E-commerce BusinessPeople who run e-commerce sites – sites that are focused on making sales of a product – have a history of great difficulty when it comes to search engine optimization. We are told to build links to improve search engine rankings, yet why would a person link to a site that is essentially a glorified shopping cart?

One of the most common ways that e-commerce store owners have gone about an SEO campaign is to add a content component to their site, hoping to attract links for the content, which in turn will raise the overall ranking of the entire domain. Unfortunately this tactic tends to impact the ability of the e-commerce site to do what it is meant to do – make sales – because the addition of content creates a “mixed message”, confusing visitors and reducing conversion.

Search engine traffic can be the difference between success and failure for many e-commerce sites, and since it’s free traffic, there isn’t a single store owner out there who wouldn’t want to capture top rankings. Many millionaires are created because of their ability to optimize for product related search terms in Google, Yahoo and MSN, so what is the secret to their success?

In this article I’m going to demonstrate one technique, a fairly extensive technique – a secret weapon – that search engine optimizers use to help one main site dominate rankings for both top level keywords and long tail phrases. This is powerful stuff, so if you own an e-commerce store or any website that you want to rank number one for a specific term, it’s time to pay attention!

Note I can’t take full credit for the ideas in this article. Most of what I am about to present to you comes from education I’ve gained from expert sources, such as the team at StomperNet, who have an automated system for their members to work together to implement what I am about to teach you, and also various presentations I’ve watched on DVD and in articles I’ve read at blogs, websites and in ebooks.

This is my interpretation, simplification and summarizing of what other people are currently teaching and implementing online today to raise their search engine rankings. This is cutting edge stuff – you won’t find too many people revealing techniques like this because they don’t want their competitors taking advantage. I hope no one comes after me after revealing this to you πŸ˜‰ .

Prior Study

Before this article is going to make sense to you, you need at least a rudimentary understanding of search engine optimization (SEO). I suggest if you have not read my two part series on the The Top 8 Search Engine Optimization Techniques you go do so now. The articles will introduce you to some basic SEO principles, including a discussion of on-page SEO (internal elements of your website) and off-page SEO (external elements – other websites).

Off-page SEO is generally considered more difficult because you have to manipulate elements that other people control. It centers around your ability to generate links pointing to your site and this article specifically deals with how e-commerce sites can build high quality incoming links to raise rankings.

Related Categories

One of the key determinants of high search engine rankings is not just the number and quality of the links pointing to your site, but also the theme – the neighborhood that these sites live in. When talking neighborhoods online it’s all about categorization and niches. Your ideal outcome is to have sites that are relatively well ranked in related categories link to your e-commerce site, but as stated previously, there are not many enticements for a person who owns a niche content site to link an e-commerce site unless they are financial (paid links and affiliate programs).

If SEO is to work, links should be natural. It’s well known Google frowns upon links purchased purely for SEO sake and in most cases affiliate links do not pass on pagerank because of the structure of the links (although some affiliate programs have figured out ways around this).

Your goal if you want to push your e-commerce site up in the rankings, is to obtain links from sites in your neighborhood using organic methods.

Build Your Neighborhood

Advanced search engine optimizers conduct a process known as clustering to attract neighborhood links. To put it simply, clustering is a process were you own the neighborhood, but the search engines don’t realize it.

To establish a cluster you first have to build category-specific content sites, each existing independently and “owned” by an entity not related to your e-commerce site. There can’t be any public linkage between your e-commerce site and the niche content sites. That means all public information – domain records, company records – anything that a search engine could get a hold of and then realize that your e-commerce is related to the niche site, thus reducing the SEO value of links between the sites.

Here’s an example. If your e-commerce site sells gym equipment, then you could build a series of niche sites focused on topics like how to build muscle, dieting, strength training, athletics, sports, competitive weight lifting and other similar sites. You can branch out into niches that are not quite as specific as my examples, as what is considered in your neighborhood is quite broad. Topics such as male hair loss, dating, gay communities and other demographically related niches work too, as long as the theme is generally congruent.

Remember, this is not specifically about attracting traffic to your e-commerce site from the niche sites. While click-through traffic from your niche site neighborhood is certainly an added advantage, your goal here is to build up quality niche sites and use these to send links to your e-commerce site.

One Way Links

It’s critical to note the importance of one way links. Reciprocal linking has long been a beginner SEO technique, but frankly it doesn’t work, especially if your end goal is to dominate top level keyword phrases. If you want to rank highly you have to attract one way links from authoritative content sites and that’s exactly what this technique is all about.

If you can’t convince others content sites to link to your e-commerce site then you have to create content sites yourself and send links from these sites to your e-commerce site.

Step One: Build Independent Content Sites

Here’s how step one of this process should look like:

SEO Using A Content Site Neighborhood To Boost Rankings of an E-Commerce Site
Clearly this is not a task that can be accomplished in a matter of days or even weeks. You can outsource the creation of your sites and the content for the sites and then upload them to the web, but that is only half the equation. Next you have to build the niche sites into authority sites by attracting links to each niche site (yes there is a lot of link building in this method!).

Step Two: Market Your Niche Sites

The next step in the process is to go to work using all the usual tools of the trade to build links to your niche sites. Since each site is built on a niche content model, it should be easier to attract links. People link to content, not products in a shopping cart (well in most cases anyway), hence this is why you go to all the trouble of building completely independent content sites.

Given today’s social media dominated world, I would recommend using blogs for the niche content sites, build them up over time and then use them as the linking power source for your e-commerce site.

To build links to your niche sites you can use some or all of the following techniques, and this is far from a comprehensive list of options:

  • Article marketing
  • Social bookmarking (digg, propeller, reddit, del.icio.us, etc)
  • Social networking (facebook, linkedin, myspace, squidoo, etc)
  • Blog posts and comments
  • Content seeding
  • Forum posts
  • Video marketing
  • Podcasting
  • Publicity

And all the usual linkbait techniques out there. Some techniques are easy and can be automated, some take more time but bring in higher quality links.

In my opinion if you are in a hurry or you are very busy, I’d complete this process using one, or a combination of, these three methods:

1. Hire a professional blogger to handle each niche site and have them build up the site over time using as many of the techniques he or she is capable of implementing. This can be a costly option, but you only have to deal with one person per niche site.

2. Purchase sites outright that already have authority – By far the quickest method and there are hundreds of bargains out there, so it’s probably the cheapest method too, especially because you are buying sites for links and not revenue. See these articles for advice on buying websites –

3. Outtask to individuals to perform each marketing technique – This method is more specialized as you have one person, usually a freelancer in a country were the cost of labor is cheaper, perform each task. You hire someone to write articles, one person to do article marketing, another to post in forums, etc. There are also outsourcing companies that will perform these roles for you for a fee.

It all depends what systems you are prepared to work with and how much time you want to spend managing everything. If your e-commerce site is significant in scope and a few number one rankings would mean hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars in sales, then hiring a person to oversee the development of your cluster network is a smart idea.

Here’s how the structure takes shape after you implement step two (note the circles represent only a small sample of the link building techniques you should apply):

SEO Using A Content Site Neighborhood and Link Building Techniques To Create A Cluster Network

Build A Massive Neighborhood

Now you have the basic structure of the cluster neighborhood method for optimizing a website. The next step is to go work and replicate this process many hundred or even thousand times over. If you want to dominate the search engines in a competitive industry – and most product categories are very competitive and will become more competitive over time – then your cluster network of sites must be extensive.

If your e-commerce site has many thousands of one way links from niche content sites perceived by search engines to be sites of quality, then it will be hard for the competition to beat you. Top level keyword phrases can bring to your e-commerce site thousands of daily visitors and despite the obvious work involved in establishing so many niche sites, the benefits are obvious.

Remember too that this is not a technically challenging venture, you simply need content and marketing. Automated processes can be set up to implement content creation and marketing for you and if you manage a serious online business, this is a process that you should expect will become mandatory for success online.

Opportunities For Entrepreneurs

The techniques in this article represent an opportunity for any budding entrepreneur who would like to help e-commerce businesses conduct SEO. Every step of the cluster site building process could be completed by an outsourcing service or business.

You can build niche sites for companies and/or conduct online marketing for the niche sites, delivering a comprehensive search engine optimization service. Combine niche-site creation with savvy link baiting methods and you have the formula for an industry leading search marketing firm – of course, that’s easier said than done!

One thing is clear, simply attracting links to one site may not be enough in the future if you want to dominate search results. Companies will go to work building huge networks of content sites that exist purely as anchors to help raise the profile of a few key income generating sites.

This does represent a fantastic opportunity for people who own niche sites as they may become the target of buyouts regardless of whether their sites are profitable or even revenue producing.

That is good news for all you niche bloggers out there – even if you don’t make big money today, you might pocket some nice cash when a company comes knocking at your door to buy your site just for the links and authority you have, further cementing the small business reality I discussed in one of my very early blog articles – You may never make real money until you sell your business!

Search Engine Student