E-Commerce Link Building Strategies: You Gotta Give a Little Love! #SESSF

Posted in Ecommerce, SES San Francisco

Live #SESSF coverage continued with our second track of the day – No BS Link Building for E-Commerce. Lone soldier Jonathan Ball, VP of Page One Power was up on deck to tour us through the hour+. Check out the full recap below.

Jonathan graced the floor and asked, “Why is link building so hard for e-commerce?” One woman who sells blinds for a living answered, “Content is not interesting” – true dat! Another, “You are not in control,” and another…”It is too time consuming.” Ahhhhh, all correct, sadly, but thankfully Jonathan was there to outline the five things he planned to cover for this particular session to help ease the minds of so many.

So here it is, in a nutshell…

  • 7 Foundational Link Building Philosophies
  • 6 Steps in Making a Link Building Plan
  • Anchor Text
  • E-Commerce Link Building Strategy
  • Link Building Strategies That You Should Consider

SEO is a simple thing – the ‘robot’ looks at a webpage and fills in what it is about, through keywords. So, who is going to rank? Who has the most authority? This is driven by in-bound links. If you have good SEO and good links on your page then you are in good shape. Simple. As. That.

Now, what are the 7 White Hat Link Building Philosophies That Withstand Algorithm Change?

In a world without Google…

  • If Google did not exist where would you want to put your links?
  • If Matt Cutts was over your shoulder would I get this link?
  • Guarantees Penguin proofing (and beyond)
  • Where should you get links?
    • Plug the marketing cord into the SEO cord when you can and find people that like your links.
    • Use geo-targeted search terms – get links for places in towns that your trying to link in. Getting links on a local level with help you get traffic and rankings.

Relevancy FIRST – white hat link building follows relevancy, not page rank.

  • Jonathan used the example – Does it make sense to get a link for your cat food site on a brain surgery forum, even if it’s an edu.? Um, no.
  • Remember every niche is different – Jonathan asked, “Is yours a fertile valley or a dry riverbed of link building?”
    • How do you do that? Determine what terms relate to what you do and build a relevancy tree to act as a boundary and guide to building links.

Website owners are people and people link to people.

  • The best links come from people
  • If it’s an instant link…well, this is the last thing you want
  • Call them if possible – pick up the phone, dial it and politely ask would like to link to my site?

The most powerful link building tool is your brain! Well, hey now.

  • No link building tool, seminar or article can come up with the ideas. Use your brain. Great advice.

Link Building is a team sport. Link building alone is torturous, impossible, dreadful, terrible ineffective, ah please stop I can’t take anymore!

Forget viral!

  • If it goes viral, it goes viral.
  • Don’t waste your time – get good relevant, quality links and you will see a difference.

FTBOM – For the Betterment of ManKind. Get it? Got it? Good.

  • Goes across the board for link building – help the web. Help other people.

What next? Make a plan. Here are 5 steps to making a link building strategy.

Jonathan warned – Don’t underestimate it!

People underestimate the enormity of the task of link building and the time that it really takes to do it right. Remember there is a lot at stake and your competitors are working too. But it works! Fail to plan, plan to fail. List your online (textual info, videos, photos, etc.) and offline (staff, friends, connections) assets. Determine how you can leverage them. You have to get creative.


  • There are no secrets to link building. Your competitors can’t hide their links.
  • Download competitors’ links from Majestic SEO or Open Site Explorer.
  • Research backlinks for associations and Wikipedia for relevant keywords.
  • Export to Excel and organize into strategies and categories.
  • As you research make notes, be creative, talk with someone else, work as a team and always be thinking!
  • Make lists of industry sites (i.e. associations, news sites, blogs, forums, experts, etc.)
  • Use offline sources

Strategize! Lean back in your chair and brainstorm (best if done with a team, always). Remember link building is HARD. Because of it’s difficulty the rewards are phenomenal – awesome point.


Adapt! Don’t be afraid to abandon strategy if it isn’t working. Learn and move on.

And now, a word from Jonathan about Anchor Text.

So what is it? The clickable text on the page. Comprende? OK good.

Exact anchor text with your keywords can be a dangerous thing – “vary it tremendously,” Jonathan said. Get creative. Also, use your plain old URL. Use similar keywords but not exact. Final note, be very careful with anchor text and use it wisely.

So what about contextual links?

  • You are working with real people. Use contextual links when possible.

Which page to build links to?

  • Remember: Google ranks web pages, not web sites.

How much time do you have to get real links?

  • If you have 1,000 hours do as many as you can – do it. If not? Try a handful.

Different strategies work for different pages – there is the home page vs. the category page vs. the product page (which is more difficult to rank at). In general, send the link to the page you want to run (or as close as possible).

From there, Jonathan got down to the nitty gritty and describes some Link Building Strategies for the crowd to take home.

Blogging – Vital to white hat link building…

  • Gives voice and presence online
  • Magnifies your search terms by 100x
  • Establishes your authority
  • Becomes the platform for content marketing, social media engagement and timely blog posts.

Getting Your Blog Ready

  • Decide who the audience is
  • Determine categories
  • Make keyword lists
  • Brainstorm blog post titles from categories and keyword lists
  • Use longtail and variations of keywords not listed on your site already
  • Create an editorial calendar and strive for readership!
  • Promote your Blog! Use your social media channels.
  • Interview experts and others (ask yourself – did we give them a link?)
  • Crowd sourcing (three questions, four people, 12 answers = four links!)

Give LOVE on your site. This is every link builders’ dream come true. Give people links back. Link to people in your blog. Set up resource page with people you do business with. You gotta give a little to get a little!

Research your ‘Local Keyword Universe’

  • Who is in your relevancy tree? Research that and find out what is out there. Look for news, your experts, events, associations, forums, blogs, etc. This could last forever, if you wanted it to…

Guest Posts

  • Find your target sites, don’t limit yourself
  • Submit your offer – personalized email with title of article or the actual article. Don’t use canned email. Send pictures, do the work for them. Hey, now that is an idea!
  • Ask for your links – ALWAYS ask for an in-content link!
  • Once published send a thank you and promote the blog post (socially, sponsored tweets, etc.)
    • Remember bloggers want traffic and comments and social engagement. BUILD YOUR RECORD OF SUCCESS.

Write Testimonials for every positive business transaction.

  • Send them an unsolicited testimonial and picture
  • Mention them in your blog

Trade Articles

  • If you are an expert in the industry, provide content to a media publication and link back to that article on that publication’s website.

Build a Museum. Make a glossary and make it good.

  • People need to know what is going on. Provide a complete guide and get links (easy link bait!)

Study or a Survey

  • Create an infographic, article, white paper and reach based on outreach to your customer base.

Resource Pages

  • Still works, but very slowly
  • Find the page, find the name of the actual person you will talk to, always call if possible (success goes up 20 times)


  • Find sub categories to badge, top 10 lists, reward best customers, recognize experts

Blog Commenting

  • Still works!
  • Do it on real blogs with real comments
  • Builds your blog, your personal and helps build links
  • Ignore

DIY Sites

  • Very content hungry!

Forums (be very careful with this one)

  • Go slowly, actually care
  • Forums need/want money because they have none. Call them up and offer to be a sponsor – legitimate marketing that gets you a link!

Give Stuff Away!

  • Contests, giveaways, scholarships, etc.


  • Review everything in your niche and put it on your site
  • Textual, photo and video reviews

And lastly, go crazy, think big! Great words to end with.

Nicely done, Jonathan, and thanks for an excellent presentation. Now, we have one question for you – can you feel our love?!?!

Don’t worry folks there is plenty more coming your way – stay tuned for more live coverage via moi (@MollyCRyan) and @gretchenegeberg from #SESSF!

  • Tbs

    These are good tips and checklist. Relevant and quality content and relevant linking in niche increase chances of driving relevant and quality traffic to your websites.I also agree that different strategies work for different pages. Would like to see more of such wonderful tips. Thanks for this.

  • betom

    Very nice article, Molly Ryan. I don’t know why dont have any comment leave here.

    I love this ideal

    Relevancy FIRST – white hat link building follows relevancy, not page rank.

    But, as my real working, Page Rank still have an important position … Many white hat document said it’s nothing, but as my thinking, still have affect. Especial in relevancy and high PR web page.

    So, should thinking both of relevancy and PR. If PR 0, should be relevancy. IF Pr 2,3 or above, can relevancy ( best ) or not. How do you think about this ?