’t have a link to your site. This is a missed opportunity, and it’s my job to try to obtain links to accompany these mentions.
Directing link value. I examine where the inbound links are going within your ecommerce site, and whether they offer the best value. Sometimes, internal linking needs to be changed to divert the value to the most important parts of the site.
Harnessing your existing marketing for greater link acquisition
In addition to optimising the links that are already in place, it’s worthwhile seeing where your existing marketing and PR efforts could generate links as a by-product. Starting a full-blown ‘link acquisition’ program can be costly, but with a few tweaks, what you already do to promote your brand and store could gain more links anyway.
Here are some examples of where I look:
PR processes. Many ecommerce brands have comprehensive PR processes in place. While these are great for raising awareness of the company, they often ignore the opportunities for links. My approach is to support current PR practices by suggesting ways PR outreach can be optimised to gain more high-quality links, along with attracting the attention of the press.
Additional PR link value. Most PR professionals have existing ‘hitlists’ – sites that they send their press releases to. However, there’s likely to be many additional sites out there, with the potential to offer excellent link value if they were also included in the PR process. I often provide clients with outreach recommendations for their next PR mail-out, so we can generate additional links on niche / product appropriate sites.
Content marketing. Content marketing not only generates interest (and trust) in your brand, it can also be useful in terms of link-building. Ecommerce sites often have blogs or editorial content to complement their brand, but this isn’t always used for marketing or for gathering links. Subtle tweaks and an awareness of trying to attract links from specific sets of sites can make a big difference, and generate exposure that wouldn’t have been gained otherwise.
Building links – and building your brand
The benefits of developing a good link profile are numerous. As established above, link-building, (when combined with other SEO actions) can drive your ecommerce site up the SERPS, and put you ahead of the competition.
But a good link profile goes beyond search engine ranking. It’s also an excellent way to build brand awareness. Linked content can:
Drive more visitors to your site
Pique the interest of potential customers
Turn casual interest into a serious intention to buy
Extend your reach online
Establish your brand as an ‘authority voice’ in the industry, and a company to be trusted
In short, there’s a lot of value to be had from developing a link optimisation strategy.
Get help with optimising your link structure
If you’d like to find out more about how I can help with optimising your link structure and developing a longer-term link acquisition strategy, get in touch today.