Search engine optimization relies in large part on relevant content and authoritative links from other sites. As the search engines develop ever-more stringent algorithms around relevance and authority, it becomes harder to acquire links that will actually matter to your site’s SEO efforts. Fortunately, your business is likely already doing some things that can be tweaked to encourage sites to link to your site for SEO benefit.
These days, links need to be earned organically from relevant and authoritative sites rather than built or submitted as they could be even five years ago. The best links will come from sites that manufacture, write about, or sell the same types of products that your ecommerce site sells. In addition, sites that have themselves achieved a level of authority and links from other relevant sites will have the most link authority to pass on to your site.
Working with the press is one of the best ways to attract links from relevant sites. Even the name of the activity is perfectly suited to what we’re looking for to earn links: public “relations.” The focus is on forming relationships with influential and relevant media outlets to extol the company’s achievements and messages. SEO needs that same relevance and influence to successfully earn links.
Forget about the old tactic of seeding press releases with over-optimized anchor text links. In the past, these optimized press releases would generate links when they were reposted by sites that survive on scraping PR content. The more scrapers, the more links. Unfortunately, the types of sites that specialized in reposting press releases didn’t have any of their own authority to pass on, and were usually only minimally topically relevant.
Modern SEO integration with PR involves cooperation on outreach and an expansion of the traditional definition of media. Sure, we’d all like to get a link in The New York Times, but a link in an article from an influential blogger in your industry could actually provide more value in terms of topical relevance and authority.
Work with PR to identify a list of the most influential bloggers and social media mavens in your area of expertise. The line between social media, SEO, and PR is very blurry here, but if all of the players come to the table and divide up the research, messaging, and outreach responsibilities then all three of the channels can benefit from the cooperative effort.
In addition, give the writers you’re pitching something compelling to link to. They’re extremely unlikely to just link to your highest-profit category page, but they may get excited about a video, a comparison of specifications, and customer research.
An executive in your business is likely passionate about the industry you’re in. In the best case, that person will also be eloquent and willing to share that passion with others. Trainings and speakerships can be great ways to earn high-value links.
Look for opportunities with groups or schools that overlap with your industry. Don’t wait for them to fall into your lap. Research relevant groups and schools in your area and pitch your executive to them. Consider local business organizations, industry conferences, vendor shindigs, and business schools.
Speaking doesn’t have to require mountains of preparation and collateral. For example, a college professor in fashion design may be thrilled to have an executive from a local ecommerce site that sells shoes come in to discuss shoe trends, where the industry is going, and what sells in the real world. To promote the seminar, the professor would naturally want to send out email blasts to students, post the information on the school’s fashion design department website, and tweet about it.
If your executive isn’t willing to speak, perhaps she’d write. Guest blogging can be even more effective then speaking at generating links. The blog that hosts the guest post typically links to the author’s company as part of the attribution. And assuming the blog has been chosen because it’s one of the topically relevant and authoritative sites on your new PR list, that link could be very valuable.
In addition to the attribution link, that blog will have its own audience of readers and usually social media followers as well. Some of them are bound to find the guest post compelling enough to share or blog about themselves. Others will be intrigued about the author’s company and will click through to your ecommerce site and become customers. There are a lot of ways to win in the guest blogging scenario.
As with press relations links, though, the guest blog post will only be as successful to your SEO efforts as the content is compelling. A poorly written or obviously self-serving post probably won’t even be published if the blog is reputable. And even if it is published, it won’t inspire readers to share, link to or visit the site.
When your marketing team is planning promotions to generate traffic and sales, remember that some of those plans could benefit SEO as well — if you can intercept them in the creative stage before development begins.
Let’s say plans include video content showing the products in use from all angles. Where the content is hosted, how it’s coded, and what textual content accompanies the videos can all have an impact on organic search. Optimizing these aspects in the planning stage means less rework later, and consequently less cost, as well as increased traffic to the feature.
Depending on how innovative the site feature or marketing campaign is, different types of media may be interested in stories about the feature itself. When the campaign or feature is successful, consider doing a case study with the agency or vendor, or on your own and pitching it to ecommerce publications. Or the campaign may involve people, characters or products that niche communities love to write about, creating even more opportunity to approach media and bloggers in that niche.
Hopefully these three common areas of business will give you some ideas for earning links naturally through the programs you already run and with the people you already have. Focus on topical relevance and seek out sites to work with who have the authority you’d like your own site to have. Look for sites whose audiences could also be your customers. Links from those quality sites will help your SEO program naturally while they increase your brand recognition and leadership in the space.