How To Linkbait E-commerce Stores: 15 Tips For Success!

Linkbait HookI’ve seen all manner of overtly commercial sites trying their luck with linkbait, only for it to flop. You see, linkbaiting your e-commerce store is a difficult thing to do and unless you have built your brand from the ground up to infiltrate integrate on social media sites, successful linkbait and the bounty of oneway goodies it affords may continue to be nothing more than a dream.

I suppose in one way it is our own fault for perpetuating this fallacy of marketing. Reading through the plethora of posts about linkbait makes this particular technique seem like some crazy next-generational solution to marketing any site. The reality is, however, very different. You’ve got to work incredibly hard to make linkbait on a commercial store work and be prepared to sustain your efforts even though many of your baits get no traction and go precisely nowhere.

There’s little doubt in my mind that Digg et al have moderators and systems in place to identify commercially motivated linkbait, and even if they don’t, the community itself definitely doesn’t want to see our ‘spam’. The good old days of pushing ’10 Cooking Tips From Holywood’s Hottest Celebs’ to help promote some recipe book store are long gone.

Don’t get me wrong: linkbait is here to stay, but we must progress. The broader SEO community may have only recently caught on and crowned linkbait as the white-hatted linkbuilding prince, but we’re only getting started down the road of punchy titles, angles and hooks compared to our friends in the traditional mainstream media.

So if you are responsible for marketing an e-commerce store and want to try linkbait, be prepared to work harder than you have before to create unique, interesting, timely and resourceful content that real people actually care about and want to read.

Here at Setfire Media we specialise in building online stores. So as ‘Head of Search’ I’ve been in the trenches for long enough to hone the process of linkbaiting an e-commerce store and can say with surety that there are things you can do to help improve your success rate on social media sites – a checklist if you will.

Here are a few things I’ve learned that you can apply and hopefully find more success.

Preparing Your Online Store For Linkbait

Whether you are linkbaiting a blog or online store, the key is to always keep the target demographic in mind from the start. There’s a world of difference between linkbaiting an informational blog and a commercial site that sells a product: what works on a popular blog will probably fail on your store. Don’t forget that because it will give some context to your linkbait strategy.

1. Setup A Blog Where You Can Place Linkbait

The first step in improving your chances at scoring a front page is to setup somewhere to place your linkbait. One tactic used by many stores is to simply create a plain page with no company styling so that it appears some user found a ‘hidden secret’. This is something I wouldn’t recommend doing for various reasons, but primarily because linkbait shouldn’t be looked at as something you do only once. It sounds seriously simple, and it is. Just do it.

2. Choosing Where Your Blog Is Located

This point is particularly relevant to Digg. You’ll notice under a story headline that the domain is listed, but there’s only enough space for about 30 characters. Let’s say you have an online store called ‘cheapbrandxyz.com’ and you want to linkbait it. Where you choose to locate your blog will have an affect on how successful you are. Why? It’s all in the domain. Diggers don’t like anything commercial in nature, least of all some store trying to get onto the front page.

By locating your blog at ‘cheapbrandxyz.com/blog’ you expose more of your ‘not supposed to be on Digg’ domain, which means there is more chance of being buried. Place your blog in a subdirectory and give it a longer name like ‘dailymusings.cheapbrandxyz.com’ and much of your domain will be cut off, improving your chances of not getting buried.

3. Brand Your Blog

It is essential that you brand your blog to fit the demographic. I would personally recommend you choose a different name for it with a tagline that has a strong personality. Remember who your target audience is and let that dictate your branding.

4. Avoid Integration With Your E-commerce Site

Let me just clarify that statement a bit. I’m assuming that your e-commerce site will have the typical 3-coloumn setup, company logo, links to checkout, a toll-free phone number placed in the header and links to products in the navigation etc. If you want your linkbait to get traction, especially on Digg, then this has got to go. The idea is to make your blog appear distinct from the rest of your store, a repository of useful and interesting content tailored to a specific demographic.

5. Cloaking To Visitors From Social Media Sites

In some cases it may not be possible to change the default theme for your blog: perhaps the company’s board of directors would rather have the same layout across the site to reinforce branding. If you are in this situation, you do have an option.

Cloak to visitors from a set list of referrers (digg.com, delicious.com, propeller.com, buzz.stumbleupon.com / www.stumbleupon.com, reddit.com etc.) and show them a less commercial layout to appease their anti-establishment worldview. It’s slightly grey hat, but it does get around this particular issue.

6. Consider Who You Link To

There’s very little doubt that one of the most overlooked elements in modern SEO is the outbound link. Simply put, you can use the outbound link to associate your site with others in your niche who have more authority than you such as topical magazines and forums. It is, however, important to analyse who you are linking out to: it could be a big mistake linking to a competitor, a site in your competitor’s network or even a site that regularly links out a competitor.

7. To Nofollow, Or Not?

It may be attractive, at first, to nofollow any outbound link from your linkbaits, but upon closer inspection I don’t think the argument stands up. Nofollowing your outbound links will stop you from placing your site in a neighbourhood of authorities. Linking to a relevant industry-specific wiki or blog will help you.

8. Setup A Separate Analytics Profile

I can’t emphasise enough how important it is to do this from the start. When you run an e-commerce store you will rely heavily on tracking conversion rates, per visit values and bounce rates etc. This data is essential to your business and contaminating it with 100,000 visitors from Digg or some other social media site is going to radically, and negatively, skew your data.

The problem is further compounded should you be running any PPC campaigns or email marketing where you need good data to see how effective your marketing initiatives have been. Do the easy thing and protect your data from the beginning by splitting out tracking between your store and your blog.

9. Avoid Sidebar Links To Your Products

I’m of the opinion that links from a sidebar don’t count anywhere near as much as those from within relevant content. If you are linking to products in your catalog try and do so from within the main body of content in your linkbait where it is surrounded by relevant text. Linking internally in this manner means you can pass on juice to products, brand pages and categories that need it most.

Creating Relevant Topical Linkbait

When linkbaiting a commercial site you’ve got to be relevant and present your content as best as you can. You’ll see small blogs getting to the front page with poor grammar, atrocious design and a terrible headline. Let me dispel any hope you may have that a quickly thrown together linkbait will cut it on your store: it will not.

It is possible to linkbait a store, but there are some basics you need to apply first.

10. Keep It Timely

One of the most effective ways to successfully linkbait a commercial site is to tie in with current events. For example, if you have a site selling car parts, then create a bait with an angle that ties in with climate change and the broader green movement.

Another way to stay current is to keep an eye on the latest internet memes, circular emails and acronyms: I’m thinking of Digg’s recent viral adoption of ‘FTW’ in this instance. Adopting the language of your intended audience, particularly in your headline, really does help. A word of warning though: be selective because many of these fleeting internet phenomena are complete and utter trash aimed at a demographic completely different to that of a predominantly male social media site.

11. Relevancy Is Key

You’ll often see sites like Wired on the front pages of social media sites covering issues as diverse as the latest Apple rumours to the race to dig the deepest hole on Earth during the Cold War. This is fine for news outlets, where offbeat news can intermingle with commentary on current events, but not for a site selling a niche selection of products.

There is an argument that in the past irrelevant linkbait was beneficial, based on the assumption that if it went viral you still got lots of links from authority sites. I personally do not believe this to be true now: if you do push irrelevant linkbait on your e-commerce store you actually risk doing more damage than good by altering the theme of your site through links with completely unrelated anchor text from non-relevant sites outside your niche.

12. Regurgitating News Is Not A Valid Strategy

Don’t even allow yourself to get tempted into regurgitating news in the hope that it will get links: it simply will not happen. When discussing news and current affairs people tend to link to mainstream media and high profile blogs, not mom and pop’s store. Unless you are actually a very well known brand, forget about it.

13. Use Multiple Hooks

Old school linkbait might use just one hook, which may or may not be enough. I tend to apply a combination of hooks to initially grab attention, appeal to the reader and then draw them in. Combining the attack hook with the news hook can form the basis of an extremely viral linkbait, but its lifespan tends to be short because the focus of current affairs coverage always moves on.

Creating a linkbait with a view to the long term may mean that it gets off to a slow burn start, but its evergreen nature means it will attract links for much longer. As you can see below, combining the green hook with fear is particularly effective.

14. Differentiate Your Linkbait

Before you start writing up a bait, have a look to see what has already been tried. In an ideal world every linkbait will break new ground but, in fairness, there’s very little that hasn’t been done before. It’s a good idea to find out what has been attempted previously and didn’t quite make it. Even if your idea didn’t work for someone else, it may be worth doing again, only better! A word of warning: don’t try and repeat too soon.

15. Avoid Aggressive Linking To Your Products

The whole idea of linkbait is to help your store rank higher, but to get the more benefit you need to avoid temptation to drop too many obvious links to products. One easy way round this problem is to strip out any internal links while you are pushing the bait, then add them back in after you’ve finished and hopefull for a few good links.

Be Persistent!

There’s very few people who’ll tell you that linkbaiting an online store is easy, but as you can see below, it is possible!

Yahoo FP

Would you like to get more quality backlinks to your online store? Get in touch today for a free consultation!

10 comments ↓

#1 James Paden on 09.12.08 at 4:42 pm

Any good examples of e-commerce link bait?

#2 Colin on 09.13.08 at 8:47 am

Excellent article. SEO for commercial sites is getting increasingly challenging.

I noticed you’re using a lot of your tips on this site and I agree it worked. I didn’t even realize I was on a design firms website until the hook in your last paragraph. lol

#3 E-commerce Linkbait on 09.13.08 at 4:25 pm

[…] в сайтове за електронна търговия How To Linkbait E-commerce Stores: 15 Tips For Success! | The Matchbox E-commerce SolutionsCompanies have three main options to choose from when it comes to implementing […]

#4 Sherman Rausch on 09.14.08 at 4:31 pm

This info may come in very useful as I plan on developing an e-commerce store in the very near future.
Thanks great stuff
Sherman.

#5 Stuff To Do on 09.15.08 at 9:27 am

I found point 2 quite interesting. It makes sense to put your blog on a subdomain from the point of view of Diggers Digging your content. However, I think you would probably benefit more from having your blog in a subdirectory so any link love lifts the authority of your domain rather than the subdomain.

#6 Twitter Tweets about LinkBait as of September 15, 2008 : The Lessnau Lounge on 09.15.08 at 12:58 pm

[…] 2008-09-12 16:22:14 · Reply · View patrickaltoft: How to do Ecommerce linkbait: http://www.setfiremedia.com/blog/15-useful-tips-for-linkbaiting-e-commerce-stores 2008-09-12 14:44:12 · Reply · View TwitterDoodle by The Lessnau […]

#7 Internet Marketing Watch 16 September 2008 : Affiliate Dragon on 12.08.08 at 11:44 pm

[…] Andy Boyd looks at wasy you can successfully linkbait an ecommerce website. [Set Fire Media] […]

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