Link Building for Retailers: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

Jason Hulott
by Jason Hulott 22 Nov, 2013


What's link building for? If you just say SEO, you could be missing out on a huge amount of potential traffic and business. You need to think beyond simply getting links for Google. You need to get links for your business that will drive traffic. And maximizing any online activity will be of vital importance to retailers. But we'll get to that. Let's first look at what we mean by links, and what types of links you should be building for your business.


Types of Links


Image links, text links, keyword links, social links ... these are just some of the different types of links you will be told to build to boost your search engine rankings. After all, links are one of the cornerstones of SEO. While this is true, they should come with several large warning labels!


Firstly, it's not all about keyword links. Keyword anchor text has been the defacto way link builders have tried to optimize websites for a while, and it hasn't gone unnoticed. In fact it is so noticed, that Google had to release a penguin, panda and hummingbird* to help stop sites and webmasters trying to game results. *Please note these were names of software updates not actual animals!


If you are still using keyword rich anchor text to drive links - you are on a road to nowhere, so stop driving! Yes, a small number of keyword rich links can help, but these need to be a minority of links, not as the old days, a majority. In order to rectify this you need to create a more natural looking link building strategy.




In an ideal world you wouldn't have to link build as everyone will want to link to you as you are the best thing since sliced bread. Sadly this is not the case, so we have to manufacture a linking strategy that looks natural. Yes, it is a bit of a paradox but there it is. 


So how on earth do we do that? Well we use various strategies to help us.


Link building techniques


There are a large number of linking techniques available to retailers, in fact if you have your own products, you maybe be at an advantage. There are a large number of books on the subject of link building. If you buy one make sure it is has been written this year. 


Or you could hire an agency. That said, it never hurts to understand what types of links they will be building for you. As the article is called The Good, The Bad & The Ugly we have given you a few suggestions and warnings.


The Good


Good quality and relevant content posted on other relevant and related sites. Yes you could call it guest posting but this is more than simply getting a post on another site. You want links from relevant sites, on relevant content. These links could be branded links, links to internal pages of the site or straight url links.  


The key is to make sure you look for quality sites.  


You could rely on Pagerank or Site PR to decide quality for you but that's not really the idea. Do what Google manual checkers do - look at the site - do you really want a link from this site? Do you want to promote your brand on this site? That is what you are doing ...So let's give you some different criteria that might make more sense.

  • Is the site ranking in Google?
  • Do they have an active Blog?
  • Do they have an engaged community on Facebook, Twitter or Google+?
  • Does the site look like it is updated often?
  • Will this site give me more benefits than just a link? For example, could they send me relevant customers

In essence does it look like a happening place? If "yes" then go for it. If "no" then move on. Never compromise on quality.


What else can we use? As a retailer you can engage with bloggers, especially good if you have your own product range. Give out some sample pieces, run a competition or giveaway, ask for product reviews. All of these are good natural ways to drive links and interest in your brand or website.


Have something worth linking to. Obvious I know but some people forget this. Having some unique tool or content on your site that is useful to users can be then shared out to bloggers, relevant industry sites and if it is good enough, people will link to it. That's natural at its best!


The Bad


There are a number of bad techniques, mainly focused around low quality and non relevance. This is the realm of the lazy person. Don't do it. If you don't have the time, employ someone who does and who will do it in the right way. Getting content posted on low-quality sites whose sole aim is to sell you a guest post placement is not obtaining quality links. Neither is getting links from totally non-relevant sites, or 500 poor-quality directory links.


The Ugly


Anything machine-generated is bad, bad news. I was once talking to someone about link building and some of the auto tools that could churn out hundreds of spun articles and get them published all over the Web (Yes, I did try some experiments). We both agreed that the one thing none of these tools had was an undo button. So when everything went to the dogs (digital, of course) what happens then? People are finding out now, trying to get banned sites back in to Google. 


If you take nothing else away from this article - avoid machine volume based linking strategies - please.

If a link is easy to get, you don't want it. Use a wide range of techniques to build links over time. Link building is not a one hit wonder, you want to allocate a portion of time or budget to build good-quality inbound links to your site. Attract links to your site with great content, don't be afraid to outreach people who you want to link to you - just do it in the right way. Don't worry about volume. Volume is not a key indicator success.