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Overlooked Link Building Opportunities for Ecommerce Category & Product Pages

by Jon Cooper
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For a lot of you, you’re not working with Fortune 500s that have the domain authority to outrank their competitor’s category & product pages. Even when you do flawless on-site SEO for an ecommerce site (and trust me, VERY few of you are, including myself), for most semi to major competitive terms, domain authority won’t be everything unless you’re an Amazon or an REI.

That’s why building links to your category & product pages can be so profitable. But obviously, if it were easy, then everyone would be killer at it. In reality, few are.

So let’s walk through some overlooked ways we can get links to these pages so we can start bringing in more revenue for our clients.

Note: I won’t be addressing blogger product reviews, PR, guest blogging, contests & giveaways, mindboggling content, or any other commonly talked about ecommerce link building tactics (at least, I hope they’re not common…) in the hope that you learn something new today.

Also, because most have way too many category & product pages that you can allocate your link building resources to, I’m assuming you’ve already prioritized based off search volume, competition, and overall profitability potential.

Category-specific Competitors

First, look at sites that are selling solely (or mostly) just the products in that category. For example, if you’re an office supplier and you’re trying to get links to a ‘pencil sharpeners’ category, look for sites that just sell pencil sharpeners. You’ll find two types of relevant opportunities in their link profiles:

  • Category specific – i.e. they get a link from a resources page all about places to buy pencil sharpeners.
  • Broader vertical specific – i.e. they get a link from a resources page all about places to buy office supplies.

At first glance, you might only think the category-specific opportunities are right for your category pages, but don’t forget that co-citation makes their broader vertical specific opportunities worth getting to your category pages too. So in that example, on that page you’d ask if they could link to your pencil sharpener category rather than your home page.

Non-Competing, Complimentary Retailers

Do you and a non-competing retailer sell products that go together like peanut butter and jelly? If so, then turn back the clock and do a bit of reciprocal link building.

For example, if you sell high powered flashlights, find another retailer that sells the specialized batteries that are needed to power the flashlights on a category or product level. Not only will these links be relevant, but these links will drive revenue.

Note that you should be doing these links in moderation, and only for hyper relevant, non-competing retailers. I’d recommend trying to find the 20% of product/category pages that drive 80% of your revenue from these links, and removing the others.

If you’re against the ‘reciprocal’ part (which we’d obviously all avoid if possible), then do them favors & generally help them so when you ask if it’s possible to get a link or two from some of their complimentary category/product pages, they’ll be a lot more open to it (however, make sure you emphasize that you don’t want the links to draw too much attention as you’ll steal their customers’ attention).

Some things to think through for this:

  • If you’re doing reciprocal, make sure you’re both roughly the same size, otherwise one of you is going to get a much sweeter end of the deal (which won’t make it as long lasting).
  • This will really only work with small to mid sized retailers, so don’t count on Macy’s or any other mega brand to do this.

Although it’s not ecommerce, ESPN & StubHub have a deal in place in which Stubhub gets links to game tickets from ESPN’s schedule pages, and ESPN gets links to their standings pages from StubHub’s individual team ticket pages. StubHub is most likely paying for this, but in general, it’s a good example of a relevant, complimentary reciprocal link opportunity that also drives relevant traffic.

Mention Monitoring

Set up mention alerts for products & category terms in the same way that you setup brand alerts. Here a few examples of the applications of these mentions:

  1. A blogger mentions a product because they like it, so all you have to do is reach out to them and see if they’ll do a product review if you send them one for free.
  2. A forum starts talking about a certain product, so join the conversation, and if buying from you has any advantages over your competitors, let them know & drop a link to your page (but don’t be salesy; read this & this!).
  3. A Q&A thread pops up, also asking about the product, and you’re able to answer them accurately and provide your product page (linked) as the source of the information.
  4. A forum starts talking about recommendations for a certain category of products (i.e. what’s the best pencil sharpener?) and you’re able to join the conversation and drop a link if it’s appropriate and again, not salesy.

And that’s just the predictable type of opportunities that will come out of it.

Properly Segmenting Deep Link Opportunities

Whether it’s a sponsorship, resource page, or anything else, if the website you’re getting a link on is more closely related to a certain category or type of product on your site, always get the deep link instead of the home page link. If not, you’re missing out on a rare opportunity.

The only time I see this not being the best plan of action is if your homepage covers more than 50% of your search potential, but I HIGHLY doubt this is the case for most of you, and it’s still tough to justify diversifying relevant opportunities.

So for example, a highly effective tactic is to look for any supplier or manufacturer websites that you have products from that have ‘where to buy’ or ‘our retailer’ pages. Instead of just getting a link to your homepage, have them link to either:

  1. The category of the type of product they sell
  2. Their brand category (if they’re a manufacturer)
  3. Their product (if they only manufacture one or two products)

I know that, for example, if a supplier sells you products in multiple categories, then it would be best to just link to your home page. But again, be intentional on making sure you go deep whenever possible.

Other Tips

I mentioned towards the beginning of the post that you should prioritize your link building for certain pages based off opportunity & revenue, but if there are certain categories & product pages that you know you can get links to that might not deliver the most direct revenue, then pursue them for domain authority purposes (but don’t make them the #1 priority).

Always be monitoring other semi-competitive ecommerce spaces and see how they’re building links to the same types of pages. You’re not the only one with the same challenge, so learn from others.

If you’re willing, drop some knowledge below of any experience you’ve had with ecommerce link building (always love to chat with you guys about it!), but I know most of you lurkers won’t :).

You can also follow me @pointblankseo. Thanks for reading!

This post was written by...

Jon Cooper – who has written 119 posts on Point Blank SEO.

Jon Cooper+ is an SEO consultant based out of Gainesville, FL who specializes in link building. For more information on him and Point Blank SEO, visit the about page. Follow him on Twitter.

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20 Comments
  1. Gaz Copeland says:

    Hey Jon,

    Nice to see you posting something, seems to have been a while :)

    Re the monitoring, what tools are you using these days? G Alerts seems to be doing down hill fast and there are lots of other products out their. What have you found to be the best?

    An ecom store asked me the other day this exact question and I mentioned a few, http://www.talkwalker.com/alerts looks good on the face of it.

    Gaz

    • Jon Cooper says:

      Thanks Gaz! Yep, a new post was long overdue to say the least…

      For monitoring – I use Mention.net. Amazing UX and it picks up a lot more mentions than G Alerts. Also quite affordable compared to alternatives.

  2. Pabi says:

    “Always be monitoring other semi-competitive ecommerce spaces and see how they’re building links to the same types of pages. You’re not the only one with the same challenge, so learn from others.” i like this sentence in your post that is correct because competitive site analysis aware you a best sites which are the best for your organic traffic also improve your searching power.

  3. Jim says:

    Awesome article Jon!

    In the beginning you are saying “Even when you do flawless on-site SEO for an ecommerce site (and trust me, VERY few of you are, including myself)…”.

    Do you have a post where you talk more about proper ecommerce seo? I would love to read it. If not – I guess this might be a great topic for your next article.

    Cheers

  4. Dude. This is so good. love coming to your blog because it’s never a waste of time. I’m going to include a link to this article in a post that I’m about to publish. !!!!

  5. Bryan Vu says:

    The supplier/manufacturer one is good one, since the other party may not have thought to do it yet (especially on newer sites or for new relationships). I’ve noticed many manufacturers have only listed retailers with a physical presence. It’s not a bad idea to pitch that they create an “online retailer” section to list you as well.

    Great post Jon, looking forward to more!

    • Jon Cooper says:

      It’s funny – been running into this same issue right now with a client in an industry where the “Where to Buy” type manufacturer/supplier pages list catalogs (and links to their sites if they have one), but not any strictly online retailers. My thought was to just try & convince them to include me, rather than to create a new, separate list on the page for strictly online retailers, so that tip is awesome Bryan! Thanks a ton.

  6. Daniel Law says:

    Great post John. Certainly been a long time coming but was worth the wait.

  7. It is refreshing to find a SEO expert in 2013 who isn’t trying to still push old methods of SEO that will get you in trouble with Google or other search engines. I like the idea of using piggy backing of products from other Non-Competing, Complimentary Retailers. It really makes good sense and is keeping it totally real. It is totally win win for the customer and site owners.

    Thanks
    Mark

  8. It’s way difficult for small business owners to compete with big companies and rank well for product pages. I knew about bookmarks and directories submission for deep link building. They’ve worked so far good for me but I needed more techniques to take a full control on the link building for e-commerce websites. Here I found what i was on the lookout for long. Thanks for pointing to new opportunities in acquiring reliable product-specific links while being not salesy.

  9. Paul Beswick says:

    Great SEO tips for e-commerce website Jon! I am actually having a hard time figuring our on what is the best seo techniques for my e-commerce website aside from content marketing. Thanks for sharing!

  10. Vince Lin says:

    Welcome back to the blogosphere Jon :)

    What are your thoughts on the new algorithm updates, looks like link building still matters a lot?

    • Debb says:

      Google mentioned that 3% Of Websites Affected by this penguin 2.1 update. when i analyzed my site, local keywords are affected when compared to international keyword.

  11. ivo vasilev says:

    really great seo tips,view more articles on http://www.yourseoplace.net

  12. Leon Watts says:

    A great read indeed. I’ve learnt so much from your blog posts.

  13. Misha says:

    As I surf the web, found so many low quality businesses but ranking at the top of the search results. Good posting Jon……….

  14. I was reading the post about most creative link building strategies because I was trying to figure out the best ways of getting noticed with my new e-commerce site when i stumbled upon this post :) This ‘ll sure help me further with getting on to it. Nonetheless still love the creative seo post.

    Keep up the good work Jon!

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