Ecommerce SEO: The Complete How-To

Who is This Guide For?

This guide is all about SEO – I’ve tried to take everything
that you and I – as online store owners – need to know about
SEO and present it here in a simple, easy-to-understand format.

I’ve also tried to make the guide as actionable as possible, so
you can start applying what you learn right away.

SEO can seem daunting – but it shouldn’t be. It’s more like a
regular process, and should be regarded as part of your
business, not something you do on the side.

If you are already well-versed in SEO you may find this
guide a refresher, and if you would like to learn more
about SEO, then this is what you have been waiting for all your
life;)

What is SEO and Why
do I Need It?

A foundational part of any
ecommerce marketing strategy should be Search Engine
Optimization, or SEO. By doing SEO, you can be found by your
potential customers from search engines like Google, Yahoo, and
Bing. Your website would show up in the search results when
people search for things that you sell or provide information
about.

What is SEO, then, you might ask?

SEO is the sum total of all the activities and
techniques that help position your website in such a way that
it ranks high in search engines.

SEO is crucial because it is free, qualified traffic
coming to your website. You don’t need to pay to be found
in Google. You just have to provide helpful, valuable,
and relevant content that answers the questions that
people are asking.

A lot of ecommerce stores are completely killing it when it
comes to SEO – in fact, they are so well-positioned that they
don’t do any other form of inbound
marketing except SEO  – they get tens if not
hundreds of thousands of buying customers coming to their
ecommerce store through search engines – and the best part
about it is that it is all FREE TRAFFIC!

FREE?!

Well, not exactly. While the traffic itself is free, you have
to invest a lot of time and sometimes money before your online
store has enough value and content that search engines rank it
high for certain terms.

The time and financial investment that you will put in to your
SEO efforts will be of three types:

Keyword research

On-page SEO

Off-page SEO

Keywords are word or phrases that people
type in the search box on Google. Keywords are the foundation
of search engine optimization, and they are the first step in
finding out whether or not people are actually looking for your
product or information to start with! There is no SEO without
keyword research.

Luckily for us, there are many ways to find out keywords and to
see whether they are in demand or not, and we will get into
that in the first section.

On-page SEO is the content and information
that you place on your website itself. What the page’s title
is, what the headings are, how long the content is, how
valuable the content is, and whether or not it is about what
people are looking for.

On-page SEO is also about how you link one page to another on
your website itself. The pages you optimize include your home
page, category pages, product pages, information pages, and
blog posts.

Off-page SEO is largely the links that your
content earns or the links that you build(or other people
create) to your content. A link you earn is where someone links
to you because they found your content and they liked it.

A link you build is where you either ask someone to place a
link to your site from theirs, or you write an article or a
blog post for another website and link to your website from it.

These are only two of
many ways to build links to your store, but on the whole,
off-page SEO is how you network and build awareness for your
store elsewhere on the internet.

This guide focuses on SEO specifically for eCommerce stores.
For more information on general SEO, here are some useful
resources you can check out:

The MOZ
beginners guide to SEO – this is THE guide and bible of SEO
from A to Z

Search
Engine Land’s guide: What Is SEO? – is an excellent resource
covering everything about SEO

It’s also important to make sure your shopping cart
software(i.e. your website) is easy-to-use for SEO. For a
really awesome comparison of the different shopping carts and
how they stack up against each other in terms of SEO, check out this post.

In this guide, we’ll cover those three things: keyword
research, on-page SEO, and off-page SEO – angled specifically
at ecommerce stores. But before we get into that, though…

Some Key Terms You
Need to Know

Traffic that comes to your website by being found in search
engine results is called organic traffic. Other
was to drive traffic are advertising, which is
called paid traffic, or by having other
websites link to you and people finding you by clicking on
those links, which is called referral traffic. If
people come to your site by directly typing in the address, it
is called direct traffic. If someone comes to
your site from social media networks, it is called
social traffic.

Generally, your traffic should be a healthy mix of organic,
referral, and direct traffic. If you do paid advertising, then
there will be some paid traffic in the mix as well.

Authority is how valuable your site is perceived to be
on a particular subject. Moz, for example, is considered an
authority site on SEO. Anything they publish related to SEO and
marketing gets a boost from being on their domain, and gets an
instant boost in the search engine rankings. Your goal
with SEO should be to build authority for your
ecommerce store.

A link is a bit of code on a website that makes
certain text or images clickable – when you click on it, you
“jump” from that page to the page that the code points to. It’s
called a “link” because it joins one page to another.

Indexing is the process through which search engines
visit your website, see what’s in it, and add it to their
index, or database. Then, according to their algorithm, they
will show whichever sites from their index they feel are most
relevant to that particular search query.

Three Kinds of SEO

Broadly speaking, SEO is of three types: white-hat,
grey-hat, and black-hat.

White-Hat SEO is fully legitimate SEO,
following Google’s rules and suggestions(mostly) to the letter.
This is the proper way to get your site
ranked, and it requires lots of hard work, networking, and
relationship-building. This is what you should use to build
businesses, as you will be safe in the long run.

Grey-Hat SEO is a mix between following
the rules and bending them. You can take some shortcuts here
and there, and this will be a mix of legit SEO and shady stuff.
You shouldn’t rely only on grey-hat SEO for a
business, but it can be used to add a little jolt when other
things are dry.

Black-Hat SEO is the SEO underworld.
Here, you use software to spin hundreds of versions of the same
article, blast those to automated websites, create 1000s of
social links on automated accounts, and the works. This is for
getting sites to rank quickly – but they will get removed from
Google’s index just as quickly, too. So these are
churn-and-burn sites – not a good way to rank a
long-lasting business.

Everything I cover here is white-hat SEO, with a little bit of
grey-hat mixed in.

A Quick
Note on How Search Engines Think

Whether or not a particular page ranks for a certain keyword
depends on two factors – the authority of
the domain and the authority of the page itself.
So a page on Amazon.com has a lot of weight because it has
Amazon’s authority backing it, but if the page itself
does not have any authority, it can be outranked with some
work.

Also, SEO is a long-term game. You can’t expect to have
rankings within a week. If you have a brand new website, expect
at least 3 to 6 months before you start seeing some significant
search traffic – it’s just how much time this process requires.

SEO is a continuous process. It’s not something that’s done and
left be. If you become complacent, someone else will be waiting
to outrank you.

Of course, once you get big enough, you’ll start earning links
and such naturally, so things will get easier – but until then,
most of it is a very manual process.

Now that we have all of the basics out of the way, we can move
on to Part 1: Keyword Research!

Part 1: Keyword
Research

Head
Keywords, Long Tail Keywords, and Variants

Keywords are of three types: head
keywords, long tail
keywords, and variants.

Head keywords are single word or two word
queries that have lots of search volume(many people are
searching for that word), like “car,” “laptop,” or “iphone.” To
the untrained eye, these keywords might be the goldmines worth
ranking for, since they get hundreds of thousands, if not
millions of searches per month.

The problem with these keywords is that they
are insanely competitive. There are millions of
websites competing for the same keyword, and the websites
ranking on the home page are giant,  authoritative
websites.

A search for “cars” brings up websites like Cars.com,
Wikipedia, Disney(the movie), IMDb, CNET, and Amazon.com. Each
of these websites has HUGE authority, and so attempting to
outrank them would be like an ant trying to take on an elephant
in a fight.

Next up comes two to three word keywords. These are still
competitive, but not as competitive as one word
queries. In fact, if you do your research properly, you might
come across a keyword that you can actually rank for with some
solid, consistent SEO. These are the kinds of keywords that you
want to build your store around – some people also like to
refer to this keyword as a niche.

For more information about niches, check out my 15 point guide on niche selection.

You can also check out this excellent post on A Better Lemonade Stand, as well as on
EcommerceFuel.

Two to three word keyword phrases are like “atomic clocks,”
“portable solar panels,” or “backup mobile batteries.” These
are a little easier to rank for, and their search volumes are
usually in the thousands.

Finally, you have keywords that are longer – phrases and
questions. These keywords get searched for very few times a
month, but are a lot less competitive. This is where your
products and informational pages(resources and blog posts) fall
in. If you have 100 products, with each product keyword getting
100 searches per month, that’s 10,000 potential customers right
there.

The same thing would apply to blog posts – and this is where
you can really shine.

Finally, there are variant keywords, the new and unique
searches that Google picks up every day. You have no control
over these, but as long as your keyword research was solid for
the keywords that Google has in their database, you
will(should) show up for related and variant keywords too.

Brainstorming
for Keywords and Getting Traffic Estimates

Brainstorming for keywords is pretty simple. There are two ways
to about it.

The first way is to just sit with a blank document and think
about what your potential customer would type into Google
to find what you are selling, and make a list of those words.
You can also use a mind map or a word cloud if that helps you
think more clearly.

I also like to use Word Associations to see words related
to my main keyword, as well as Google
Correlate, which shows you what things Google thinks are
related to your keywords.

Once you’ve come up with this basic list of keywords off the
top of your head, it’s off to your favorite keyword research
tool to help you validate that data.

My two keyword research tools of choice are the Google Keyword Planner(free) and Long Tail Pro(Paid, $97).

To use the Google Keyword Planner, you’re going to have to set
up an Adwords account using your Google account – it’s free.

Under “Find New Keywords”, click on “Search for new keywords
using a phrase, website, or category”

In the box below, enter your main keyword(don’t enter a long
tail keyword just yet), and change any settings below – you
want to make sure you are targeting the correct country, and
under “Keyword Options”, try searching once with “Broadly
related keyword ideas” and once with “Only show ideas closely
related to my search terms.”

Then click “Get Ideas” and you’ll be taken to a page where
Google shows you a whole lot of keywords which it feels is
related to yours.

Before you start going through the keywords, make sure the
“Keyword Ideas” tab is selected, and not “Ad Group
ideas”.

In the “Keyword Ideas” tab, you’ll see a table with a handful
of columns. The first column is the actual keyword itself, and
the next column is “Average Monthly Searches”, which is self
explanatory.

In my experience, I’ve seen that Google tends to lowball this
number a little bit – the actual numbers vary in how much more
they are than what Google shows.

Note that these keywords are the exact
keywords that are being used – so if “folding chairs”
gets 33,000 searches a month, that’s for the exact query
“folding chairs”, nothing else.

The next columns are “Competition” and “Suggested bid”. This
competition is not SEO competition – it
is how many people are advertising for that keyword – so even
if you see something that says high competition, don’t get
disheartened – it’s not for SEO. “Suggested bid” is also for
advertising – it’s what Google recommends you be willing to pay
for one click.

The Google Keyword Planner is a great tool, but it’s rather
clunky and slow, and it’s difficult to process large numbers of
keywords at once. That’s why I prefer using Long Tail Pro – it’s an investment, but it’s worth
it.

Here’s a video tutorial I’ve recorded on how to search for
keywords(fast) with it:

There’s also another really neat trick that Brian Dean has come
up with – and that’s to enter your competitor’s website in the
Google Keyword Planner where it says “Your website” – this way
Google will show you a whole bunch of newer ideas that it
thinks your competitors should be going after,
but aren’t!.

If you’ve already got a website that you’ve submitted to
Google Webmaster Tools, you can go to the “Search
Analytics” tab and you’ll see a whole list of keywords that you
currently show up for – look for keywords you are ranking for,
but don’t necessarily have content focused around(and so aren’t
getting that many clicks), and build content for those
keywords.

Compiling
Your Keywords and Prioritizing

You probably won’t find all of your keywords in one go – try
with a handful of different keywords from your original list
and see how many you can come up with.

Once you’ve got a huge excel file of your keywords, it’s time
to compile and prioritize them.

Remember, target one keyword(or two/three similar ones at the
most) per page.

For example, a title tag such as “Buy Archery Equipment Online”
will be good enough for itself, “Buy Archery Equipment”,
 and “Archery Equipment”. Make note, though, that “Buy”
makes it a shopping keyword, so a store may receive precedence,
whereas “Archery Equipment” is more of a research keyword, so
an informational site may receive more preference there.

Again, this is all just speculation based on experience – some
of your rankings may happen by accident, and some may be very
targeted – it all depends on the Google god – all we can do is
really set ourselves up for success.

So your home page will have your main keyword in the title. You
can divide up your categories according to sub-keywords, and
then build content pages and blog posts around the other long
tail keywords. Your product pages will be the product name
itself, which is usually a keyword by itself.

Don’t really worry too much about how many searches a
particular keyword gets unless it’s your main
keyword – the main keyword’s searches can be a good gauge for
how big a market is.

If your long tail keywords get only 50 or so searches per
month, it’s fine – 10 blog posts targeting 50 searches per
month each is 500 visitors per month, plus there’s the unique
queries that simply can’t be accounted for.

How Many Keywords? And
Where?

While there is no hard and fast rule about how many keywords
you should have, it’s better to have fewer keywords and be more
readable than have too many keywords and seem spammy.

You must have your target keyword in the title
tag, and some people like to put the keyword once or twice in
the first paragraph of text. You can also disperse the keyword
a few times throughout the entire text.

If there are other very similar keywords that don’t warrant an
individual page, you can disperse them through the content body
as well, to cover your bases.

Use keywords where proper in headings, too.

Measuring
Competitiveness

Once you’ve found some good keywords, it’s time to see how
competitive they are. As we saw earlier, shorter, more concise
keywords are usually more competitive, and longer, more
specific keywords are usually less competitive.

Even if your primary keyword(folding chairs, to continue the
example) is very competitive, there is a LOT of scope for you
to go after long-tail keywords to create content
around and drive traffic. So don’t get disheartened from the
first go unless and until you find out that even most of the
long tail keywords you come up with are highly competitive.

To measure keyword competitiveness, have a look at the top 10
results on Google. You don’t need to pay attention
to how many pages Google pulls up in total – all
you should care about is the top 10 results.

Here’s how you should analyze the top 10 results.

Look at:

The titles of the pages – are they an exact match for your
keyword? If so, these people are specifically targeting ranking
for that keyword. If not, then there is an opportunity for you.

The kinds of pages that are ranking – are they all Amazon,
About.com, Popular Mechanics, and the like? Huge, super-popular
websites that everyone knows about? If so, things are looking
tough. If the results are smaller websites(like ones specific
to their own niches), then there is a chance you can outrank
them with a little time and effort.

The quality of the content on those pages – how relevant or
useful is the content those websites are providing for that
keyword? Is there any scope for you to improve the content or
make it better?

The easiest keywords to rank for are those where results are
not relevant, and you see lots of forum, Yahoo Answers, and
Quora-type results. These keywords are ones that no one has
really targeted, and you can rank for them with minimal effort.

You also need to size up how big the niche-specific websites
are. Just visiting the site can give you an idea. If they seem
like a huge website with thousands of pages, thousands of
social shares, and have been around for years, then you’ve got
a tough nut to crack.

If they are newer websites, have less content, or are less
targeted, then things are a little easier.

To do some quantitative research on your competitors, you can
pop over to two of my favorite competitive research tools:
SimilarWeb and Open Site
Explorer.

SimilarWeb will give you traffic estimates and where that
traffic seems to be coming from.

Open Site Explorer will show you Domain Authority(DA) and Page
Authority(PA). Domain Authority and Page Authority are metrics
developed by Moz. Generally, the higher these two numbers
are, the more worthy they are in Google’s eyes.

I also like to consult MajesticSEO’s Trust Flow and Citation Flow
– they are good metrics to see how good of a link profile a
site has. Generally, decent sites will have Trust Flows and
Citation Flows of at least 10 or more.

I like to see DA under 30 – this is usually something that can
be outranked with some work. DA30 and above are established
sites and will be harder to outrank.

Then there’s PA. PA is weighted off of how many links an
individual page has pointing to it(amongst other factors) – so
a very low PA is easy to outrank, whereas a high PA will be
difficult.

It’s also important to
consider relevance. A targeted site with
targeted content is far more likely to rank than a broad site
with broad content – so if you see results from big websites
that are rather general in nature, you can still go after them
with a specific site – provided you can build enough authority
for it(more on that in the section on Off-Page SEO).

Note

One mistake I made while starting out was trying to get ALL my
pages to rank for my main keyword. Bad idea. Focus on targeting
one main keyword per page, and once you have authority and are
ranking, you will start to show for the unique searches as
well.

Competition research is quite time consuming, as you can see.
To check the results and DA/PA for each and every result from
the top 10 for multiple keywords is quite tedious and
cumbersome. Long Tail Pro makes life a lot easier, since you
can just click on a keyword in the interface and it will pull
all this data up for you to just eyeball and analyze in a
jiffy.

For even more in depth information on keyword research,
check out this excellent guide by Brian Dean from
Backlinko.

Expert Tips for
Keyword Research

These tips are in no particular order.

Jon Haver – Authority
Website Income

Although common coming up with unique ways to find keywords
from your competitors is key. There are many different
strategies here but my favorite is to see what posts are
popular on a competitors website in the “Popular Post Widget”
or other online tools and then determine what keywords that
post is ranking for using a combination of reviewing the post,
test searches in Google, SEM Rush and any other means I can
find.

Debra Mastaler
– Alliance Link

I like to head over to Barnes and Noble and sift through the
magazine rack looking for publications that cater to my
client’s demographic. Print magazine do a terrific job of
making a huge point with minimal words so I look for a title
with my baseline keywords and then read the article for
additional insights.

You can also sift through news readers like Paper.li and look
at headlines, the readers double as great sources to find
expert writers.

Follow Debra on Twitter

Chris Makara –
ChrisMakara.com

While everyone has their “go-to” tools for identifying
keywords, I’ll mention a few ways you can use some elbow grease
to find some great keyword ideas.

The first tip I have is to use Amazon to generate some ideas –
which is awesome if you are working on an e-commerce site.
Simply head on over and enter a phrase you would target. You’ll
notice you get some auto complete suggestions as you type,
related searches in the results, and even some recommended
products that can spark ideas.

*Bonus tip – check out the product reviews to see how real
people reference the product.

The second way to find keyword ideas to use Wikipedia. When a
site like Wikipedia ranks for practically everything, there’s
no reason you can’t dig into their content to see what phrases
appear. Simply scan the content and see what jumps out.

*Bonus tip – take the content of the page and dump it into your
favorite word cloud software and see what phrases/words are the
most used.

Follow Chris on Twitter

Stuart Walker –
NicheHacks

I’ve compiled a list of 23 places to find unconventional
keywords which you can find here. Of those, “The Chrome
“hack”, product reviews, Wordle and blog comments are the most
unconventional ways.

Follow
Stuart on Twitter

Tadeusz Szewczyk – OnReact

As I’m a multilingual person born in Poland, living in Germany
but writing and optimizing mostly in English I sometimes
translate words back and forth. For example when you use an
online translation tool and try to translate a German word in
English you won’t get the same term when you translate the
English word back to German. Now you can translate the new
German term into English again. That way you can get some
additional keyword ideas others won’t have.

Follow Tadeusz on Twitter

Matthew Allen –
Dumb
Passive Income

One unconventional way I come up with keywords for my Amazon
Affiliate websites is by using the auto-complete feature on
Amazon. This allows me to find all keywords that come up in
Amazon for certain products. For example – go to Amazon.com and
type the word blender into the search bar. Then hit the
spacebar and type just the letter a. The auto-complete will
show you all keywords for blender plus words that start with a.
After that, hit backspace and try the letter b. You can do this
for the entire alphabet and all numbers, 0 thru 9.

You might be thinking that this is insane and totally crazy to
do this manually for multiple keywords and the entire alphabet.
And you’re right – that would be crazy! So of course I use a
tool that generates these results in just moments for as many
keywords as I want. It’s called the Azon Keyword Generator, and
is included as 1 of 4 tools in the AmaSuite collection.

You also might be thinking – what good are these keywords for
SEO? And as you might guess, many of these keywords are
completely worthless for SEO purposes. But here is the cool
part of what I do with the list of keywords that Azon Keyword
Generator spits out for me. I copy & paste the entire list
into Long Tail Pro (must have the Platinum upgrade to
be able to do this) and let it analyze all of the keywords for
me. I almost always find at least a few keywords that have
decent search volume and most of the time they have really low
competition. Meaning they are really easy to rank for!

Follow Matthew on Twitter

Chris
Guthrie – UpFuel

I don’t really defy convention when it comes to generating
keywords. I use the Azon Keyword Generator from GetAmaSuite.com
(my own software), Google Keyword Planner and MerchantWords.com
to come up with keyword ideas for ecommerce and that’s always
enough.

Keyword Generator is one of four tools and it finds keywords
that show in Amazon search suggest when you start to type
something in. So those keywords you know are more valuable to
Amazon because they’d only display keywords that lead to the
greatest number of conversions.

Follow Chris on Twitter

Sean Si – SEO Hacker

Not entirely sure if this is unconventional but the first
keyword I’ll ever check out is what I most probably will be
searching for if I was a person interested in the
product/service. So for example if a client sells bed
mattresses, I’d type in ‘bed mattress supplier’ and check the
stats of that keyword first. I’ll also type it in Google’s
search box to see if it’s a top-of-list suggested keyword.

Follow
Sean on Twitter

Moosa Hemani – SETalks

I am not sure if you want to call it unconventional but what I
do is I ask customers for the old data (even for the physical
store) and look in to it. This gives me a hint of what audience
is looking for the most when they are in the store.

Once I have that data in hand, I match that data with Google
analytics and see if the data matches with online audience. If
yes, I keep those product related keywords in priority as
compare to others because data suggest that your audience will
more likely to buy those.

If the set priority is right and team work efficiently towards
promotion and optimization, chances are you will come to
breakeven in lesser time which is otherwise takes months and
years.

Follow
Moosa on Twitter

James Gurd – Digital
Juggler

Social media is a great way to connect the dots on the keywords
and phrases that are part of people’s everyday language.
Following #hashtags relevant to your brand/product can help
identify other keywords people are using, then you can switch
back to traditional search keyword analysis to find out which
ones resonate for SEO.

Monitoring competitor paid advertising is also helpful,
checking what keywords they’re appearing for in search paid ads
plus monitoring the language they use on other advertising,
including paid social.

Keyword research should reference as many relevant data points
as possible to give the wide view, then use traditional
planning tools like Google’s keyword tool to narrow down to
keywords that have potential to drive volume and value across
the search tail.

Follow
James on Twitter

Paul Rogers – PaulNRogers.com

The best way I find keywords is to do an export of product
titles from the catalog and run them through the keyword
planner – this usually brings up loads of product-level
variants that I wouldn’t have thought of. The best route for
this is generally either using a product feed or exporting the
actual products directly from the platform. The same principle
applies for exporting your category tree, which I also try to
do (depending on the platform).

I also spend quite a lot of time looking at competitors –
SEMrush is
particularly good for this.

Follow Paul on Twitter

Tom Shark – Capture
Commerce

If the ecommerce store is selling product, I identify
purchase intent search terms that have an average Google
ranking greater than 10 and less than 20. By focusing my SEO
efforts on these first I almost gaurantee a revenue increase if
the site begins ranking on the first page of Google for the
search term.

Setup Adwords and Bing Ads campaigns to target search terms
that I believe will bring in revenue and begin testing them. If
indeed they do bring in revenue I begin targeting them in my
SEO efforts.

Evaluate competitors who are doing very well in organic or
paid search and focus in on the search terms that they are
going after.

Follow Tom on Twitter

Brian Lang – Small Business Ideas
Blog

Asides from keyword research, you can get ideas for keywords by
spending time in forums. Keywords generally come from topics
that people are looking for and talking about, so forums are a
good starting point.

Tag clouds can also give you an idea of words that your
competitors are using on their page. Tag Crowd is an easy to
use tool that you can use to instantly see important keywords
on a competitors page.

Follow Brian on
Twitter

Seph Cadiz
– SephCadiz.com

There are a number of unconventional ways to look for keywords.

1) Google search through books on your niche industry and
review the table of contents of popular selling books, you can
also check Amazon as well.

2) You can always extract the keywords taken from LSI and plug
in those words in Google Keyword Planner and retreive a new
list.

3) Use Reddit or Buzzsumo, plug in keywords for niche industry
and understand the long tail keyphrases and tags.

Part 2: On-Page SEO

Now that you have a nice list of keywords, you need to put all
of these keywords to use! For that, you need to make sure that
your website is properly structured – so that each page leads
into the next one properly, and each page is only focused on
one particular keyword – so that multiple pages on your own
site don’t end up competing for the same spot!

Designing a website’s structure properly is crucial for good
SEO, and it is the first step you need to take.

Have a look at this excellent SEO checklist

Site Architecture

The way you design your site is also called site architecture.
Most of the information that you will find on site architecture
is incredibly technical, but for our purposes of an ecommerce
store, knowing a few basics is good enough.

When designing any website, you have to make sure that your
pages are properly linked together. Sometimes you may end up
with an orphaned page, which is basically a page that is a part
of your website, but there is no way to access it because no
other pages have linked to it!

When a search engine sees your site, a piece of software called
a spider “crawls” your entire website. It will see
whatever text and information is on a particular page, and it
will follow any links on that page to other pages – it doesn’t
matter whether or not these links are to pages on your own site
or on outside sites.

This way, the spider gradually “crawls” each and every page on
your site, and if the search engine likes what it sees, it will
add it to its index, which is its database of
websites.

Understanding Link
Juice

A factor that has a strong impact on how well your website
ranks is how many relevant links your website has from other
relevant websites. You can think of a link as a vote of
confidence from one site for another. Following this logic, the
more links a website has pointing to it, the better the website
must be, right?

Yes and no.

When Google started using links as the main determining factor
for ranking pages, people started abusing the system and
started building millions of trashy links to their pages left
and center. Eventually, Google got smart, and now, only
relevant and sensible links count – if you have too many trashy
links, Google may punish you and remove your site from their
index.

Coming back to site architecture, when you get a link from an
outside site, you basically get that site’s vote and the vote
of all the other sites that linked to that site as well! Of
course, the juice will be diluted, because link juice flows
across all links on a particular page.

Similarly, you can use links to divert link juice internally as
well. For most websites, the home page receives a bulk of the
links coming to it from outside sites, right? From your home
page, you want to link to your category pages, so the link
juice flows from home => category. The bulk of the link
juice will now be split up, with a little bit going to each
category.

From category pages, you will link to product pages, so
whatever portion of link juice each category got will now be
further diluted onto each product page that is accessible from
the category.

This neat graphic from LinkDex does a great job of explaining how
it works:

This is only to help you get an understanding of how link juice
works.

In a real life example, your home page isn’t going to be the
only page that gets links, so you can actually use any
page that gets a lot of links and point to other pages you want
to rank from there.

The diagram you saw above is pretty over-simplified, and
realistically, instead of link juice flowing in just one
direction, it will be going all over the place!

Shopping Cart
Architecture

For the most part, all hosted shopping carts and even open
source carts will have similar structure out of the box. The
home page will link out to category pages and maybe a few
featured products, as well as informational pages and a blog if
you have one.

The category pages will not just link to product
pages, though. Since most ecommerce sites have a navigation
menu, every page will link to the home page(through the logo),
and all the pages that you decide to link to from the
navigation.

This is where things get a little tricky with ecommerce!

On a regular blog, there are only a handful of links in the
navigation menu – on an ecommerce store, there are usually
tens, if not hundreds! This is just something you have to live
with in ecommerce. Some store themes also have a lot of footer
links which point to the same pages as the navigation.

You can either keep those, or remove them and design a new
footer, it’s up to you. Once a page receives a link from any
page, any more links to the same page won’t be counted as
link-juice passing.

A good practice is to only link to major categories and major
pages from the navigation. If you have one big category with
multiple subcategories, you can try linking out only to major
categories and linking to the subcategories from those.

In the end, it’s all about usability. You NEVER want
to sacrifice usability for SEO. Google is getting smarter and
smarter, so while it’s a good idea to design with Google in
mind, it’s an even better idea to design with your
customer in mind.

So if you feel that linking to just major categories will make
it harder for your customer to use your website, ignore what I
said above and stick in all the categories that you need to in
the navigation menu!

Setting Up a Sitemap

A sitemap is a file that helps search engines make sense of
your website. A sitemap is in fact a “map” – just like a map
helps you get around your city and shows you where everything
is, a sitemap shows search engines what’s in your website(all
the different pages and sections), and it helps them navigate
the whole website and index it quicker.

You can generate a sitemap using a free online tool such as
this, use a WordPress plugin, and most shopping cart software
has a sitemap feature built in.

Once you have your sitemap, you can submit it to Google
Webmaster Tools and Bing Webmaster Tools. There has been some
debate whether or not having a sitemap necessarily improves
rankings or not, but it certainly doesn’t negatively affect
them.

Since a sitemap does help search engines crawl
your site, you may as well submit one.

Understanding HTML
Tags

Meta tags are little snippets of code that tell search engines
what a particular page is about. The three main types of meta
tags are the title, description, and keywords tag. Hosted
shopping carts will let you modify these tags without any extra
coding.

Title: This is the most crucial tag, and I
can’t stress its importance enough. The title tag of a page is
like the title of a book – it has to be relevant and what your
potential readers are looking for! By including your target
keywords in your title tags, you are telling search engines
that your page is about so and so keyword. Don’t take them
lightly! This is the most important part of on-page SEO – and
has a direct influence on how well you rank for a keyword. A
good title tag will also have your company name in it – put it
in the beginning if you are well known, or in the end if you
are a smaller company.

Description: The description tag
is like your advertisement. You have 140 characters to put
up a value proposition and get people to click on YOUR listing
rather than others. Descriptions influence Click-Thru-Rates,
and don’t have much of an effect on rankings. They can still
make or break your SEO, because you could rank for a keyword at
#1, but if no one clicks on your listing, what’s the point?

Keywords: The keywords tag is more of a relic
from the olden days of SEO where you could stuff a bunch of
keywords in this tag and magically rank for them. Search
engines are much smarter now, so they don’t rely on this tag as
much as they used to – or so they tell us. It might be worth
putting one or two keywords for a page, which can be an extra
nudge – a sort of *hint*hint* to Google and Yahoo. Don’t stuff
a bunch of keywords under any circumstances, though!

Optimizing Images

Don’t underestimate the power of image searches – you might be
surprised at how many people find you through images and not
pages themselves. There are two things you want to do with any
images you put on your store’s pages – give them a good
filename and assign good alt text.

Alt text is the little snippet of text you see
when an image fails to load. Since search engines cannot see
images, they look for alt text in images to try and figure out
what that image is about. So if you had an image of a large
green whackamole machine, you’d want to set the alt text to say
something to that effect. Most hosted carts like Shopify and
BigCommerce both have an in-built option for entering alt text.

The filename should also be sensible, like a model number(if
that’s how people find your product) or the product itself –
green-whackamole-machine.jpg.

Redirects

Redirects are lines of code that tell search engines where to
go(or what happened to a page). The most important redirect you
need to know and implement where necessary is
a 301 redirect.

A 301 redirect tells search engines that this page has moved to
a new address, and forwards them to that new address.

So if you had
http://archeryproshop.io/bow-and-arrow-for-kids-under-20/ and
wanted to change the URL to /bow-and-arrow-kids/ without losing
the rankings that the original URL had, you’d set up a redirect
from that old URL to the new one, and move the page to the new
URL.

Now, any links still pointing to the old URL from other
websites will now automatically go to the new URL.

Not only can you do this on your own site, but from entirely
different sites, too – which is an invaluable tool when you are
switching domains or moving from one platform to another.

When I
switched my old store which was hosted on Bigcommerce on to
WordPress as an Amazon affiliate site, all my URLs changed,
so I set up a redirect for every old URL to a new URL on the
WordPress site. Because of this, my rankings were not affected.

You can also use redirects when you take down a page(such as
for a discontinued product), but don’t want that page’s SEO
value to disappear, so you can redirect that page to any other
page of your choosing.

Reading:

Adding 301 redirects on Bigcommerce

Adding 301 redirects on Shopify

Adding 301 redirects on WordPress

Adding Schema.org
Markup

Schema.org markup is special HTML code that you can add to your
product and category pages to show extra information in Google
search results.

For example, when you search for certain products, some store
results show with a little extra text such as “17 products”.
That is because the store has implemented Schema.org markup.

For product pages, Schema.org markup can show the number of
reviews, the review stars, and the price, and if it is in stock
or not, all in the search results. This greatly helps in
increasing the number of clicks on search results.

Reading:

Adding Schema.org markup on Bigcommerce

Adding Schema.org markup on Shopify

Adding Schema.org markup to
WordPress(Woocommerce)

Best Practices for
Home Pages

It is highly likely that you are going to target your main
keyword from your home page, so your home page of all places
shouldn’t be devoid of content!

Have a look at Binoculars.com, which is a Hayneedle store. After
their main splash image and featured products, they
have content.

Now it doesn’t really matter if your content comes at the top
of the page or the bottom(it’s usually going to be at the
bottom, since the top will be reserved for images) – you just
have to have some high quality content that provides real value
to your customers.

Also, like you saw in the section on optimizing images, make
sure your home page images have good titles, filenames, and
good ALT text – if a picture is worth a 1000 words, Google
should know about it!

Not literally a 1000 words.

But you get the point – there should be at least a few
sentences to one paragraph on your home page image ALT texts,
and it should be original content.

Best Practices for
Category Pages

Category pages should be treated the same way as home pages.
Since most category pages are just a list of products, add a
helpful introduction the the top of your category pages
describing the category and helping your customer make a more
informed decision.

Depending on the shopping cart you have, you may not have
control over your thumbnail ALT text, so having good category
content is crucial – it doesn’t have to be really long, but
just relevant.

One problem with having too long category page content is that
it’ll throw your customers off – they came in expecting
products, and instead they got a blog post – so find the best
balance.

Have a look at TrollingMotors.net’s category pages:

Best Practices for
Product Pages

Your product pages are where you should really let your content
shine. Don’t limit your product descriptions – give them flair
and personality, and most importantly, make them nice and
lengthy as far as possible.

Treat each individual product page like a blog post – don’t
leave anything on the table. If a customer wants to research a
product, they need to be able to find whatever information they
need all on your product page.

This includes embedding images – I like to use them in the
description, too, along with the main product images – and
videos, too. This is not so much for a direct SEO benefit, but
it does have an indirect effect, since the more time you can
get people to spend on your pages, the more “worthy” those
pages will look to Google.

A lower bounce rate will also help, since bounce rate is one of the factors Google considers
in ranking a page.

For learning how to write the best product descriptions, I like
to learn from the masters of ecommerce – Amazon – and see
how they write descriptions for their prize
product, the Kindle.

You may not be able to get the same formatting as Amazon does,
but you can see how they use long-form content, and split up
the product description into paragraphs and sub-sections using
headings.

Remember, treat each product description like a blog post!

Using Webmaster Tools

To manage your online store’s search presence and make sure
everything is running smoothly, you should set up your store in
Google Webmaster Tools and Bing Webmaster Tools.

By adding your site, these tools will show you how many pages
from your site are indexed, how many errors your sitemap is
throwing(when it says a page should be there but there is
none), how many search clicks you are getting per month, and to
an extent, which keywords you are currently getting clicks for.

To set up Google Webmaster Tools, head over
there, and log in with a Google account. It’s a good
idea to have a separate account for your store.

Then click the red “Add a property” button on the top right,
and enter your site’s address in the bar that pops up, and
continue.

You will then have to verify that you own this website – Google
suggests a couple of methods of doing so, and they are all
quite straightforward.

Once you are verified, you will be taken to the dashboard, and
you are all set! Click around and explore the different
features they give you. It will probably take a few weeks
before you start seeing some real data.

You can also set up the same site on Bing
Webmaster Tools, too.

Part 3: Off-Page SEO

All of the on-page optimization in the world can only take you
so far without off-page SEO. Off-page SEO is the hard part, but
it really pays.

There used to be a time where it was as easy as simply blasting
links to your site from all over the web – nowadays, that will
get you penalized and removed from Google’s index quicker than
you can say “backlinks”.

The best way to do off-page SEO is to create solid content and
then promote the hell out of it.

[Tweet “The best way to do off-page SEO is to create solid
content and then promote the hell out of it.”]

SEO has evolved more from being simply SEO to “content
marketing” and “relationship building”.

Content Marketing
and Networking

The thought behind content marketing is that with great
content, links will come automatically. While
that is true to a certain extent, it won’t happen
by itself – you will have to promote your
content, or else how will anyone see it?

There are two ways of going about your content strategy.
Depending on your niche, you’ll either be able to implement one
of them, or both.

The first way is to create very in-depth resources about the
details of your product and how to use it. I mean
go all out. Create resources that blow forum
posts out of the water, and leave nothing wanting for the
customer.

Some examples of this content are installation guides, buying
guides, usage guides, technical specifications, compatibility
guides, and the like.

This is the same strategy Andrew Youderian used on Right
Channel Radios. By creating such great resources, coupled with
some link building, he managed to rank very high for a lot of
these technical search queries, and as a result, his traffic
grew, and he had overall happier customers, too.

Of course, not all niches will have technical products where a
lot of content can be created around the product itself, like
housewares and other simple items.

At that point, you’ll have to go with strategy number 2, which
is to create content that someone using your product
would find useful.

Ezra
Firestone from Smart Marketer has done a great job with
this strategy for the store he runs, Boom! By
Cindy Joseph.

BBCJ sells cosmetic and skin care products for older women. You
can see how there probably isn’t much interesting stuff to be
said about the product itself, but Ezra drives an incredible
amount of traffic and brand awareness using content marketing.

BBCJ creates content that appeals to their customers – older
women. So on their vlog(they use video, another very powerful
content form), you’ll find beauty and health tips that are
tailored to older women.

You can see how this form of content marketing is very powerful
– it is not salesy at all, and it is something that their
customers find very relatable and very useful – so they will be
more likely to share it, and they actually don’t mind
– even look forward to – receiving new
content from BBCJ!

So if you feel there is not much to write about your product
itself, think about who would most likely use your product, and
create content they would find useful.

It will be easier for some niches than for others, but with a
little experimentation, you should be able to find out what
works and what doesn’t.

The best way to experiment is to create some content, promote
it, and see what kind of a response you get – do people share
the content? Do they like it? Do they comment on it? This will
help you gauge it.

If you are wondering at this point how you
are going to promote your content, that’s a very good question!

Creating and
Promoting Your Content

The first step to promote your content is to create content
that is promotion-worthy.

[Tweet “The first step to promote your content is to create
content that is promotion-worthy.”]

It’s better to create less content and promote it more than to
create more content and promote it less. So you don’t even need
to have a dedicated blog – you can even just have a few solid
resource pages that you can promote over and over again, and
once it reaches a tipping point, it’ll be the gift that keeps
on giving.

So what kind of content should you create?

From the earlier section, we’ve already listed solid resource
pages and informational pages about your product.

Some more content ideas are:

Infographics: Infographics are great
because they have shareability built into them. Everyone loves
a good image, and people are very likely to share images,
especially on social media sites like Facebook and Pinterest.

To build an infographic, think about what data is related to
your product/niche/audience. Dig up that data, present it in a
visual way(or get a designer to do it – you’ll find plenty of
infographic designers on Fiverr or Elance). You can also use an online service
like Vengage.

To get some inspiration for an infographic, you can head over
to Google and do a quick search for “your niche infographic” to
see what other people have already made – then you can either
improve what is already there, or use that as inspiration for a
new angle.

Once your infographic is ready, go back to the Google results
and see where those infographics have been posted or shared –
and approach those website owners and simply ask if they’d like
to share your infographic!

Expert roundups: Expert roundups
are like infographics but on steroids. That’s because while you
have to go and ask people to share your infographic, the
experts you feature on your expert roundup will share the post
themselves!

To create an expert roundup, you need to first think of a good
question that you want these experts to answer. For
example, one of the roundups I did here was around the question
“What is the weirdest link you have ever built for a store?”

You will need to think up a similar question related to your
niche or audience.

Then, to simplify things, head over to Google, and see what
expert roundups have already been done related to your niche!
This will help in two ways: first to make sure you aren’t
repeating what’s already been done, and second, by parsing a
few roundups, you’ll have a ready list of experts to approach
that you know participate in these roundups!

For more information, check out Matthew Woodward’s excellent guide.

More content ideas: To see what kind of
content does really well in your niche, head over to BuzzSumo and
search using your niche as the main keyword. You can get some
data for free, but for more in-depth results, you will need to
sign up for a paid account.

You can search any topic in BuzzSumo, and see how many shares
and backlinks popular posts around those topics received. You
can also filter by time and type of content.

Once you know what is trending, make it better.
Then go to “View sharers”, and approach them to share your new,
improved content!

Link Building

Link building was and still is an incredibly important part of
search engine optimization. You can have the best content in
the world, but without good links, you simply can’t rank for
even a mildly competitive keyword.

Not all links are created equal, though, so here is a rundown
of the types of links there are and what they can do for you.

Broadly speaking, links are of two
types: do-follow and no-follow.

Do-follow links are links that literally tell
search engine spiders(remember them?) to follow
the link to whatever site it goes to. A do-follow link is a
link that passes its vote to the next website, guiding the
search engine spider from itself to the other site.

Examples of do-follow links are blog post mentions, infographic
links, resource links, and most usual scenarios where one site
links to another.

No-follow links are links that do the
opposite. When a search engine spider reaches a no-follow link,
it simply sees the link, but does not follow it to the website
it points to. It simply moves on, so that website
doesn’t really get the other website’s vote.

Examples of no-follow links are blog comments, forum links, and
links from social media profiles.

The whole concept of no-follow links probably came about
because people realized in the early days of SEO that they
could game the system and just build a ton of links using blog
comments and forum spam, and get themselves ranked high in
Google, who at that time put a lot of weight on just links in
general.

A natural backlink profile is one that has a healthy mix of
both do-follow and no-follow links. Usually there
will be more do-follow links, and fewer no-follow links, but
it’s always good to have both.

Another important thing to remember in link building
is anchor text.

Anchor text is the actual part of the text that links to the
other page. On
this blog, for example, all anchor text is highlighted in
orange. On other websites, it may be a different color.

In the early days of SEO, anchor text was all Google had to see
what the other site being linked to was about. So a link with
the anchor text “archery equipment” would probably be to a site
about, you guessed it, archery equipment! Again, it’s not that
simple, because people could really easily game the system.

That’s why Google came out with an update called Penguin that cracked down on sites
that built links to themselves using spammy tactics, and one of
the things it looked at was anchor text. So a healthy link
profile today would be one that would have varied anchor text –
not just anchor text optimized using keywords.

You can still use keywords, and
you should, but not just that – a good idea is to
include a phrase that has your keyword or part of it in itself
as the entire anchor text, for example, “good places to buy
archery equipment here”, instead of just “archery equipment” or
“buy archery equipment”.

You also want to have some natural anchor text, such as “click
here”, or “read more”, as well as naked URLs, like
“http://archeryproshop.io”, or whatever your website is.

Note: Sometimes, you will find that your content has
been copied entirely on other sites(as syndication), or you
have multiple copies of the same content on different pages of
your site. To make sure search engines don’t consider this to
be duplicate content, you can add a rel=”canonical” tag in
your duplicate(and original) pages like this:

<link rel=”canonical”
href=”https://store.example.com/widgets/green-widgets-are-awesome”
/>

This will tell search engines where the original content can be
found.

For some link building ideas, you can check out my post on

50 ways to build links for ecommerce sites.

More reading:

Link Building Tactics – The Complete
List

Link Building – The Definitive Guide

Scalable
Enterprise Link Building

Doing Outreach

A very large part of your SEO and link building success will
depend greatly on how good you are at doing outreach to
potential link prospects. A lot has been said about how to
write great outreach emails, so I’m going to keep it short here
and put some recommended reads at the bottom of this section.

When doing outreach, I like to make a Google Spreadsheet to
keep track of who I have emailed and how far each lead has
progressed. This prevents me from sending duplicate emails too
soon, and just lets me see the progress in an organized way.

A few factors make a good outreach email:

Making it about them: Instead of
asking for a favor, a good outreach email will point out what
is in it for the blog/website/influencer that you are
approaching. So don’t just say you want a guest post, but point
out how a guest post about a certain topic will be a good fit
for their blog and why that blog’s audience will appreciate it.

Keeping it short: Most of the
people you will be looking to approach probably get a boatload
of emails every day. If an email is too much effort to read,
they just may not read it. Keep your email short, sweet, and to
the point.

Making it personal: Nobody pays much attention
to an email if it was just a random CC using a boilerplate
message. Show that you’ve actually read that person’s website
or blog, and throw in a small compliment at the beginning of
the message. If not a compliment, offer an alternative
viewpoint on something they wrote(but be nice). A single line
like this does wonders to grab someone’s attention.

Knowing how to ask: It is a
lot easier to get the link once you have established a
relationship with the blogger instead of doing a hard sell.
Focus on using the first email or so on building a
relationship, and use the next few emails to pitch your idea –
even if you introduced it in the first email. Once someone has
read your email and replied to you, chances that they’ll read
and reply again are very high, so that’s when you want to make
your pitch.

That being said, sometimes it is better to say what you want in
the first email. It will depend on situation to situation, and
unfortunately, there is no set of rules that can really help
you decide when to do a hard sell and when to open a
conversation.

Aside from that, nailing outreach is all about practice,
practice, and more practice. It’s unlikely that there will be a
shortage of websites in your niche, so even if you screw up a
few emails, there will always be another site. Plus, what’s to
say you can’t approach an influencer again in the future and
get a response then?

If they didn’t read your email before, they probably won’t
remember you. 😉

Recommended reads:

10 Things Every Outreach Email Needs To
Have

How To Email Busy People

The Three Ps of Great Outreach Emails

Copying Your
Competitor’s Links

A really nice way to get a good bunch of links without having
to scour around too much is to simply see where your
competitors have been getting their links, and get links from
there.

It’s highly doubtful that you can copy all their
links, but you should be able to get quite a few – especially
low hanging fruit links like directory submissions. These won’t
have as much value, but they are still links.

You’ll also be able to see where they got their editorial
mentions, and you’ll see that those websites mention other
stores, so that will make them more viable outreach targets.

To see where your competitors are getting links, use a tool
like Open Site Explorer, Majestic SEO, or Ahrefs. I like
Majestic SEO or Ahrefs rather than Open Site Explorer, because
those two have far larger indices than OSE, and you’ll just be
able to see a lot more links from them.

Simply go over to Ahrefs, OSE, or Majestic SEO,
create a free account, and plug your competitor’s domain into
the search bar. These tools will spit out all the links your
competitors have(that they know of), and you can even download
a .csv of the results to save and parse later.

Keep in mind that free accounts will only show you limited
results – to see the full results, you’ll need to sign up for a
paid account.

I’ve also got a special treat for you guys.

Link Building Ideas
From Experts

To really get the creative juices flowing for you guys, I
contacted some experts and asked them “What are the weirdest
circumstances in which you have gotten a link?”

These tips are in no particular order.

Zac Johnson – ZacJohnson.com

The weirdest link I ever built for an ecommerce site was based
off of a review from a customer about their one of their
products. The link was weird simply because of the review
provided from the customer about the product. They went into so
much detail on how they used the product and how it helped them
not only get more done, but also save money and time in the
process.

There was really nothing weird about the actual link or method
to promote, but just that you would not generally see someone
get so excited about such a simple product.

It ended up working out great for the brand, product and
customer since they were all so happy — and I’m sure it
inspired others to try out the product as well.

Follow
Zac on Twitter

Dave Hermansen –
StoreCoach

When it comes to link building, I would have to say the
weirdest link I built wasn’t the link itself but the process I
went through. I had put together a guest post for a smaller
blog several years ago. We had communicated several times via
email and everything was going great. After I sent the final
draft of the piece in with a couple images all I got was
silence. The blog kept updating, but my piece didn’t go up and
I didn’t get any answer to several emails. I wrote it off and
had forgotten about it when two or three months later the
blogger shoots me an email to let me know the post is live. And
there’s my post with my link. Not a word about the time or the
other emails I had sent out.

Follow Dave on
Twitter

Matthew Barby –
MatthewBarby.com

During my time working with e-commerce sites, I’ve built some
strange links. Probably one of the strangest would have to be
when we sent a load of personalised cupcakes to a big supplier
that we were trying to influence. They ended up mentioning it
within a blog post that they wrote as an interesting
attention-grabber.

Follow Matthew on Twitter

Debra Mastaler –
Alliance
Link

I don’t build weird links 😉

Note from Shabbir: It’s important for SEOs to have a good
sense of humor!

Follow Debra on Twitter

Moosa Hemani – SETalks

I am very conscious when it comes to link building especially
for two reasons:

Building bad links will not only hurt websites, it hurt
business which in result hurt people attached with that brand
so it’s a big responsibility.

I am from the part of the world where people have seriously
misunderstood link building so I have to be extra conscious to
prove the world that not all in my country are doing doggy link
building.

Weirdest link…hmm! Not sure weird but funny indeed. I and
Bill Sebald of
Greenlane SEO (amazing guy) wrote a post on our blog on the
same day about the same topic. We shared the post on twitter;
laugh a bit on the coincidence in the DMs and a link!

Funny because I build the link first and then moved to building
relationship.

Follow
Moosa on Twitter

Tadeusz Szewczyk – OnReact

One day while checking my stats I noticed a backlink from the
New York Times homepage. I was like “how cool, but is it really
true?”. There was no traffic from the NYT so I checked back and
forth just to realize that the link wasn’t there. I could find
some traces of it in the source code as far as I remember.
The best guess I could come up with was that I was somehow
pulled in automatically by an aggregator script suggesting
links from third party based on adjacent topics. There was such
a section somewhere on the frontpage. I must have shown up for
the proverbial “15 minutes of fame” but it was too far below so
that nobody noticed.

Follow Tadeusz on Twitter

Sean Si – SEO Hacker

Do porn sites count? Not entirely sure but I’ve seen some porn
sites link back to my web properties early on in my SEO
journey. I’m not entirely sure if they found my evergreen
content useful or if they were just feeling lucky.

Very weird indeed.

Follow
Sean on Twitter

Brian Lang – Small
Business Ideas Blog

If you do your marketing right and build general publicity for
your brand, you’ll get some links from sites in niches that you
aren’t trying to target. This isn’t a bad thing though since
these are natural links.

Run a backlink check on any established brand and you will find
at least a few links from odd sites. And most likely those
links weren’t intentionally pursued by the site owner.

Follow Brian on Twitter

Social Media

Utilizing social media is another good way to drive traffic for
difficult keywords. Your site may not have enough authority and
links to rank for a particular keyword, but a social media site
sure will! So many results in Google are from Facebook and
Pinterest – so if you can build a Facebook Page or a Pinterest
Board around a particular keyword, you may get some good
traffic from there, too.

Of course, people will start out by going to your Pinterest or
Facebook Page, but hopefully you’ll have some links to great
content on your own website that people will click through.

I’m not going to go into too much detail on social media at
this time, because it’s really outside the scope of this guide,
and hopefully I will start working on a similar guide for
social media platforms, too.

This guide took me many weeks and over 40 hours to write!

Grey Hat SEO

Grey Hat SEO is entering a little bit into stuff that Google
frowns upon, but it can still be used to give your store a
quick boost. Please note that grey hat SEO
should not form the basis of your SEO
efforts! If grey hat is all you do, you
are putting your entire business at risk!

With that disclaimer out of the way, let’s get into a neat
way you can boost your link juice.

Expired
domains: Thousands of domain
names expire every day, and many of those thousands used to be
prosperous websites, each with a lot of links pointing to them.
Chances are, when the website went down, the links didn’t. So
if you happened to get your hands on these domains, you’d
suddenly be sitting on a lot of links, right?

Finding expired domains is very easy.

Finding good expired domains isn’t. I usually search
at expireddomains.net – you can make a free account,
and start searching right away. You can enter keywords to
search, and they will show you what expired domains have those
words, and they’ll also show you a bunch of other metrics like
backlinks, page rank(though now practically defunct, it’s still
a good metric to eyeball a domain), Alexa rank, and others.

Remember to be very broad with these searches – using long tail
keywords to search here will really limit your results – so go
for a broad niche-related keyword.

One thing I find tough about these expired domains is a lot of
domains probably expire that we can never find using keywords –
because the domains were a proprietary brand, and didn’t have
any keywords in the domain. But still, with a little searching,
you can sometimes uncover some gems.

Now the first page you’ll see won’t be sorted, and a lot of
these domains are going to be junk, so you’ll have to apply
some filters to narrow down the results.

When you click Show Filter, there will be a lot of options, but
I like to set the minimum Page Rank as 1 and minimum backlinks
as 1. This will narrow down the results quite a bit, and then
you can start perusing the results.

You may not find a good domain every time you search –
sometimes the really good domains will be too expensive,
sometimes backlink profiles won’t check out. It’s very hit or
miss!

When you do come across a domain that is in your price range,
before you go ahead and click the price(which takes you to the
auction or buy page), do some quick backlink analysis.

Plug the site into Majestic SEO and check the citation flow and
trust flow(which we saw earlier) and make sure they are both
higher than at least 10. You also want to scroll down in the
Majestic SEO results screen and quickly scan the anchor text to
make sure it’s not too optimized, and also see where the links
are coming from – are they more or less relevant or not?

Otherwise you are looking at a domain someone bought and did
black hat SEO on, and that’s no good, because you don’t want to
own something like that.

When you do find a good domain, there are a
couple of things you can do with it.

Set up a 301 redirect to your main
website: If the backlinks are relevant to your
site as well, a quick-and-dirty thing you can do is simply add
the domain to your own hosting account, and set up a 301
redirect from that domain to any page on your own. Effectively,
this will funnel all the link juice coming to that domain
directly to yours!

This is a little risky because you never truly
know what links were built to that domain, so unless you are
100% sure that the links are (mostly) legit
and relevant to your site, move on to the next
method.

Set up an entirely new website on the
domain: Since you have a domain with lots of
links pointing to it, chances are that it can rank pretty
easily for some related keywords, right? So why not build a
website on that domain, put up 5-15 good posts on the site, and
link out from some of those posts to page on your main website?

This is quite similar to building a PBN, except most PBNs have
low quality content – the difference here is you want to make
sure the content you put on this new website
is actually useful for people. You can outsource
the content, sure, but it should be useful.

Also, don’t buy this domain under the same
account you own your main domain with, and don’t even host it
with the same provider, let alone the same account.

When you build links from that site to yours, link out to other
people as well – if the entire purpose of a site is just to
link to one other site, Google senses that something is up.
Link out to multiple websites from your new site’s copy.

So this is something you can do when guest posts are difficult
to come by. Some niches will be harder to write
for, no doubt – so this is an option for you if that is the
case.

Part 4: Should
You Hire an SEO Agency?

Finally, as this guide comes to a close, let’s get into
something a lot of us consider every day. Should you hire an
SEO agency?

The answer isn’t quite as straightforward as you’d like it
to be, but in the interest of oversimplification, yes and no.

Yes, if you go with a huge, trusted agency. These guys have
proven track records, work with household-name companies, and
have too much at stake to mess around with their SEO – and they
also cost more than most of us could afford to spend.

No, if you go with a smaller, lesser-known agency, that only
claims to do SEO. This is nothing against SEO agencies – it’s
just that you just don’t know what kind of SEO they are going
to be doing – Andrew Youderian ran into trouble with one of
his stores when the agency he hired built a ton of spammy
links that got his store hit with a Google update.

That was the simple answer.

The more detailed answer is that it’s very possible that you
may well need someone else to do SEO because you
just don’t have the time to do it yourself.

If you have the budget for it, hire a great agency, by all
means. In fact, some of the folks who were kind enough to
provide their expert opinions are part of SEO agencies.

So how can you vet an agency to make sure they know what they
are doing?

For starters, on their home page, check out who their clients
are, and where they have been featured.

If they’ve been featured on big name blogs like Search Engine
Land, Moz, and the like, they probably know what they are
doing, since those sites won’t really feature
anything that isn’t up to the mark.

You also want to look at what they do, and the types of clients
they entertain. Are their clients small niche sites and
grey-hat people? Or are their clients real businesses with a
lot at stake?

They will also feature testimonials on their websites – it
wouldn’t hurt to just drop a line to those businesses and ask
them how their experience with that company way.

If you don’t have such a large budget, there is still a
solution.

One way to get around that is to hire someone in-house to do
the SEO for you. It’s crucial that you yourself know what links
are being built, and how your pages are optimized – but you can
leave the grunt work and everything up to someone else.
Agencies may not be as timely with their reports, and if you
get a report one month later of 1000 shady links, you’ll have
your work cut out for you.

Another way to do it is to look at it like this. SEO is a lot
of things put together, as we’ve seen so far.

So find the one thing that you are having trouble with, and get
a guy(or gal) to help you with that.

If you’ve got too many products to ever optimize title tags and
meta descriptions yourself, get a guy to do that.

If you don’t have the time to do guest post outreach and
networking, get a guy to do that, and write the posts yourself,
so you have control of the content and where they go.

If you don’t have time for even that, approve the places your
guy gets you a guest post, and get another guy to write the
post for you.

If you don’t think you are creative, get someone to come up
with good content ideas and have them create that content for
you.

Do you see where I am going with this? Don’t package it all up
into “SEO” and hire one company to do it. If you don’t have the
time, it’s understandable, but break it up into bits and get
someone to do those bits, but make sure you are the one that
assembles them in the end. This way you have full control over
what’s going on.

The good thing about this method is you can probably outsource
some tasks for much cheaper than others, and you’ll save some
money along the way, too.

Of course, if you’ve got the budget, by all means, hire a name
brand agency to help – they will most probably deliver.

Closing Thoughts

SEO is an ongoing process. There is no point in SEO where you
can get complacent and think “hmm, I’ve done enough SEO”. If
you’ve got some pages that are ranked high and bring lots of
good traffic, what about your other pages? Can you optimize
them, build links, and promote them?

The important thing to keep in mind is that SEO is an integral
part of your business – not just something you can do on the
side. Even if you are getting all of your traffic from other
channels like Adwords, those will only bring you traffic as
long as you keep pumping money into them.

SEO, when done properly, is the only way to get your business
long-lasting traffic and build true value for your site even if
you stop paying for traffic from other channels. It’s also very
passive – so once you are receiving the traffic, you’ll keep
getting it as long as you aren’t outranked.

Nothing on the internet is permanent, that’s for sure – but SEO
is the damn closest thing to permanency that you can do for
your business.