Ecommerce SEO Case Study: White Hat Link Building Without Any Content

ecommerce SEO case studyMost people tell you that the secret to Ecommerce SEO is to “create a blog and publish great content”.

Are they right?

Well, to be honest with you….no.

Look:

I’ll be the first to tell you that awesome content makes a HUGE difference.

(In fact, I can draw a direct line between the effort I put into my content and tens of thousands of unique visitors)

The thing is, content is just ONE piece of the SEO puzzle.

And today’s guide I’m going to pull back the curtain and reveal the OTHER pieces that you might be missing.

Specifically, I’m going to show you a case study of a Backlinko reader that built 7 contextual links…

…without publishing a single word of content.

Free Bonus: Download a step-by-step checklist that will show you how to use this strategy for your Ecommerce site. The checklist includes two bonus Ecommerce marketing techniques that I didn’t include in this blog post.

How Chris Built 7 Contextual Backlinks to a Brand New Site…Without Any Content

A few months ago, Backlinko reader Chris Laursen had a problem…

His new client recently launched an ecommerce website in Denmark (Just Buy It):

JustBuyIt

Like most ecommerce sites in the consumer electronics space, JustBuyIt was about to stand toe-to-toe with heavyweights like Amazon, Best Buy and Ebay.

I don’t need to tell you that ranking above multimillion dollar brands like Amazon is NO joke.

I mean, just look at the SERPs for just ONE of the products that JustByIt sells:

GoogleDK_SERP

The average Domain Authority of the first page is…57. Yikes.

As Chris told me:

Because JustBuyIt is starting from scratch, the focus has been on driving referral traffic from sites that review the products that they sell. The challenge has also been that it’s currently only an ecommerce site. There is no content yet, which makes it extra tough to build links.

Chris Laursen

No content you say?

How could Chris possibly build white hat links without any content?

Keep reading.

Here’s What Happened Next:

Fortunately, around the same time Chris started working with JustBuyIt, he read a post on Backlinko called “How to Get High Quality Backlinks (Without Guest Posting)“:

backlinko case study

In that post I outlined a scalable and effective white hat link building technique called The Moving Man Method.

New to The Moving Man Method? No worries.

I shot a video the other day that explains the entire process step-by-step:

Now that you’ve watched the video, you can see why Chris was PUMPED to use this SEO strategy for his ecommerce SEO client.

And it’s time to share his results with you…

So Chris Applied The Moving Man Method For His Ecommerce SEO Campaign…

After spending about an hour on email outreach, the number of links pointing to his client’s website rose dramatically:

Referring domains

Sure, it was great that Chris built so many backlinks…

But the TYPES of links that he was able to develop — contextual links from highly-relevant sites in the consumer electronics industry — is the real story here.

He got links from…

A DA68 consumer electronics product site:

JustBuyIt_backlink

A popular Danish Mac news site:

Editorial Backlink

And an editorial link from an online electronics magazine:

Editorial Backlink 2

Even better, several of these links point directly to product and category pages, like this one from the trusted and authoritative (DA66) MacNews.com:

Product Page Link

If you run an ecommerce site you KNOW how hard it is to build links to product and category pages.

Well, now you have your answer :-)

This Might Be Even Better…

As you can see, Chris focused on links from sites where his target audience hangs out (like tech blogs).

When you throw metrics like PageRank and TrustRank out of the window — and focus on building links from relevant sites — you get a nice side bonus from link building: targeted referral traffic.

I’ve been saying this for years:

“The best backlink is one that sends you traffic.

And JustBuyIt’s boost in referral traffic shows you exactly why that maxim rings true today:

Referral Stats 1 Referral Stat Increases

Now let me walk you through the EXACT step-by-step strategy that he used…

…and show you how you can use The Moving Man Method to get more links and traffic.

Step #1: Find Outdated, Moved or Expired Resources

This is important:

Unless you have something that adds value to another person’s site, you might as well give up on link building right now.

Because the only way you’re going to convince someone to link to you is by making their site better.

But…HOW?

Well, you can straight up ask them to link to a resource on your site.

And because they’re linking to something that provides value to their audience, your link does improve their site.

Sure, that approach can land you some great links. But sometimes you need a bit of arm twisting to get the job done.

And that’s where step #1 comes in…

Step #1 is finding resources that are out-of-date, expired or not working.

Here are a few examples from the real world to show you what I mean…

A Few Real Life Examples

Because Chris was working with an ecommerce site, he zeroed in on companies that had recently gone out of business.

But no matter what you sell, there are businesses in your industry that have gone under…and have THOUSANDS of links pointing to their old site.

In many cases, the domain name actually expires. When that happens the entire site gets replaced with parked pages, like this:

Parked Page 2

Because pages on out of business websites are still technically working (they’re not 404s), broken link checkers can’t find them.

Although parked domains are harder to find than broken links, the advantage of using them is this:

They hook you up with link building opportunities that your competition doesn’t know about.

For example…

Blockbuster.com (175,000 followed links)

Blockbuster Announcement

You probably heard that movie rental giant Blockbuster closed its doors late last year.

Because Blockbuster Video is a household name, their site — Blockbuster.com —  generated A LOT of quality backlinks over the years…

…like this PR5 page from The University of California, Irvine:

Blockbuster Link

That’s just one of several thousand authoritative links still pointing to Blockbuster.com.

If you’re in the entertainment niche, Blockbuster.com is an absolute gold mine of link building opportunities.

Borders.com (800,000 followed links) Borders Bankrupt

Or how about the defunct book store chain, Borders?

Like Blockbuster, Borders has tens of thousands of authoritative links that point to a business that no longer exists.

(Most pages on Borders.com redirect to former rival Barnes & Noble…but some of the best one’s don’t)

For example, here’s a link from rowancountync.gov (DA56) pointing to a resource on Borders.com about children’s books

Borders Link

Today, that link redirects to a “This webpage is not available” page:

Dead Borders Page

But (and this is important), the link to Borders.com doesn’t show up as a dead link when you run a broken link checking tool:

Old Link

Let’s say that you run a site that sells books, ereaders, bookmarks, bookshelves or anything book related.

You could easily get a link from this page by creating a similar list of children’s books on your site.

Then you’d just need to let the person who runs that page know about the outdated link…and your similar resource.

But I’m getting ahead of myself :-)

First I need to answer the question that’s probably burning on your mind:

“HOW do I find resources in my niche that are gone?”

That’s what I’m going to cover next…

Strategy #1: Domain Aftermarket Sites

When an authoritative domain expires it’s usually picked up by a big domain auction site like GoDaddy Auctions, NameJet or even Flippa domain search.

godaddy auctions

Domain auction sites have done a lot of the hard work of finding outdated resources for you.

They’ve found domains that had something going for them (either traffic, backlinks or both)…and they organize them in one place to make them easy to sift through.

Sure, you can find gems on the auction sites themselves. But I prefer to use ExpiredDomains.net.

This awesome (and free) site aggregates auctioned domains from several different places.

ExpiredDomains.net also gives you important SEO info, like PageRank, DMOZ listing and the number of referring domains:

Expired Domains

For example, let’s say that you run a coffee blog.

You’d head over to ExpiredDomains.net and enter the keyword “coffee” into the search field:

Expired Search

Then sort by “DP”. DP stands for “Domain Popularity”, which is the number of domains linking to the site.

Sorting by Domain Popularity

A PR4 domain with 244 referring domains jumps out at me:

PR4 Domain

Sure enough, soycoffee.com has a stunning link profile, including a link from The Huff Post:

HuffPost Link

Not bad for a 2-minute search, eh?

Strategy #2: News About Business Closings, Rebrands and Mergers

Google News is a treasure trove of information about companies that close, rebrand or change domain names.

Just head over to Google News and use one of these search strings:

  • “Chapter 7” (Chapter 7 means the company dissolved. Chapter 11 means the company is restructuring)
  • “Business closes”
  • “Has closed”
  • “Out of business”
  • “Rebrands as”
  • “Bankruptcy”
google news search

Do you run a local business? Add cities and states to your searches to uncover local businesses that have recently closed their doors:

Bankruptcy Search

Strategy #3: Mine Yelp For Lists of Local Businesses That Have Shut Down Near You

When a business shuts down, Yelp keeps the page up. But they add “Yelpers report this location has closed” to the page.

Yelp Closed Page

And if the closed business had a website, Yelp lists the URL here:

Old Website

Just use this simple search string to find them:

site:yelp.com intitle:closed city + business type

For example, if you wanted to find closed book stores in Philly, you’d search for:

Yelp Search

Strategy #4: Find Parked Pages

As I mentioned earlier, parked pages are PERFECT for The Moving Man Method.

Here’s how to find them:

“This page is parked FREE, courtesy of GoDaddy.com” +”domain is for sale”

This brings up parked GoDaddy sites that are for sale.

Google Search String

You also can find niche-specific opportunities with the search string: “domain is for sale” + inurl:keyword.

Most of the results will be sites that are for sale, like this one:

For Sale Website

You’ll also come across press releases and announcements about sites that are for sale or have recently changed hands:

Domain Sale News

Strategy #5: Screaming Frog + Screenshot Tool Combo

I probably don’t need to tell you how awesome the versatile Screaming Frog SEO Spider is…

…or how many uses it has for boosting on and off site SEO.

For those of you that don’t know, Screaming Frog is a web crawler that scans your website just like a search engine spider.

It spots problems with your site like duplicate title tags, broken links — and as you’ll see in a minute — out of date pages.

Here’s what to do:

First, find a website in your niche that you’d like a link from.

Let’s say you run a baking blog and wanted a link from the PR3 EdibleCraftsOnline.com.

Next, put the homepage URL of that site into Screaming Frog and hit “start”:

Screaming Frog

Click the “external” tab, which will show you the outbound links on that domain:

External Tab

Export the list of external links to Excel:

Export Links

Grab those links and put them into the external link screenshot tool. Hit “Check Links”.

External Links Checker

This nifty tool will show you screenshots of the URLs you just gave it.

In our baking blog example, I found a number of links that weren’t quite right:

Screenshots

It may take a bit of digging…

…but if you look at enough screenshots you’ll find at least one link that you can use for The Moving Man Method.

Back to Chris

Chris actually used the Screaming Frog + Screenshot Tool Combo on JustBuyIt.

This is yet another way to tap into this technique: not only do you find outdated links on product pages and category pages, but you unearth Moving Man Method link building opportunities.

When he did, he noticed that they were linking to a parked domain, edge-design.com:

Parked Page

Edge Design used to sell customized iPhone cases…before they closed for unknown reasons.

And it’s a product that JustBuyIt sells.

In fact, these iPhone cases are so popular that they still influence Google Suggest results:

Google Suggest

Chris thought to himself:

“If we’re linking to Edge Design’s website, I bet other sites are too.”

And he was right.

Which brings us to step #2…

Step #2: Grab a List of Pages Pointing to the Outdated Resource

Once you’ve identified a popular-but-outdated resource, it’s time to find sites that link to it.

Tools like Ahrefs, Majestic SEO and Open Site Explorer make this process a breeze (I’m going to use Ahrefs in this example).

First, grab the URL of the dead resource.

If it’s an individual page on a site (for example, a tool that’s not working anymore or a service that a company no longer offers), enter the URL of that specific page.

If the entire site is down, use the homepage URL:

ahrefs homepage search

Glance at the number of referring domains. The more referring domains, the more link opportunities there are for you.

referring domains

Pro Tip: Hit the “Top Pages” button before digging into their link profile.

ahrefs top pages

This will show you the most authoritative pages on that site.

top pages results

If you find a page with a lot of referring domains, head over to Archive.org and see what used to be on that page.

Then recreate that resource on your site.  Because you have a one-for-one replacement for the outdated page, the email outreach you do in step #3 will be crazy effective.

Next, export the list of external links:

export backlinks

And you have yourself a list of pages linking to the outdated resource that you found:

listoflinks

And this leads us to the last step.

But first, I want to show you something cool…

How to Find Even More Link Building Opportunities

If your outdated resource is a brand name, you can uncover even more link building opportunities with a simple Google search.

You see, when people mention brands online, they don’t always link to the brand’s website (this is called an “unlinked mention”). And because the mention isn’t a link, tools like Ahrefs can’t find them.

Here’s an example of what I’m talking about:

Unlinked Mention

Fortunately, you can find these unlinked mentions really easily.

How?

Just search for the brand.

For example, Chris searched for “Edge Design” and “Edge Design Alfa” (a popular Edge Design iPhone case).

He found a bunch of unlinked mentions like this:

Unlinked Mention

Boom. Even more places to reach out to.

Speaking of outreach…

Step #3: Send Emails, Get Links

You’re almost done.

Now it’s time to let people know about their outdated link.

The best way to do that? Email outreach.

Here’s a word-for-word script you can use (this is an actual outreach email that Chris sent out):

Outreach Email

As you can see, Chris didn’t just tap the person on the shoulder and let them know about the outdated link…

…he also gave them a replacement link.

It just so happens that the replacement is a page on his site :-)

When you send out brief outreach emails (Chris’s was only 21-words) — and improve other people’s sites — email outreach tends to convert REALLY well:

Response Email

What’s Next?

I’m sure you can see the potential of The Moving Man Method for your ecommerce SEO efforts.

If you’re wondering: “How can I use this technique for my site?”, then I’ve got just the thing for you…

A free step-by-step checklist that will show you EXACTLY how to use this strategy for your site.

Click the link below to get instant access to the free checklist:

Ecommerce Checklist

 

366 Comments

Matthew Anton

:) You must have been great at solving puzzles and systems when you were growing up, as this is a beautiful combination of creativity / real world application BUT it does vaguely border on e-begging for links. I received an “outreach” type email where someone wanted a link because we linked out to moz and they were an SEO company. I think money talks at the end of the day which is why sometimes offering to pay for advertising or something else (so it’s not as direct/offensive) helps the transaction run smoother.

Reply
Brian Dean

Thanks Matthew.
You raise a good point: there’s a fine line between begging and outreach. That’s actually why I love this strategy to much: you’re actually providing value to the person’s site…not just bugging them for a link.

Reply
Spencer Padway

I agree with Brian here. I look at this technique as an excellent evolution of broken link building. Any technique can be done in a spammy way or a positive way, hence the devaluation of guest posting.
This is a great way to replace content, open up a conversation and provide value that most SEOs aren’t using (yet).

With posts like these there will be no stone unturned soon!

Reply
Brian Dean

Thanks Spencer. Appreciate it. Like you said you actually don’t even need to use this for link building. It’s a great way to start a conversation with another site owners. Ain’t nothing wrong with that :-)

Reply
Thuong Le

Hi Brian,
Another great post from you.
Just want to say thank you very much.
Best Regards!

Reply
Brian Dean

Hey Thuong. Glad you liked it :-)

Reply
Brian Dean

Thanks Felix. Put a lot of work into this one so I appreciate the comment :-)

Reply
Nick

I’d like to comment first and then read this post. Thanks Brian.

Reply
Brian Dean

Whatever floats your boat, Nick :-)

Reply
Adiel

Brian this is a fantastic post, thanks so much for sharing your knowledge. Best always.

Reply
Brian Dean

You’re welcome, Adiel. Glad you enjoyed it :-)

Reply
Michael Bely

Hey Brian,

Good post with great tips and insights.

A couple of more tools-related suggestions to empower this strategy of link building for your readers with no or little cost:

– There is a free tool SEOSpyGlass that allows to find up to 1000 backlinks for a website, check their Google Pagerank, Alexa and many other metrics. Free version’s main restriction is that it does not allow export the results, so you need to sort the results and open found links manually.

– Scrapebox is another super great tool to do a lot of stuff including finding backlinks and dropped domains. It is paid (it is one-time payment of i think $57), but it’s totally worth the investment if you are serious about link building and domain lurking.

– Also, pay attention to Xenu Sleuth that is free and allows to crawl website(s) and check their links, including outbound. If a link is a broken with “no such host exist” error, it is possible that the linked domain has expired and available.

Being creative with any tools links can be build relatively easily without any content if following advice in Brian’s post.

Reply
Brian Dean

Thanks Michael. AWESOME tool suggestions. I actually forgot about Xenu (I use it for BLB…but not so much for this). Thanks for taking the time to leave such an awesome comment.

Reply
Salman Baig

Really cool strategy! Backlinko readers are also genius like you Brian. Thumbs up.

Reply
Brian Dean

Glad you liked it, Salman. That’s true: Backlinko readers ROCK!

Reply
Brandon Pindulic

Brian,
as usual great post. I shared it on Growthhackers.com :)

As for the outreach, does it matter what email address you send from? More specifically, is it better to send from a personal gmail or from your company’s address?

Reply
Brian Dean

Thanks for the GH love, Brandon :-)

Really good question. I prefer to send from my company’s email.

Reply
Christian

Great stuff as usual Brian!
Was considering making websites completely based on this method. When a website goes down offer almost the exact same thing and this’ll give you a niiice boost to start.

Reply
Brian Dean

Thanks Christian. Wow, I never thought it that. Killer idea :-)

Reply
Mahender

Always cool stuff here. Improvising the existing techniques (moving man) to find more relevant sources to get a link from and then doing out reach. Great work. Thanks to you n Chris from Bizzbuzz.

Reply
Brian Dean

Thanks Mahender. Chris rocked the house with his improvements to the moving man method.

Reply

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *