The 8 Most Common Ecommerce Link Building Mistakes

1 March, 2014
By Scott Evans
As co-founder and Director of Gorilla 360, Scott has spent the last 12 years helping businesses grow through smart digital marketing.

Rusty Old LinksAre You Guilty? Don’t Worry, We’ll Help You Sort It

Do you have an ecommerce website?

Ranking like a boss in search engine results will pump up your website traffic and your revenue.

To dominate rankings you need links. Not just any rusty old links.

You need the right links from the right places.

I’ll show you how to avoid the most common ecommerce link building mistakes our expert SEO gorillas find littered across the online forest floor.

Mistake #1 – No link building at all

Genius right? Obvious as it is, this is the most common ecommerce link building faux pas (yeah gorillas speak French – national language of the Congo).

So often we see ecommerce companies who have forked out good cash for a website, added a bunch of categories and hundreds of products. Sometimes these sites have on page SEO that puts competitors to shame.

Just one thing is missing… Sales

Finding the website in Google results is harder to spot than a nerd at an SEO conference. To oversimplify…

No Links

If you want to build organic traffic (visitors you don’t pay for) to your website, you need your category and product pages to rank well in search engines. How? You need to build the authority of your site.

Link building is the fastest, most effective way to do this.

Mistake #2 – Not building deep links

It’s smashing to build links to your homepage. Just try and get some link love for the rest of your site.

It is critical to build links to the internal pages of your site (deep links). For ecommerce folk, category and sub-category pages are particularly important.

Ecommerce sites often have thousands or tens-of-thousands of pages. Google might seem all-knowing, but it’s still a challenge for Google to know which pages deserve attention. The structure and internal linking of your site influences this.

So does the “endorsements” or link equity you receive from other sites that link to you.

Linking to internal pages enhances that page’s authority and helps to distribute link equity to surrounding pages. Combined with on-site SEO, this enhances the likelihood that those pages will rank strongly.

Mistake #3 – Too much commercial anchor text

The Google Penguin update made mincemeat of sites with too much exact match anchor text pointing to them.

For example, you wanted to rank for “black shoes” so you built a plethora (thank you word-of-the-day calendar) of links to your site that used “black shoes” as the anchor (or link) text.

Round Out Your Link Profile

Google made sure the humble penguin became a fearsome guardian of quality link building practices and as a result of the crackdown you now need a more “rounded” anchor text profile. In non-penguin speak, you need to use a variety of anchor text including:

  • ‘Brand anchors’ – “The Big Black Shoe Company”
  • ‘Junk anchors’ – “click here”, “here”, “website”, “visit the site here” etc
  • ‘Naked URLs’ – “www.thebigblackshoecompany.com.au”

Mistake #4 – Too many links of one type

Just as anchor text can be a sign of SEO manipulation, having too many links of a similar type can also set Google’s penguins into a frenzy.

If all of your links come exclusively from one of the following areas:

  • Directories
  • Guest blog posts
  • Blog comments
  • Sites with similar Page Rank
  • The same area on each page (footer/menu etc)

It’s going to be obvious to Google that you are trying to game the searcher.

If your link profile is skewed too heavily in any of these areas (or your links are drastically different to your competitors) you are likely to find yourself in strife with the penguin police.

Angry Penguin

Flickr Image Courtesy Cap Tookay

The most natural link profile looks like it has had no proactive link building. A respected company, with a strong brand, producing genuinely helpful content will build links naturally. Customers, bloggers, reviewers, local businesses, friends, newspapers, even Gorillas will link to your amazing website content over time.

Mistake #5 No munching on the low hanging fruit

Smarter word smiths than us have decreed that the best salespeople “never go across town, before you’ve been across the street”.

Low Hanging Fruit

Flickr Image Courtesy Andreas Fischler

For us mere simpletons, don’t waste your time going all over the country side trying to make a sale when you haven’t contacted the people closest to you. It’s often the people you already have relationships with that can lead to the easiest wins.

The same goes for link building. All of the relationships you have built for your company’s success are potential link targets. Ask these guys for links before you get fancy:

  • Suppliers
  • Resellers
  • Staff
  • Referrers
  • Charities you support
  • Avertising channels
  • Services or providers (accountants, lawyers etc)
For some easy-to-use techniques that will take you less than one hour a week to implement, check out these 5 great link building tips

Mistake #6 – Not building links for revenue

When you start considering links for revenue, not just rankings, you open up a glittering new world of opportunity. Start thinking about marketing your business online, not just manipulating search results.

Consider the type of sites that could send you the type of visitors you want.

If I own a sports memorabilia store, where do my customers hang out? Maybe web forums for diehard fans or sports opinion sites. Get hyper targeted.

Sports Opinion Website

A killer post at Downtown Ecommerce gives this concept the explanation it deserves.

Mistake #7 – Not planning internal links

Let’s be honest, internal linking is not as fun as external linking. SEO junkies are feeling me. It might not be cool, but if you want to dominate rankings, you need to build an ecommerce site that maximises traffic from organic search.

The hierarchy of your site and the way that you link between pages is crucial. This screams out to Google which pages on your site are most important.

10-Website-Architecture

Image Courtesy Kissmetrics

A basic, (but not always practical) recommendation is to keep your site as flat as possible. Help a brother out and reduce the number of clicks that it takes for a user to go from your homepage through to your bottom pages (such as products).

You can group key pages (or categories) together by theme and link to each from your homepage. Linking high-level pages directly to key pages also pushes link equity. Check out this cracking guide at KissMetrics for more detail.

Mistake #8 – Isolating link building in your business

Manipulating search results through thousands of cheap links is not a sustainable strategy. As SEO and link building evolves, marketers are being forced to build links the legitimate way.

The companies that rise to the top will use a rounded approach to their marketing to organically build links, social shares and a genuine presence across the web.

You want to dominate your online jungle? Integrate link building with other marketing tactics like content, social, email and genuine relationships and you’ll be top of the tree for years to come.

Bottom Line

Provide valuable content for your prospective customers and people will want to link to you. Over time, Google will work out that your site is what your customer is searching for.

I’d love to hear from the ecommerce folk who’ve been affected by the Penguin Update. Have you seen a huge drop in your rankings? Why do you think you’ve been penalised? Let me know, I’d love to hear your stories and offer you some ancient online gorilla wisdom.

Good luck online,

Gorilla Out…

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