Here’s How eCommerce Companies Can Leverage “Linkless” Backlinks

If you’re looking to build an e-commerce empire, you more than likely have a strong pulse on the latest social media and ad trends dominating your industry.

And hey, that’s a good start!

But when’s the last time you mulled over your SEO strategy?

Because according to Hubspot’s 2018 State of Inbound report, generating traffic and leads is still the top challenge among modern marketers.

The State of Inbound

Always the elephant in the room for marketers, the need to rank for keywords and run link-building campaigns isn’t going away anytime soon.

Given how e-commerce spending is snowballing year-over-year, the growing competition in the space signals just how important factors like platform choice, pagespeed, and of course, SEO has become.

However, there’s a growing trend in the SEO space that goes far beyond basic links.

Enter the rise of linkless backlinks.

An underutilized yet low-hanging way to give your search rankings a boost, linkless backlinks most definitely need to be part of your SEO strategy in 2019 and beyond.

What Are Linkless Backlinks and How Do I Win Them?

Linkless backlinks became part of the greater SEO conversation in 2017 as noted by Search Engine Journal.

With businesses looking to rank in a post-PageRank world, the geniuses at Google almost explicitly revealed that their algorithm was looking at more than just traditional links and specific anchor texts.

Quite the contrary, actually. Now conversations around the web, including social mentions and reviews, are seen as positive search signals to Google. In other words, if your business is consistently being talked about online, chances are you’re reaping the benefits of linkless backlinks.

This revelation ultimately spells good news for most e-commerce brands. Linkless backlinks help level the playing field for emerging businesses, meanwhile eliminating the need for spammy link-building campaigns which require begging for a specific anchor text.

That said, linkless backlinks don’t happen by accident. Although the face of link-building has changed, ranking still requires a concrete strategy. In this guide, you’ll find tips to help you both actively and passively build more linkless backlinks. The more of these tactics you can pull off in tandem, the better.

1. Generate Ratings, Reviews, and Post-Purchase Buzz

Perhaps the easiest way to win more mentions is by generating more ratings and reviews from your existing customers.

Doing so helps you generate third-party links and social mentions while also building some much-needed trust with your audience. Given that 95% of shoppers read reviews before buying anything online, curating feedback is something that e-commerce brands should be doing anyway.

Also, consider that if somebody has purchased from you in the past, you’ve already done the bulk of the legwork necessary to encourage a review.

They know you. They trust you. Now it’s your job to get them buzzing about their latest purchase.

Asking folks to post a review doesn’t have to be rocket science. To put the process of curating feedback on autopilot, try rolling out post-purchase autoresponder.

These messages automatically hit up your buyers after a set period of time to request on-site feedback. Here’s a straightforward example for Tory Burch.

Another tactic for getting buyers to bring up your product is to incentivize their shout-outs with a deal or discount.

For example, here’s an email campaign from Ace & Tate which includes a discount for customers who share their purchases with friends and family. This sort of “evergreen” promotion can be rolled out whenever you see fit and doesn’t necessarily need to be time-sensitive.

The concept here is simple: encourage your customers to talk about you after whatever you’re selling is in their hands. Whether it’s an on-site review or social media, these types of messages can help encourage the conversation that’ll lead to linkless backlinks.

And sure, some people might talk about you organically and without prompting. The reality, though? Those customers are few and far between.

Instead, it pays to be proactive with how you ask for feedback. Case in point…

2. Take a Proactive Approach to Social Media

E-commerce brands are expected to be glued to social media, right?

However, that doesn’t mean that the ROI for your time spent publishing content or replying to customers is crystal clear.

Hey, I totally get it.

The debate over the role of social media in SEO has been historically fierce and, to some, inconclusive. Fast forward to the present. A recent experiment from Hootsuite actually found a positive correlation between search rankings and social mentions.

This correlation seems to be in line with conventional wisdom for most marketers as well as the premise for linkless backlinks themselves.

The good news? Getting people to talk about your brand and products is easier than you might think. Product-centric posts represent the top type of content for today’s social users who are hungry for recommendations. In other words, consumers aren’t shy when it comes to sounding off on brands one way or the other.

Of course, translating mentions into linkless backlinks means maximizing engagement.

Arguably the easiest way to get more eyes and ears on your social posts is through hashtags. For example, posts with any number of hashtags automatically get more engagement on Instagram. Those tags immediately open your brand up to more potential followers, conversations, and customers.

Tacking on community or industry-specific tags only takes a few seconds. Just make sure whatever you’re promoting makes sense for your brand and doesn’t take away from your captions or content. Check out how Sharpie tastefully uses hashtags to get followers talking.

 

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In addition, brands should consider how they can tag others to help build buzz. Whether it’s a fellow brand or “regramming” a customer, such tags can help you score notifications and encourage further sharing.

 

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To directly maximize your mentions, you should most definitely look into the ever-growing trend of influencer marketing.

Introducing your brand to thousands of new followers in a single post is a worthwhile investment given you spot relevant influencers with an audience that’s interested in what you’re selling.

 

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Another way to encourage more social conversations is to post content that’s prime for engagement. Video is easily the most engaging type of content across just about any social network as it reels viewers in and boasts high entertainment value.

Through educating followers or showing off your products in action, video is incredibly valuable for spreading the word. YouTube can likewise be a goldmine for linkless backlinks via sharing, descriptions, and comments where you can win more mentions.

Bear in mind that none of these social strategies is a “silver bullet.” Again, the idea here is to encourage as many conversations as possible simultaneously.

3. Encourage User-Generated Content (UGC) From Followers and Customers

Piggybacking on the last section, encouraging user-generated content such as customer photos is a prime way to grab valuable mentions that point back to your social channels and website.

Basically, UGC allows you to encourage your customers to advertise on your behalf time and time again without having to lift a finger.

For example, every brand should boast a branded hashtag which customers can use to tag their photos, testimonials, and shout-outs. By monitoring and promoting this tag, you have a constant pulse on what’s being said about your brand.

Check out Hello Fresh’s #HelloFreshPic tag in their Instagram bio, for example.

This hashtag makes it easy to spot customer photos and conversations surrounding your products. Additionally, it allows you to use your customers’ content to fill your own calendar as an added bonus.

 

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Happy Friday! Remember to eat with your eyes first 💚💙 📸: @rawcrush #HelloFreshPics #Regram

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Socially savvy brands can also run giveaway campaigns which encourage sharing and publishing photos which serve as content entries. People are more than willing to engage with such promotions – granted you ask.

 

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🌿HUGE #GIVEAWAY 🌿 LET’S TRIP TF OUT – GET INTO AN ALTERED STATE OF SKIN with this MASSIVE swag bag giveaway including $1,000 in #milkmakeup products, exclusive Milk Makeup swag, & all these goodies from @boohoo, @illesteva, @snowehome, @humnutrition, @livelarq, @nuunhydration, and @briogeo 😱 – We’re choosing one lucky winner to win this yummy haul, PLUS 10 winners will score a full-sized #hydrogrip primer HOW TO ENTER: ⚡️Follow @milkmakeup (we’re checking 😉) ⚡️Like this post ⚡️Tag 3 friends EXTRA ENTRY: add this post to your story 🤩 EXTRA EXTRA ENTRY: tap the link bio & enter your email 😌 – Giveaway ends 3/11 @ 11:00PM EST Winners will be announced on this post on 3/12 @ 3:00PM EST Full rules: milkmakeup.com/terms – CONGRATS TO GRAND PRIZE WINNER: @__elleynad__ HYDRO GRIP WINNERS: @bree_is_real @doubledippedincocoa @cwrighttt @ammaalhassan @hailey_devon03 @nayyomee_ @karina.alcantaraa @loramouammer @olive.nectar @freyaarr

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Featuring your UGC on-site as part of a lookbook can also encourage more frequent sharing that leads to more linkless backlinks. Here’s an example from CLUSE.

Think of each of these tactics as the foundation of your link-building strategy. Giving your customers a reason to shout you out is exponentially better than just staying silent.

4. Rethink Your Guest Posting and PR Strategy

Linkless backlinks are certainly a game-changer in terms of how we perceive link-building and social rankings at large.

That being said, traditional guest posting and PR campaigns are far from dead.

Should brands still contact good, old-fashioned email outreach? Absolutely.

Except now you can focus a bit less on scoring specific anchor texts and spend more time researching outreach candidates that make sense for your brand.

Maybe it’s a relevant industry blog. Perhaps there’s another brand on the block who you think would be a good fit for a partnership.

Or let’s say that you’re looking to potential influencers to help get your business some much-needed exposure.

Either way, you’re going to need to know how to conduct some basic outreach. This rings true for B2B and B2C brands alike; this means putting together an old-school, cold email campaign. Rather than painstakingly go email by email, tools such as MailShake can help you craft outreach templates to cover more ground in a shorter amount of time.

Additionally, the platform’s analytics can help you understand what’s working with your outreach and what needs tweaking.

Don’t totally discount the power of traditional outreach. Although linkless backlinks are great to have, measuring the success of such link-building can be a bit of a question mark versus a cold email campaign “by hand.”

But that doesn’t mean the measuring and monitoring your linkless backlinks is impossible.

And hey, that leads us to our final point!

5. Make Sure to Monitor Your Mentions (And Respond)

Effective monitoring and listening will allow you to keep an eye on everything from your mentions and earned media to what customers are saying about your products.

All of this information is invaluable for not just tracking your search rankings, but also uncovering keywords and terms you use for SEO purposes.

And no, something like Google Alerts isn’t going to cut it. E-commerce brands need something more robust if they want to make the most of each and every mention.

Let’s take PowerReviews’ intelligence suite as a prime example. The suite analyzes industry-wide conversations surrounding competitors brands and products. Breaking down both mentions and customer sentiment, businesses can better understand how they stack up when it comes to their industry conversation.

But more importantly for SEO, the suite can also break down specific keywords and terms and their sentiment as it pertains to your products. This enables brands to come up with keyword-rich descriptions and copy based on what their target audience wants.

Bringing our guide full circle, these example of analytics again points to the importance of having reviews for the sake of backlinks and trust.

Also, consider the plethora of brand-specific discussions that are relevant to your business that isn’t necessarily being tagged. This is where tools such as Sprout Social’s monitoring and listening come in handy.

For example, brands can monitor a myriad of relevant business tags to see what their followers want to see more of.

However, social listening is the critical component of tracking your linkless backlinks.

Beyond social media where such conversation is rather obvious, Sprout clues brands in on potential link-building opportunities by digging into keywords and terms on sites like Reddit and Quora.

Consumers flock to such sites to avoid the trappings of traditional marketing. Despite this, these resources are great for brands to tactfully give their two cents or conduct competitive analysis.

For example, let’s say you’re a beauty brand. Subreddits, such /r/skincareaddiction, are a treasure trove of discussion and insights where you could potentially score some mentions.

The same logic applies to the likes of YouTube

…and Quora, where brands can engage with prospects directly by linking back to their website or a relevant piece of content.

See how that works?

How Are You Harnessing the Power of Linkless Backlinks?

Listen: e-commerce brands need all the help they can get when it comes to SEO.

Linkless backlinks and mentions are a crucial piece of the puzzle that result in better rankings.

But as noted, those mentions aren’t just going to fall into your lap. You’re going to need to understand how to encourage them time and time again.

And by sticking to the tips above, you can do exactly that.

Emil Kristensen
Emil Kristensen

Emil Kristensen is the CMO and co-founder of Sleeknote: a company that helps e-commerce brands engage their site visitors—without hurting the user experience.

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