When you first start a SEO strategy, it’s easy to get lost in making sure that every possible keyword is present inside your shop. You’ll spend days filling out your product descriptions, About bpages and FAQ pages to appease thousands of search engine robots.
There’s nothing wrong with that.
But a lot of people don’t realize that there’s another way to improve how often, and how high up you get shown in search results – a great SEO backlink strategy.
So, what the heck are backlinks?
Backlinks are links from other people that readers can click to navigate to your shop or website. These links can be found on websites, blogs, social media feeds and forums. As long as these links aren’t from your own web content, it’s considered a backlink.
Backlinks can be linked text or images – they just need to be clickable back to your website.
In this example article, you can see all the links that are underlined. When the links are clicked, the reader will be taken to the original product listing. I got this example from the post, 100 Great Homemade Gift Ideas – yep that’s a backlink, too.
Think of it like referrals from your circle of friends. When your friend Lucy recommends your products to one of her friends, Craig – he is more likely to consider buying from you. Imagine if Craig hears from another friend how great your items and your customer service are? Now Craig probably has a very favorable opinion of your business. Next time he’s looking for an item like yours, you bet your creations will be at the top of his list.
Backlinks are like a lot of people vouching for you and your creations to a search engine. The more Google discovers your backlinks in other places, the more likely it will reward you. As your credibility climbs, you’ll show up closer to the top of the search results.
A great search engine strategy
When it comes to SEO success, there are two key ingredients: on-page and off-page SEO.
On-Page SEO is about finding relevant keywords and optimizing a website page or product for that search term. If you want to know more about on-page SEO, read about choosing great keywords and how to apply them to your handmade website. Basically, these are SEO activities that you do on your online shop.
You can choose the best and most relevant keywords for your product – you might even get to a few first pages and see some results. But if you want to climb those high ranks, off-page SEO will help give your shop the credibility it deserves. Off-page SEO is the process of getting links back to your shopfront from reputable and high quality websites. Like the name suggests, off-page SEO is any activity that drives traffic and SEO juice to your shop outside or off of your online store.
Not all links are created equal
Armed with this knowledge, before you even think about figuring out ways to start getting other people to promote you, let’s get the low down on what makes a link good or bad.
It’s tempting to take shortcuts when you see websites with SEO Packages that claim you can get 500 backlinks in 24 hours for $10. Perhaps an expert told you that blog comments are a great way to get backlinks so you’ve started spamming every single article you can get your hands on. Think twice – Google has long cracked down on link building hacks that aim to fool search engines. Not only will these techniques not improve your SEO, but search engines may even penalize you for engaging in spammy behavior.
So it’s not necessarily about the amount of links that you have but the quality of the link.
What makes a good outside link?
Imagine if a HuffPost blog included a link back to your shop. You would get hundreds of new shop visitors. At the same time, Google recognizes HuffPost as a reputable blog – they have a lot of monthly traffic and a huge library of backlinks. And because HuffPost featured you with a link back to your website, that’s a big deal for your SEO. The same post on a blog with a much smaller audience doesn’t have the same effect. In fact, having just 1 post on HuffPost could give you a bigger SEO kick than being featured on 20 unknown websites.
There are many factors that makes a high quality outside link:
- How many other backlinks the website that’s featuring you has
- How much traffic the website gets
- Where the link appears on the website. Backlinks inside the main body of content are way more valuable than links in the sidebar, footer and comments.
- How often the website links to other sites. A directory that only includes links to other businesses would be less effective than a specialized blog that only includes 1 or 2 outside links in each of their articles.
- The authority of the content. An authored blog or web page featuring your shop is more favorable than having a bunch of people talk about you on social media or a forum.
How do I get lots of high quality links?
Now here’s the fun part – it’s time to work on your link building strategy for your handmade shop. Download the free Link Building Strategy template to plan out how you will grow your shop backlinks.
With any kind of marketing or SEO strategy, you probably won’t be able to do everything in the first few months.
Real talk: your SEO will not be an overnight success.
In a small business, you’re better off focusing on finding the strategies that you want to explore and experiment with. Over time you can add to your link building strategy, mix and match tips and see your traffic grow.
Here are some of the link building strategies that are search engine friendly. Not only do they boost your search engine rankings but they’re likely to bring extra traffic (and customers!) to your shopfront:
- Become a guest contributor for other blogs and websites
- Get your products featured in gift guides, curated shopping lists and review blogs
- Get online press by being interviewed for a blog or online magazine
- Give and receive backlinks (in a non-spammy way – more on this below!)
Become a guest contributor
Start getting yourself on the radar of some of your favorite writers, creators and influencers. One of the quickest ways to build your library of links is to raise your hand and start contributing your knowledge.
Write a guest blog post
Whip out your keyboard and word processor – it’s time to pump out some great pieces of writing. Guest blogging is one of the most popular ways to get outside links to your shop. A guest blog is an article published on any blog that isn’t on your own website domain. You will be acknowledged as the original author – this usually means a bio with a link back to your site at the beginning or end of the post.
How do you start guest blogging?
- Make a list of blogs that relate to your niche or target the same kinds of customers as you. You can also see if the blog openly accepts guest submissions already
- Find an email for the blog owner or editor.
- Send an email pitch to the blog explaining what you do and 3 to 5 blog post ideas that you’d like to write for them in exchange for a link.
- If you have the time, you can also attach a post that you’ve already written up. This makes their job easier and if you don’t get a “yes”, you can always publish it on your own website or pitch it to other websites.
Once you’ve been given the nod of approval, send the editor a completed version of your text, any graphics, a headshot of yourself and a short descriptive bio. Let them know which links you would like in the credit.
Tip: when you’re first starting out, look for smaller blogs. It’s easier to get published because bigger blogs likely have many businesses pitching to guest post.
Brit + Co actively shares topics they are seeking guest submissions for.
Contribute to an existing blog post
You don’t have to write an entire article to contribute to someone else’s blog. Take a shortcut and make a good blog post even better. Start by searching for articles that are doing well in your niche on Google. Contact the original author and let them know how you would like to contribute to the post.
Stuck? Here are some contributions you can make to an existing (well ranking) blog post:
- Listicles that have a list of products like yours
- Older articles that have outdated information
- Posts that have vague information. For example, if they have a bullet list of the best handmade shops in your city, you can take it further and expand on each bullet point. Or perhaps the author is talking about how to wrap up shopping orders creatively and your business is a prime example of beautiful packaged gifts.
This is a win for the original author because they will improve their current content, have the most up-to-date information and Google also rewards more recent posts – all that and they don’t even have to write it up.
Be a guest on a podcast
If writing just isn’t your thing, don’t fear. If you’re good at speaking, dig around for some podcasts in your industry and hit up the hosts. Let them know what value you can bring and offer to get on the phone to start a discussion. Many podcast creators are always connecting with potential episode guests.
Most podcasts have a website or a blog where they include show notes and tools for their listeners. When your episode is published, you’ll get a shoutout on the episode post with a link back to your shop.
Tip: make it as easy as possible for the podcast host. You can come armed with a list of questions or discussion points. Don’t forget to have your podcast recorded in a quiet room with a good quality mic – especially if you’re being interviewed remotely.
How to Fail podcast includes a post for each episode. They include links to the guest speakers and extra reading for listeners.
Speak at a conference
Are you great at speaking and you’ve got something interesting to say? Apply to become a guest speaker at local conferences, panels or a meetup if you’re just starting. You’ll get to share something close to your heart with many people and get your networking on.
Even better, you’ll be listed as a featured speaker with a bio and link.
Here’s how to do it:
- Find events in your area that are coming soon or are hosted on a regular basis. You can also search Meetup.com to find meetups that have a lot of potential customers.
- Reach out to the event organizers and let them know you’d like to be considered as a guest speaker. Let them know what you’d like to talk about. If the event happens regularly, it’s a good idea to attend a few to get a feel for what kind of people speak.
- Once you’re in, make it easy for the organizers by sending in your bio and links.
- Talk a great talk and don’t stop after you’ve stepped off the stage. Approach attendees and share your passion with them.
Have your products featured
With more products coming online every single day, there are countless websites, blogs and influencers who’s sole job is to report on new and interesting items for their audiences. You can tap into this niche and start getting noticed with features.
Collaborate with influencers
Influencer marketing is hot right now. What other marketing strategy gives your brand an ambassador, social proof, extra traffic and a SEO boost from backlinks?
When you work with bloggers and online influencers you can get shoutouts and links from styled posts and product reviews. Working with influencers has it’s costs, though. Almost all bloggers appreciate being able to keep your product in exchange for a post and some big-name’s will charge fees on top.
Try it yourself:
- Make a list of bloggers and influencers who share products on their personal website or blog. Try to stay away from influencers who only have a presence on social media. You can use a tool like Buzzsumo to search for influencers in your niche.
- Get in touch with the influencer and let them know you’d like to collaborate. See if they’re up for a product exchange or if they charge per post.
- Once there’s an agreement, come to an arrangement with your influencer and outline what kind of content they will be creating.
Tip: smaller influencers are more likely to be happy to review or feature your items in exchange for some free goods.
Be featured in a curated guide
A curated guide is a blog or website that showcases a collection of products. Some examples include:
- Product gift guides
- City gift guides
- Curated shopping lists
- Curated showcases
Product gift guides
It’s Christmas – “here are the top 20 handmade gifts to wrap up for your loved ones.” Or, Mother’s Day is coming up – “show your love with these 10 heartwarming DIY gifts.” Here’s how to land yourself a coveted spot in a product gift guide:
- Make a list of blogs that do seasonal gift guide posts
- A few weeks before a big shopping season, reach out to the author of a previous seasonal gift guide. If it’s Halloween, look for Halloween gift guides from 2017 and let the original author know about your item in an email pitch.
- You can also look for gift guides that aren’t bound by seasonal shopping habits. Contact the owner and let them know your product is a worthy addition to the guide.
Elle curated a Christmas gift guide for personalized items.
Like the product gift guides, look out for local curated guides in your city. Get in touch with the author and support your community and other local makers.
Cereal magazine enjoys shining a spotlight on local makers and artists in their city guides
Curated shopping lists
These are shopping lists based on a style or look.
To get your items in a list, here’s what to look out for:
- Write down what your products are usually styled with
- Find tutorials and instructional blogs on how to style or use a product. If you make bath salts, look for a blog article that shares the best home spa ideas to de-stress.
Make headlines in the press
Online publications all love a story. Getting yourself in the press is a great opportunity to build brand awareness and add another powerful link to your backlink collection. A lot of news and reporting websites hold a lot of authority with Google. When you’re starting out, begin with local and niche publications that would love to report on you.
Approach local publications
Local publications often shine a light on people in their community. Start by pitching yourself to journalists who run your local newspaper, your college alumni publication or any other community you’re part of. Just make sure they have a website that publishes their latest articles.
Pitch yourself for an interview
Don’t be confined by your geography either. Look for niche online publications that do a lot of interviews with other makers and creatives. Let them know you’re interested in being interviewed like what Gift of Knitting Designs did to be featured on the Very Shannon blog.
Give and receive links
They say if you give first and without the need for reciprocation, people will feel genuinely compelled to give back to you. I’m not talking about spammy link exchanges here. Rather, I want you to look at the above strategies and see if you can do it for others – first.
- Start your own blog and interview people you admire
- Create your own curated lists with products and people you love
- Write reviews about products that have brought joy into your life
- Write articles and include examples of great brands that illustrate a concept you’re talking about
- Follow a tutorial and publish a case study about your experience and results
When you interview someone who’s done something amazing, you’re making them feel good about themselves and their achievements. Heck, they might even share the post on their own website. If you throw a party for a bunch of influencers, many of them will happily create content to share the experience with their community.
Think of ways that you can help others and you’ll start to see your friends sharing some link-love with their own audiences. Often, you don’t even need to ask them to do it – your link building efforts become organic. People want to tell others about you.
Link building for creatives is a long term game. You must be willing to invest a lot of time and effort to see results. You’ll pitch a lot. And you’ll be rejected a lot. Bear with it. Overtime, you’ll get more “yes’s” and you’ll start to see your traffic grow and grow. Set aside a few hours a week to work on your backlink strategy – even if this means just contacting a few authors to get your profile out there.
It’ll all be worth it in the end.
What are your favorite link building ideas and strategies. Let me know in the comments below!