Link building to eCommerce Category Pages
Link building plays a vital role to your eCommerce store’s online performance. A link building strategy will really be beneficial to your business; in its simplest form, it is a way of getting other websites (relevant ones) to link to yours. These links will enable your eCommerce site to gain authority, relevancy and is a fundamental pillar of SEO.
The main reason marketers hone in on authority is because it will help to increase your website’s visibility online and will enable you to rank for more competitive terms. The more visibility your site has, the more potential customers are viewing your site, which leads to more sales.
I can hear you saying but does this even work? The answer is yes!
For example, let's take a look at the term “electric scooter” and in this case we are looking at the company, Pure Electric (https://www.pureelectric.com/collections/all-electric-scooters). The reason for picking them is because over the last 6 months they have gained quite a few links through proactive link building that has had a massive, positive impact on their rankings. As we can see below, there is a nice gradual gain in ranking though, as normal there are a few fluctuations in the SERPs but these all average out. It is worth noting that this category page was created around the end of March.
What is also interesting about these rankings is that if we look around the times they acquired these links and the direct impact they had on rankings.
Pure Electric gained some fantastic high authority links that directed customers to that specific category page. Both MSN and Wired linked Pure Electric in their best buyers guides.
If we were to now take a guess at the commercial impact of this, we believe it would look something like this:
Traffic to page = 16.2K / Website conversion rate (CR) = 1.0% x Average order value (AOV) = £450 = ~£72,900 turnover per month.
It is worth noting that these number estimates are based on third party data and first hand industry experience.
What are category pages?
Maybe you’re just starting out with your eCommerce store? So let’s explain what category pages are. Category pages group individual web pages together and make it easier for your users to navigate through your site and enable them to narrow their search for a particular product you sell on your online store. It’s crucial to arrange these pages so they streamline user experience and enable them to find what they are looking for as easily as possible.
Users are on your site to find something: a type of product, specific product or information. Make sure they can find it easily by organising your online store, much in the same way that you'd organise a physical store by grouping types of product together. For example, if your customer is looking for a lawnmower on your site, be sure to make it clear that you sell lawnmowers on your category page which can be seen under garden machinery in the image below.
How do they work?
If you want to compete with giants like Amazon, then you will need to give your category pages the attention they deserve and make them a focal point of your link building efforts.
A category page can have many sub-pages arranged in an order, starting with a broad list to then moving into more specific subcategories. The URL for these pages will define their order.
Eg: the parent page will have the URL “onlinestore.com/categories”, then the page will follow with a link to “onlinestore.com/electronics” and then a specific URL “onlinestore.com/electronics/computers”
It is important to create a logical order for these pages to make it easy for your customer to navigate through your website.
There are great benefits to creating category pages on eCommerce stores; they can become high authority pages and help you achieve higher rankings for the terms that you’d like to be found for by customers looking for your product types in search engines. In turn, attracting more relevant traffic from search engines for your products can help increase sales: it’s a win win all round. You just need to figure out what terms to target and how to optimise them - here’s a helpful guide on eCommerce keyword research to help you do just that.
Ways to build links to category pages
Digital PR Campaigns
Running a digital pr campaign to a category page is a great way to build links by leveraging that data and telling stories around it to create a buzz in the media.
Below is an example of a campaign Missguided launched to promote their dog jumpers that they were initially struggling to sell. This was a simple digital PR strategy that required very little budget to execute, all they did was take some photos of owners and their dogs wearing matching jumpers and pushed it to the press. Through this simple strategy Missguided achieved over 30 links that linked back to their dog jumper category page from the likes of Metro, Tyla, People etc. Not only did it achieve fantastic high authority links but this campaign also drove around 80,000 visits to that particular category page where ALL the dog jumpers completely sold out!
The searches for ‘dog jumpers’ jumped ahead of major competitors such as Pets at Home and even Amazon! The searches weren't the only thing that increased, the demand was drastically popular. This also led to more interest and sales with Missguided’s maternity range and lounge wear collections.
As a digital PR specialist, these simple strategies and stories can win you those quick links and of course if it’s a great story, you will be successful in those high authority links!
I know that by now you are probably sick of hearing it, but guest posting can work as a complimentary tactic to a wider link building strategy. If you are considering guest posting you need to ensure that you are writing for the relevant publications as it helps to build trust and as a business you can be seen as an industry authoritative. These are all objectives of a wider complimentary content marketing strategy.
It is crucial to do as much research as possible and look at which sites you want to contribute to. One of the first places you should consider looking for these opportunities if you haven’t already done so are with businesses you already have relationships with. The primary example of this is with your current suppliers and manufactures you buy from. It is also often the case that these sites have the highest relevance and also substantial authority. With a predefined relationship it makes it easier to work an opportunity to get an article live. The added benefit of taking this approach is that when you come later to trying to find further opportunities, you will accrue a portfolio of highly thought of guest posts making your further pitching easier and more successful.
To take action on this create a list of all your suppliers and manufacturers and add them into a spreadsheet that includes their contact information, URL and other relevant information you feel necessary. It is great to check on Ahrefs what their Domain Rating is so you can contact the ones with the highest DRs first.
It is also worth noting that when prioritising your list for outreach is if you contact sites that you haven’t got a link from before first as these will have a bigger impact than a repeating referring domain.
You can scale up your guest posting strategy by using Google to find relevant sites within your sector that are happy to accept guest posts. Simply ask Google! It’s pretty straight forward and this is why; go into Google search and enter a keyword that best describes the products your eCommerce store is selling followed by a phrase these online blogs often use to state they accept guest posts. These include phrases such as:
- Keyword “write for us”
- Keyword “guest post”
- Keyword “submit an article”
You can experiment and play around with the wording but thankfully Google already gives you all the options you are looking for! As you can see from the screenshot below you will be able to find endless opportunities to guest post.
Now it’s time to pitch! It is vital you look at what types of articles they currently have on their site as you can tailor your ideas around that content. A great tip when pitching is by adding in links to previous articles that you have published on other sites as this shows you have expert knowledge and will be seen as an industry leader - I have included a pitch below that has worked like a charm!
Don’t worry about pitching to more than one site as you may not get a response straight away. Once the site has agreed in the article you are able to write the content and be sure to include the relevant links.
Offer great discounts your users cannot refuse
This is a great strategy that will of course entice customers to spend on your online store, bring in new customers and will increase traffic to your site. Black Friday and Boxing Day are the ideal times to offer discounts. The better the deal, the more coverage you’re likely to get if you outreach it to the right people at the right time.
A great example of this is from the cycle brand Evan’s Cycles who regularly offer their customers discount codes that they can’t miss! Discount codes work really well when they are simple and easy to apply in the basket for customers. Not only can you use this within your PR strategy to contact national media publications but also you can work with social media influencers and help them to promote your discount code. You are able to experiment with types of discounts offered to see which one gets the most conversions for your business.
You can see in the screenshot below of how many referring domains were linked to this coupon deal which was linked directly to their mountain bikes category page! They achieved over 70 links from high authority sites such as the Mirror, The Sun, Sports Week and plenty more.
Bait & Switch
This tactic requires you to redirect links from one page to another, this is normally done as building links to a relevant secondary page is easier than to your category page. So say for example, you have created a new blog post for a new product launch, you can easily redirect this page and its links you’ve gained to something else on your site once that campaign is over. With this in mind, the bait & switch tactic is actually well thought out and actively planned during the ideation process and not just a second thought to redirect the page. So you need make sure your digital PR campaign idea is highly relevant to the category page on your eCommerce store so that when you do redirect the page it has the closest relevance possible.
This tactic isn’t always smooth sailing and you won’t get the same results as if you got a direct link to that specific category page. Though, it is a clever tactic to get multiple links generated through a digital PR campaign for your brand.
A recent example of this bait & switch tactic is from AutoTrader; where a few months ago the brand launched a campaign where their customers could buy their own Eau De New Car fragrance. A couple of months down the line, we analysed this campaign and found that the associated page has been redirected to another closely related category page (Brand new car deals) within their site, as you can see below.
They received 200 links in publications from the likes of the Telegraph, Yahoo News, Motoring Research and many other links. We looked into the quality of links to see how many of these links would actually make a difference to AutoTrader’s authority and visibility. AutoTrader has a DR of 80 so in reality only 3% of links that they achieved from this PR campaign were of a higher authority.
Number of links
40 - 59
60 - 79
With these links, they cleverly redirected them to the car deals page around the beginning of August, as you can see in the graph below. Of course, the aim of his tactic was to increase the page’s authority so as to, in turn, increase page visibility and rankings.
So was it really worth running this campaign to gain the 200 links? Well, we dug a little deeper into Ahrefs and SISTRIX to see if this page’s performance has improved. Firstly we looked into the keyword rankings of those redirected pages’ specific rankings. As you can see from the image below, these are the keyword rankings AutoTrader was hoping to improve when redirecting their campaign. As we can see below for the primary “new car deals” and secondary keywords “best new car deals”, “car deals” & “best car deals” etc they were targeting, saw an increase of 1-3 positions. It is worth noting that these terms over the prior months have been fluctuating between these positions too. Furthermore they were able to have a bigger impact on the long tail search which is to be expected.
We then went on to see if this made a difference to the page’s visibility once they had redirected. Organic visibility is based on how well the URL ranks for all of its keywords and here again, in the image below the on page visibility has pretty much stayed the same. It is worth noting that SYSTRIX didn't pick up the ranking of many keywords, especially long tail.
At this point you might be asking if as a campaign has it been successful enough. With the amount of coverage would we expect to see a bigger increase in visibility and should even see this reflected in higher keyword rankings?
It is now worth looking at AutoTrader’s competitors in comparison for the primary keyword they were targeting “New car deals”. The screenshot below shows where that page sits in Google's SERPs and its competitors above it. What a car, in position two has ~10% more links and CarWow has ~20% links in position one. This just shows how competitive the space is and the volume of referring domains needed to compete in those top few positions.
I think it is safe to say now that it would have been too much to ask for a bigger performance jump than what actually happened from reviewing this data now.
So as a PR campaign, yes this worked wonders as it pretty much went viral with its 200 links because that is basically what digital PR is all about, achieving links! But, using this tactic of redirecting to a category page; we feel as if it hasn't done as well as it could have done in terms of keyword ranking and visibility. So we then looked into the quality of links, over 90% of the links for that campaign had a lower domain rating than the AutoTrader site itself which can lead to them not being as effective as you’d expect. Another reason is that a redirect doesn’t pass over all of the authority from links, approximately 95% of them. This strategy would have had a bigger impact on these metrics if there was a direct link to that specific page. This tactic, as mentioned above can be hit and miss so it’s all about taking the risk and seeing what results you get.
Bonus quick note
If your products are no longer available on your site, you have multiple options to avoid losing any links that you may have earned through hard work - it’d be a pity!
If you are categorically never going to be selling that product again, you have two options. If the page still gets a lot of traffic, you may want to keep it up (and thus keep the link where it is), but make sure to say that the product is unavailable and link it to some very relevant alternative products that a person would be likely to want to buy instead. If, instead, you’re never going to sell the product again and the page doesn’t get any traffic anyway, ask your developers to implement a 301 redirect from that page to the relevant category page (this means that the vast majority of the authority gained from that link is not lost, it’s sent to the category page instead.
If you’re not selling your product because it’s temporarily out of stock - keep the page (and thus the link) but make sure to say that the product is temporarily unavailable, when it is likely to be available again (adding a “sign up for a notification when this is back in stock” type button is quite handy too), and make sure to point to relevant alternative products.
Building links to category pages requires a lot of time and dedication. There are so many ways that you can build links to your eCommerce store that you can add to your marketing strategy. Just remember that what works for another eCommerce store won’t necessarily work for you. Link building is about trial and error; some strategies may work great but others may flop! It’s important to keep persevering and not get discouraged, as when it works you will get great results.