Over a third of all shoppers start their product searches on search engines, according to a recent study from search technology vendor BloomReach Inc.1 So it's really no surprise that a strong Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategy can have a big impact on the growth of your business.
Improving the technical underpinnings of your site can make a difference. So can smart social media marketing. But of all the signals that tell Google and Bing your store is worth visiting, few are quite so valuable as links to your product pages.
Here are four ways to get more links, and more shoppers.
1. Become a publicity hound.
Any link to your company's product pages helps, but getting a news outlet to highlight your work is even better. Collect every clip and highlight at your eCommerce site. Philadelphia-based Mueller Chocolate Co. takes this approach to heart at its site with a bottom-page template that includes links to "local news" that feature its quirky confections, including a few shaped like body parts. Click the link to "Mike Tyson tweets our ears" for a 2014 story from a CBS affiliate about how the former champ highlighted an old Mueller's favorite on social media.
2. Guest blog when and where you can.
Have expertise to offer that might be useful at other sites? Take advantage by guest blogging and then asking to include a link back to your site. Kate McCabe does this for her site, Solful Health, in hopes of attracting clients to her nutrition coaching and yoga training services. A simple bio will do in most cases, as you can see from this recent post at Florida Food & Farm:
Kate McCabe is a nutritionist, yoga teacher and a wellness-and-food writer based in West Palm Beach. She is a freelance contributor to Florida Food & Farm as well as other publications across the country. Connect with her on solfulhealth.com.
3. Surround your product with an irresistible story.
External links are great but internal links can also work for you by getting website visitors to linger longer. You've seen this dynamic at work when you walk into a retail store and the clerk asks if you have any questions. The more curious you are, and the more time you spend in the store, the more likely it is you'll buy. Or so the theory goes.
The site for San Francisco-area arts cooperative Nomadic Ground takes this idea to a wonderful extreme by using links to highlight a wide range of different stories—from the etymological origins of "ground" to people behind the cooperative, its mission, and the reporters, poets and other artists funded by its sales of custom-roasted gourmet coffee
4. Highlight diversity in your product line.
Internal links are easier to come by when you can group a wide range of products in sub-categories. Odd Petals, a creative clothier for do-it-yourselfers, achieves this by highlighting not only its own work but also artists who've graduated to selling designs in partnership with the store.
Most products sold by Odd Petals are organized in multiple ways. For example, you could visit the apparel category and find shirts that appeal to you. Or you could browse the page of a particular artist and order the design that suits you best. In each case, internal links allow the site to show the most relevant products for the page you're visiting.
A massive opportunity that keeps getting bigger
Maybe all this link-building sounds like too much work. It doesn't need to be. A few guest blog posts and some savvy social media marketing can supply most of external links you need while a smart references to your own products handles the internals.
And if you're an online retailer, it's never been a more important time to work on your store's search ranking. According to eMarketer, retail eCommerce sales are on track to grow 23.7 percent this year, to $1.915 trillion, and then more than double by 2020.
Small businesses like yours can grab a slice of that growing pie, but only if you put in the time to develop a rich set of entertaining and informative links to your product pages. What are you waiting for?
Interested in learning more about product and eCommerce SEO? Start here.