You’ve got a website. You’ve got an email platform to capture leads and stay in contact with your fans. You’ve got a company blog, vibrant pictures, a bunch of great products – and you’re still not getting ANY website hits.
It’s maddening. There’s nothing worse than pouring a lot of time and energy into creating the perfect, user-friendly ecommerce store and having no sales trickle through it. You can (and probably should) utilize Google AdWords to create sponsored ads that will temporarily remedy this problem, but ad spending can quickly add up, demolishing your budget and still failing to create the steady flow of visitors your store needs to thrive. Bottom line, you need organic traffic if you have any hope of turning a profit through ecommerce.
A heightened focus on link building; the oft-forgotten hero of search engine optimization.
Everyone thinks they know SEO – and to a varying degree, they probably do. SEO is the process of tinkering your website to maximize the potential that it will show up when a given query is searched in Google. For most people, this process begins and ends with stuffing a target keyword incessantly into their product page: “I want my purple throw pillow superstore to show up whenever someone types in the phrase ‘purple throw pillow superstore’, so I’ll include that exact term 1,000,000 times on my website.”
While that process probably would have been enough to boost your page to the top of Google search fifteen years ago, the times have changed, and Google’s algorithms have grown increasingly more sophisticated. “Keyword stuffing” is no longer a viable way to get your site to rank (show up on the first page of search results) on Google. You need to optimize a number of different website elements to have any chance of landing in these sought-after top spots – and one of the most important elements is having a good amount of high-quality backlinks.
Backlinks are exactly what you think they’d be: links from external sources that reference your page. They’re vital to websites for a couple of reasons. Number one, they provide an additional source of traffic to your website. Any website that references your website or a particular page on it is giving you valuable exposure, and the more exposure you have, the more likely your site is to be viewed. Think about it: which city would you expect to be visited more often, one that you can only access by helicopter or one that you can drive, boat, fly, or horseback ride to?
The added exposure provided by backlinks is great, but their real utility lies in what they indirectly tell Google about your site by linking to it: that you are an authoritative, reliable resource in your niche. If other sites constantly cite and reference your website, Google will be more and more inclined to trust you, and to send traffic your way when a term related to your company is searched. Google’s algorithm is explicitly designed to return search results that are likely to result in a positive user experience, and they depend on backlinks to determine which websites are most likely to provide that. If other websites are willing to risk their credibility by citing your content, it stands to reason that the content you’re providing is good – which greatly increases your chances of ranking in Google search.
So how do you get backlinks?
This is where things get a bit tricky. In theory, you should be able to get linked to by having great products and providing helpful, informative content via a company blog. The reality, however, is that links are hard to come by. Bloggers, review sites, and many of the other sources whose references would be invaluable to your website aren’t easy to convince to link to your page. There’s a lot of money to be made by running one of these sites, so unless you have something of value to offer to them, there’s little chance they’ll bend over backwards to help your throw pillow website gain Google traction.
Luckily for you, there are a lot of ways to gain high-quality backlinks; they just require a little work. Guest posting is one method you can pursue, and is easy enough to accomplish: find a blog in your niche that accepts guest posts, write up a quality piece for them, and a link to your page will often be included in the post. Giveaways are another way you can incentivize a blogger to give a shout-out to your newest product. Send them a product to review or a discount code that their readers can use on your website, offering them a commission on each sale that they generate. Writing a high-quality blog on your own website is another way to make yourself “linkworthy.” If you have the time to create unique, compelling content, you can use it to generate backlinks. Reach out to bloggers or other authority sites and tell them about a post you wrote that you thought their audience might enjoy – if it’s interesting and provides value to their website, there’s a good chance you can get a link from them.
There are an incredible number of ways to get people to link to your site, and in the end it doesn’t matter how you get them to, but that you take the initiative to make it happen. If your site is buried in Google even after you took time to SEO-proof it, you probably aren’t getting linked to by enough outside sources to have any hope of ranking. You can see which (if any) websites are linking to you easily by using a link checker tool. If you don’t see 50+ links, you probably need to put in some serious work.
Backlinks can play a crucial role in increasing organic traffic to your website, and absolutely should not be ignored. If you have the time to pursue the strategies outlined above, I highly suggest that you start doing so immediately. If you’re too busy running your business, it’s definitely worth the money to talk with an SEO consultant on how you can build a more robust backlink profile. You need Google to trust your website before it’s going to be willing to send traffic to it, and you’re not going to gain it until you’ve gained the trust of the peers in your niche first.