In the world of eCommerce, Amazon is a serious force to be reckoned with. In 2020 alone, their annual revenue increased 38% to an incredible $386 billion.
This is down to a number of factors – Amazon has widespread brand recognition on its side, and covers a vast amount of products and categories. So even when customers aren’t starting their product searches on Amazon already—which, as CivicScience reported in 2019, is around half of users—Amazon typically ranks highly anyway.
So how can SMEs compete with Amazon, especially in the rankings?
It’ll take a multi-faceted approach, one we’re looking forward to breaking down further in our upcoming #Blinktank webinar. But today, we’re examining a specific tactic that a lot of eCommerce businesses might not have considered before, at least in the capacity of how it can help them compete with Amazon: link-building.
We know links are important – we devoted an entire webinar to it. Links can signal relevancy and trustworthiness to search engines, when done correctly. They give businesses credibility in a digital world where pretty much anyone can say pretty much anything.
But how can they help SMEs compete with Amazon? Let’s take a closer look.
Amazon and links
Like we said, Amazon gets a lot of favour thrown its way, and this is down to a number of reasons, but a big one is its generality. Amazon is a generalist – according to the latest calculations, Amazon has more than 12 million products, and that’s not even factoring in Amazon Marketplace sellers. Tack them on, and the products available stack up to more than 353 million.
And while this works in the brand’s favour, in that its users know they can more or less find whatever they need on Amazon, it also helps them out in the rankings. Google knows Amazon will satisfy just about every eCommerce search – it’s a safe bet.
But this also has the potential to work against the Goliath of eCommerce. Search engines are smart enough to know that if you’re looking for a specific product, a site built entirely around that product is likely to be a better result for your needs than a generalist who doesn’t specialise in only that area. So Amazon, with vast inventory and generalist nature, can be beat.
But how does this relate to links?
As we covered in our last webinar on digital PR and link-building for DTC brands and mentioned above, when other sites link to yours, it signals to search engines that the content on your site is helpful and relevant to audiences of the site linking to you. If that audience is then your audience, you’re in business.
So when you’ve got the right links—and we have to emphasise right here, in that unmarked paid links do not count as “right”— and enough of them, this can only help you in the rankings.
That said, you don’t necessarily need scores and scores of links to outrank Amazon. We’ve seen eCommerce businesses with far fewer links than Amazon outrank them.
This is because each site sells just one category of product: artificial plants. That means all of their content, both commercial and informational, is about artificial plants. They also have link profiles made up primarily of links from home and garden titles, further strengthening their relevance, and have optimised their sites well for their target keywords and for their audiences.
But depending on how competitive your industry is, you’re going to need some links.
If you sell garden furniture, for instance, having a great site that only sells garden furniture and only contains content about garden furniture might be a great start, but there are a load of sites that only sell garden furniture. So, you’re not just competing with generalists you can beat on relevancy like Amazon, but you’re also competing with other specialists.
Links help to prove that you’re as relevant to a particular search as you know yourself to be, and that other people trust you as a source. Against sites in your own niche, broadly speaking the more relevant links you have, the higher you’ll rank.
What kind of links do I need to outrank Amazon?
Search engines and their results are all about relevancy. If you Google “cheap garden furniture”, you’re going to get back a list of pages that Google thinks will help resolve your query, in the order it thinks will be most helpful.
This is why link-building can be so beneficial to brands with fewer resources and who aren’t as general as the big marketplaces (Amazon, Wayfair, eBay, Walmart, etc.). If you can show that other people are finding your site to be so helpful, they link to it to inform others and share your content, search engines will take this into consideration and rank your site higher in order to, again, provide the most helpful results to its users.
There are two types of links that can impact your site and its rankings – external links and internal ones. Both can be helpful in building your link profile, but for different reasons.
External links are what they sound like – they’re when an external site links to yours.
When it comes to link-building, it can be helpful to demonstrate your niche relevancy. Like we mentioned earlier, this will give you the advantage over Amazon in your particular area if you can show you know it better than they do.
In this instance, let’s keep going with the theme of garden furniture – if you earn external links from sites that are specific to your area or closely related topics, links from sites about gardening and home décor will help to strengthen your topical relevance, which in turn gives you a better chance of outranking Amazon, whose link profile is as generalised as they are.
If you’re interested in learning more about how you can earn external links in a way that’s acceptable to Google, we devoted an entire webinar to it (full presentation in the link above).
On the flip side are internal links – they’re when you link from one page on your site to another page on your site.
People often forget about internal links when they’re thinking about linking. But in addition to strong and relevant external links, a clever internal linking profile can help with rankings too.
Above all, you’ll need to make sure your internal linking structure is logical and makes it easy for users and search engines to find key pages and supporting content. Content hierarchy, with breadcrumbs and clear site navigation, is not only useful in aiding content discovery, but it also allows link equity to flow between pages.
In particular, when you’re out earning links, you’ll need to make sure you consider how the pages that external links are pointing to are interlinked with the rest of the site so that link equity is passed on.
If all of your external links point to a handful of pages, but those pages are poorly linked with the rest of the site, the value of your link-building efforts is being limited. So-called “link equity” (or “link juice”) is passed from page to page via links, so if one page on your site has 50 great external links but only links to one other internal URL, only that one other URL is sharing the benefit of the links.
Instead, it’s important to update your site so that the well-linked page links to multiple internal pages, which means the link equity will be passed on between them. The more link equity a page has, the stronger the signal that this is a page worth ranking.
For example, let’s say you build great links to Product A from some listicles and best-of posts on other sites, and Product A links to Product B in a “you may also like” section. Product A gets a ranking boost, Product B gets a bit of the equity, and there’s probably a homepage link which also receives some of the boost. The homepage may link to dozens of pages, which barely get a look by the time the equity has been passed down and split many, many ways.
If your product pages display linked breadcrumbs, like Category A > Subcategory A > Product A, then when you build links to that product page, link equity is passed directly to Category A and Subcategory A and adds to their own ranking signals.
Links in general are a key part of SEO, so it makes sense they’d be helpful in outranking Amazon. We’ll go into much more detail on links and their ability to help eCommerce brands beat market leaders on our upcoming #Blinktank webinar, How to Outrank Amazon.
We’ll also cover the importance of brand specialism and solid web design, showing you first-hand examples of how other eCommerce businesses have achieved this and how you can too. There’s still time to sign up – make sure to register through our official webinar platform here.
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