One of the biggest concerns with many online sellers when picking the place to sell products online is how will they generate traffic to their new site. With Big Cartel you have to do most the work building up traffic through social networking, search engine ranking, local marketing and possibly word of mouth. This differs from marketplaces like Etsy and Storenvy where some of the traffic is built into the platform by having a shared storefront area for customers to search all products on the platform.
So where does that leave those of us who choose to use a platform like Big Cartel or similar like Shopify or Retailr?
A 3 step Big Cartel Link Building Strategy
Social media is a powerful method to reach your audience and find customers. I want to however cover a strategy to help your shop start showing up in more search engine results and possibly finding other websites outside of social media that will generate targeted traffic to your online shop.
Step 1 – Link Audit Strategy
In the first step of this link building strategy I want to encourage you to do some homework. The link audit I am suggesting is introductory and would focus first on your own site and then on a competitor site that you feel is doing well. You can do these steps over a few days and document your findings in a spreadsheet so you have the data for decisions later. More advanced and expensive methods are available but I won’t cover them here since most of you are on a tight budget.
Open Site Explorer
To see your site backlinks I suggest using OpenSiteExplorer. This is a tool you can use only a limited number of times per day if you don’t have a paid account. Use your url and place it in the url box and hit SEARCH button. You will want to filter your results to show only external links to pages on your root domain. You should now have a list of up to 10,000 links that are pointing to your site. You want to review these links and focus on finding links from sites that are unrelated to your product and potentially negative and then you also want to focus on finding links from authority sites like blogs or news sites.
Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools
Next part of your link audit should be to login to your Google Analytics account and run a referrer report over the past 6 months. Once you are in your account you will navigate to Traffic Sources-> Sources -> Referrals. Then simply change the date range to at least a few months. Typically you will find the primary referrers like Facebook or Twitter but sometimes you might find unexpected sources like other blog posts that you didn’t know about.
Here are several things to do in Google Analytics once you have your referrers view.
- Use filters (excludes/contains keyword) to find interesting sources
- Check why they gave you a backlink and find a way to get more using the same principle
- At the very least you can check the incoming traffic for bounce rate and identify the sources that do very well for you. Send a thank you email to them
If you do not have Google Analytics or Webmaster tools installed, I recommend that as your very next step before going any further. As an alternative you can use Google to find additional backlinks by running a search on Google.com for link:mydomain.com. This is also a quick and simple way to run against your competitors as well. This won’t give you a full picture but it is a start for those on a budget not ready to pay for monthly subscription services.
Repeat the link audit step for one or more competitors and document your findings to be used later on.
Part 2 – Link Building Efforts
Now that you have spent some time doing your link audit homework you have some information to set out on a link building campaign. It is important to note you do not want to do this all in one day or even one week. Spread this out over time, use a calendar to set reminders, or something to remind you to continually work on this over time.
In this step you will want to use the information from before to find sites that shouldn’t be linking to you and request you be removed. Then you want to find sites that your competitors have linking to them and find ways to gain these same links. This can be done through a simple email requesting a link be added, a guest post, a comment or perhaps a paid placement. Make sure you only focus on higher authority pages.
Also during this stage you want to identify new sources that didn’t appear in your link audit. You can do this through keyword searches on Google for relevant terms to your products. If you sell t-shirts don’t focus on the keyword t-shirt. Focus more on the niche or style of shirts, or the genre of movies people like that buy your shirts for example. If you sell Movie related products search for blogs or communities focused on a recent movie. This is where you can find link building opportunities. Sometimes you will find hundreds of potential blogs or forums to use in your link building strategy. Make sure to keep a spreadsheet of these links so you can mark which ones you want to focus on and then which ones you have already completed.
Don’t forget to use your favorite social media sites to share content and get links back to your shop.
During this step you will want to make sure you have your content optimized so when links start coming to your site visitors will be happy with the content they find. So consider linking to a specific product or category page rather than the home page if it is more relevant to the site you are linking back from. This makes customers happy and also it will make Google happy when it considers ranking your pages.
This strategy is ongoing and should be spread out so that you are not building too many links in a single day or week. Google can penalize this.
Part 3 – Blogging Strategy
Now that you are underway in your link building for your brand you will also need to focus on content. I mentioned guest posting and content in the previous step. The best way to manage this is through blogging. Setup your own blog on tumblr, blogger or wordpress. I always promote a self hosted WordPress install but you can use a free setup if necessary. Set a schedule and start posting once or twice a week with original content and also excerpts and links to helpful relevant content elsewhere. Link these content posts with your social media updates to drive people to your blog. Your blog can then have infrequent posts about your products and also link to your store from the sidebar.
Becoming consistent with blog posts will allow your site to build of pages to index and link to. So now you can encourage people to share the blog posts as well as your products. See how the potential for more links pointing to your site is building.
The second part of your blogging strategy should focus on finding a few very key places you can submit a guest post. So when you look back at step 2 you will see how you can find a very important blog that has a large readership and get in contact to write a guest post. Don’t make the guest posts about your products but don’t forget to make sure you do have a link to your shop in your profile at the bottom of the post, or a link to a supporting blog post you have already posted.
Putting it all together
Link building is a key part of your online presence. There are lots of steps involved but you can simplify it to some simple truths.
- Create valuable content and share it.
- Be Helpful.
- Interact with others in your market.
- Be consistent.
- Review your content and links regularly
- Don’t worry about traffic numbers, worry about sales and conversions.
I built Parkestry to lay the ground work for shop owners to improve their online presence through different tools. You should check it out for other ways to make sure your web site is prepared to make a great impression online.