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SEO Link Building: Budget Stretcher for Online Retail and E-Commerce Sites

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Whether you're selling clothing, car parts, luggage, or even cameras, your approach to link development matters most. Let's face it: most e-commerce sites primarily consist of a shopping cart on steroids.

That's why I often hear statements such as, "Who would want to link to my camera site?" Replace "camera" with whatever product you sell and you get the idea.

A basic shopping cart does nothing to distinguish one site from hundreds of other similar sites. Unless the shopping cart adds value, such as in-depth consumer reviews, then it's not adding value to the Web.

How do you develop links then?

Inbound Links from Customers

My first answer is your customers. If your company provides quality products and superb customer service, then this is a great approach. People are more than willing to promote and recommend a company they respect. The key: engage them. Read my column on engaging customers for links for more information on this strategy.

Noteworthy Content for SEO Link Building

Many retailers are leery to engage customers. Perhaps your customer service department is a work-in-progress. Or maybe your retail operation is brand new.

Now the question you must answer is why anyone would link to your camera store. It's not all that different from the hundreds of other camera stores that sell the exact same products.

One solution: create engaging content. Create content that's worthy of a link. Don't limit yourself to thinking of content as just written text. Link-worthy content could range from how-to videos, to cartoons, to surveys, to online tools.

The key: create something noteworthy people will want to take time out of their busy day and link to it. Then IM or e-mail that link to their friends, colleagues, and family. This can often be accomplished by solving a customer problem as I covered in link building case studies for B2B (business-to-business) and the travel industry.

Content Fallacies in SEO Link Building

Let's start by correcting a common misunderstanding about content. Just because your SEO (define) company is adding 20 pages of generic content to your site each month doesn't mean it's the type of content that will entice people to link to your site. If it were that simple you wouldn't be reading my column -- nor would I be in business.

Notice I just said, "entice people to link to your site." That's the key. You're trying to get people -- not machines -- to link to your site.

Now take a step back and review your site content. If you were surfing the Web, would you take time out of your busy day to link to it? Be objective and don't kid yourself. After all, everyone thinks their baby is the cutest.

Content Promotion in SEO Link Building

Avoid the common mistake of thinking that just because you've created something great people will discover it. While you're "waiting" for people to find your noteworthy content, your competition is out promoting their great content.

Promotion is the key to successful link development with content. Depending on quality content can actually cost you links.

There are two schools of thought in regards to Internet retailing.

Some are of the mentality of build it and customers will come. The other group approaches e-commerce as they would a traditional brick-and-mortar business. These are the people who embrace marketing and public relations.

Would a shopping mall or department store invest tens of thousands of dollars for a free concert and then hope people attend? I think not. Think of people attending the concert as links obtained.

The mall or department store would invest more money to promote that concert and get the word out to as many people as possible. This will increase the attendance and, with any luck, increase customer spending.

The same line of thinking applies to links. The more "quality" links you have, the higher the chances of people clicking on those links and shopping on your site.

Just because a page has PageRank doesn't mean it will be a quality link.

Looking for some promotion ideas? Read my column on "7 Ways to Promote Your Content as Link Bait."

There are several different ways to build links for e-commerce sites. Simply take a few steps back and examine a site from an objective viewpoint. Then figure out the best ways to develop links for that site and industry.

Remember: don't rely on any one type of link development method. The search landscape is constantly changing and evolving.

Join us for SES New York March 17-20 and for training classes March 21.


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