Link building for eCommerce sites is harder now than it ever has been. Why?

First, digital marketers know they’re pretty much the number 1 ranking factor in competitive markets.

Second, the war (scaremongering) on link building by Google over the past few years has reached its peak, which has scared people into thinking their sites will be hurt if they so much as think about creating content with links in mind.

When I was looking at other eCommerce link building articles, I noticed that they were all covering the same tactics that have been written about countless amounts of times (even on our site); guest posting, resource pages, etc.

So I wanted to do something different and show tactics that are being used to create brands that are actionable and shouldn’t cost you a fortune.

These are the tactics that brands like Apple, Amazon, MAC Cosmetics and more are using to generate links.

User Generated Content

Tapping into UGCs, or user generated content is one of the best ways to facilitate e-commerce link building. Despite being almost impossible to control, consumers are more likely to share content created by other customers instead of one that comes from the brand. In terms of efficiency and success, UGC comes out on top. It’s one of the most essential factor businesses, organisations and online marketers shouldn’t ignore.

How does one make use and harness the power of user generated content? Check out some of our ideas below…

Build a community

Online

Establishing a thriving online community centred around a brand will give you benefits far beyond that of SEO. Backlink creation, loyalty, consumer support and audience attraction are just some of the by-products that go with an active forum, message board or social media page.

People will often link to content generated by other users as it’s more natural and it doesn’t have that corporate vibe. This is also a great way to create stories for promotional purposes. For example, Apple’s forum is rich in content and contains many backlinks from Wikipedia, which is no small feat.

Over time, a community can get you backlinks in exchange for time, patience and some effort. Today’s link building practices are organic, and quick, sneaky and unscrupulous tactics are no longer viable.

Offline

You may be surprised to find that communities can be formed by offline efforts.

Take, for example online retail giant Amazon. User groups are established for Amazon Web Services all throughout the globe, and these offline events are offered via Meetup.com. Backlinks are naturally created from Meetups to Amazon Web Services. As of today, there’s approximately 21,000 backlinks from Meetup.com users that go to the Web Services platform.

Backlinks can be built from UGCs in the following manner…

  • Message Boards – This medium is still considered as the best way to get backlinks from, but it will require the most effort. Set up the forum and care for it until content publishers link to discussions, which keeps your audience continually engaged to your brand.
  • Slack Channels and Subreddits – Building a bridge between your community to a larger one is one of the best ways to strengthen both your brand and audience reach.
  • Make It Easy To Link – Help visitors and users who want to link to your products by making link-sharing tools, such as widgets visible and available. Moreover, you’ll want to make shareable links easy to remember by shortening the URL.
  • Establish a knowledge base and an FAQ page into your support system and forums – If you think that setting up an online forum is too much work, create channels on Reddit or Meetup for offline events and communities centred on your brand.

Give things away

What better way to generate attention and get people engaged than giving away stuff for free?

Events such as these tap into society’s primal desire to gain a sort of advantage over other people. Contests, giveaways, promotions and sweepstakes can work very well in your favour, driving much-needed traffic, exposure and back links in a short period of time. What’s more, it can be the push that people need to start trying your product. If they’re satisfied, then it could mean more sales for you.

Discounts

Discounts that target a certain demographic, i.e., nurses, small business owners or students can generate some buzz and sets the stage for link building. The biggest global brands and e-retail shops regularly do this, and as a result they enjoy a significant amount of links leading back to their site.

Take your cue on the following companies:

ASOS’ student discount page has more than 13,000 backlinks.

Apple’s student discount page has a whopping 200,000 backlinks.

The UK student discount page has about 2,000 backlinks.

Giveaways

Giveaways increase brand and product awareness, gives the company invaluable feedback and of course, naturally builds links from user to company. To make the most of giveaway campaigns, have individuals sign up for it using their email, which you can use for your email campaigns later on.

Shoe Palace shot up in brand recognition when they hosted a raffle. The winner gets a ticket to BUY a pair of limited edition Yeezy sneakers, which naturally caused plenty of publicity, competition and links from interested people.

Links to the giveaway page shot to around 800 and enjoyed an upward trend.

Unfortunately, the links are to the competition page of the tool used in the raffle, so they won’t get the benefit of them. If possible, host giveaways, sweepstakes and promotions under your own domain. There are plenty of hosting platforms, apps and plugins to make this possible, i.e., WordPress and Shopify.

Charity

BoxLunch is a company that sells curated merchandise. As part of their brand identity, the specialty retailer has promised to provide a meal to those in need from charity organisation Feeding America for every $10 they get from selling products.

The result? BoxLunch now has more than 300,000 organic backlinks, many of which are from charitable organisations and non-profits.

Building links from charities and nonprofits is an excellent endeavour as they’re powerful and authoritative.

Hand In Hand is another stellar example. Their “Buy a Bar, Give a Bar” program page, which contains information on what it does and how people can help, has about a thousand backlinks in total.

If you’re keen on helping out and gaining backlinks along the way, then here’s what you need to do…

  • You can donate money to non-profit organisations and charities and school grants, but don’t forget to back it up with plenty of information and content. This means you must set up a dedicated landing page, send out newsletters and advertise the program online.
  • You can offer special discounts to students and healthcare workers and make it public (like your donations). Run the program for a brief period and see how effective it is before considering making it long term.
  • You can do online sweepstakes and raffles, but make sure to give your audience a heads-up before drawing the prize. Send out newsletters, make a special landing page and display it as a noticeable banner on your main site.
  • Instead of asking for backlinks, why not send an influencer a free product with a handwritten note? This improves your chances of getting an organic backlink as it’s human nature for people to feel like they need to give back when they receive presents.

Content Marketing

Product guides

Guides come in all shapes, sizes and forms, but in the e-commerce world, they are strictly divided into two categories. There’s the buyer’s guide, which helps you buy a specific product according to your needs, and a tutorial guide, which helps you operate or do something with a product.

A buyer’s guide can be a catalog or a list of similar products. For example, the BikeRadar’s buyer’s guide to mountain bikes caters to those who would want to buy a mountain bike from an assortment of makes, models and brands. Inside, you’ll get a lot of useful information such as the best mountain bikes, their specialties, differences and pros and cons.

In terms of earning links, BikeRadar has got links to their guide from more than 130 domains, all of which have something to do with mountain bikes.

A guide doesn’t have to be limited in scope. Take REI’s microsite, a treasure trove of helpful advice ranging from fitness, outdoor basics to camping and hiking. The tutorial guides are divided into categories, and each one is polished to a high shine in terms of depth and content.

The entire microsite has earned more than 2.5 million backlinks since its inception.

Last but not the least, we have iFixit. The company’s business model is to provide all the information you need in the form of tutorials and comprehensive “how to” guides while conveniently selling the parts you need to make it work. The domain boasts over 12 million backlinks and enjoys a wide reach on the web.

Making your own how-to videos can also work, especially for industries such as cosmetics. MAC Cosmetics has a dedicated page (called MAC Artistry), which hosts an array of beauty tips and skincare advice for women all over the world.

In terms of links, the section has got links from more than 16,000 domains and the company’s YouTube channel has more than half a million subscribers.

Blog

What’s an article about e-commerce link building without blogs?

Blogs have the power to supercharge your brand. When done right, it can build up a sizeable community, become an excellent resource and attract the right kinds of links.

Dollar Shave Club is a primary example of an effective targeted blog. Lululemon’s blog is Dollar Shave Club’s counterpart, specifically focusing on beauty, fitness and yoga. Both have attracted more than 500,000 backlinks, some from popular publishers like NYTimes, Mashable and others.

Asda has a similar setup in their “lifestyle” blog. From fashion buyers guides to fitness,” it covers everything.

Podcasting

Who would have known that podcasts can be utilised in link building campaigns?

AWS has two podcast programs, the TechChat and the AWS Podcast. In their podcasts, the company talks about how you can use their existing products in a variety of ways and related topics, including knowing what a technical account manager does and text to speech applications.

AWS has logged over 250 podcast episodes and has gained more than 9,000 backlinks for their effort.

eBay’s Open For Business podcast is another shining example. In it, listeners get treated to a variety of interesting topics such as how you can reinvent your business, bootstrapping and helping entrepreneurs build their businesses from scratch.

eBay’s endeavor has generated more than 13,000 backlinks currently.

Infographics

Infographics is the middle ground between link building and content marketing. But even the biggest brands are failing when it comes to making a successful run with it.

Major retail shops Walmart and Amazon have plenty of infographics that don’t get many backlinks. The same goes for REI. In truth, infographics nowadays are better suited for sharing in social media than for creating links.

There are 3 possible reasons why:

1. Most infographics aren’t shared with influencers, thereby reducing its effectiveness and ability to get backlinks.

2. In general, people tend to share infographics on social media rather than link to them.

3. Infographics are oversaturated and having yours noticed will be very difficult.

Create tools

Widgets and calculators are like infographics in that they were excellent link builders before, but can be a bit hit and miss today.

The calculator that AWS made to determine the total cost of ownership collected around 6,000 backlinks.

That didn’t hold a candle to the company’s bread and butter, which was a simple cost calculator that accrued more than 50 times the number of backlinks.

In the same vein, Shopify has a calculator to find out your product’s GPM, or gross profit margin. It currently has about 450 back links from various domains.

Here’s how you can use content marketing to build backlinks...

  • Guides – Users feel appreciated and valued when brands go out their way to create useful guides and informative tutorial articles. You can become an authority that helps audiences make better buying decisions and get better at using your product.
  • Blogs – Simply creating a blog isn’t enough. You’ll need to outline a strategy and pinpoint specific topics and content that your target audience needs. You will need to come up with excellent long form articles that are the best on the internet as well. With this type of medium, there’s no room for mediocrity- either your content rocks or it doesn’t.
  • Podcasts – Are optional but definitely helpful if you have the time and money for it. You can recruit people in your company who are natural speakers.
  • Widgets And Infographics? – Video, audio and written content are better value for your money.
  • If your widgets are enjoying a fair amount of success and backlinks, make sure that they’re hosted on your main domain. It won’t do your site’s authority much good if they’re hosted on a different domain or even a sub-domain.

Let us know in the comments what your favourite eCommerce link building tactics are.