USA Today recently proclaimed, Content is the new retail store. The claim is specifically about referrals from experts on blogs; Tim Ferriss says that he loves Athletic Greens on his blog, so a million people click-through and buy Athletic Greens. That's all well and good, but how can you get Tim Ferriss—or anyone for that matter—to link to your site and not to Amazon?
Here are 4 tips for courting the blogosphere for e-commerce to help you earn these external link that drive traffic and sales. They take effort, but outside links and endorsements are well worth the time and effort.
0. Build a List
Before any of the following tactics can work you have to know who you're targeting. Endorsements, linking, and blogging are all very personal by their very nature, written and produced by human beings with reputations on the line. There is no easy way around this; you have to know specifically which bloggers in your space you care about and put them on a list.
As with anything in marketing, it can be easy to get overwhelmed by this, so try to keep it simple. Start with 3-5. Don't pick the big, super-famous guys. Find a few that write about products and services such as what you sell that seem to have reasonably engaged audiences (are there comments?) and stick to them. It shouldn't take you too long to put this list together.
For example, after getting a couple posts up on this blog I started looking around for anyone saying anything remotely interesting about e-commerce marketing, and found Content Ping. They're a niche blog that talks specifically about the importance of content in e-commerce marketing, which, for Salsify, couldn't be more inline with our mission. So I put them on my list.
Again, we're not talking TechCrunch and the like. If the blog is really famous, you probably don't want to target it, at least at the beginning. This isn't because you can't get them to pay attention to you—though that is harder—but rather because the traffic you'll get from them will tend to convert very poorly. Said another way, the more specific the audience, the better for targeting.
Once your list is together, get going!
1. Link Out
Bloggers really appreciate links. The blogging world is more than a little quid pro quo, and links often beget returning links (not always immediately, and definitely not always, but often enough). If you've got a corporate blog that's the easiest way. Most blogging platforms will notify their owner if a post on any other blog links to them.
If you don't have a blog you can always do something like the strategy in other people's blogs.
Minor internet celebrities are people too, and they appreciate attention, friendship, and good conversation as much as you do. Building a relationship with them can pay dividends over time. To get started, subscribe to their blogs. Follow them on twitter. Check up on them every few days. Write a comment or respond to a tweet every now and then, even if just to say, "Great read!".
To be most effective, however, be useful. And I don't mean point out typos here. Is there another article related that they should check out that you know about? A point that they've missed that's constructive? Even an interesting question? The easiest is if they actually ask for help with something; be useful!
A really simple thing is to send a link to an awesome article related to what they've been writing about. "Hey- love your blog; I thought you'd find this interesting".
This won't work if you don't genuinely like their writing or point of view. Think of this honestly as friendship building; if you don't like the person they'll figure it out.
3. Free Stuff
People love free stuff, particularly if it's new. If you contact a blogger personally and ask if they'd be interesting in reviewing a new product (especially if you're talking about a middle-of-the-pack blogger) they'll almost certainly take you up on that. And, because you provide the free stuff and seem like a friendly person on email you're going to get the link instead of Amazon.
This strategy works so well that Klout has built an entire business on the premise called Klout Perks.
:::sigh::: I know, all that sounds like a lot of work. It's not hours and hours and hours, but they are minor projects that build slowly over time and do not give instant gratification. So is there a shortcut?
Well, yes. There are a couple. But though they take less time and effort they are also less effective as a genuine, golden endorsement link.
The first is to use Google Adwords with the Display Network turned on. This will get your specific product pages listed on relevant blogs automatically, provided that you can afford the rate. Depending on your business, this may be a very profitable thing to do.
The second is to link back to your site in comments. You have to be careful with this one. Comments that are obvious advertisement, or show up identically across tons of blogs can have negative repurcussions for your and your site. However, an intelligent, helpful comment with a well-meaning link every once in a while can generate some inbound traffic. Frankly, I only use this tactic opportunistically as I go about my normal internet reading, and I'm skeptical that using it more broadly would work very well. Even the spammers have dialed back on this tactic in recent years since almost all blogs use
nofollow on links in their comment, removing any link juice benefit derived from them.
Like most marketing that pays off, there is no magic button that you can push to start getting well-qualified traffic from other blogs. However, like SEO, once you put in the effort these sources can pay off consistently over time and have a meaningful impact on your business. Plus, aside from the Google Adwords suggestion, they're free, and therefore perfect for smaller, scrappier e-commerce shops.
If you've had success courting the blogosphere please share!