Month by Month Follow Along
Ranking a New Dropshipping E-commerce Site with Link Building
The start of a new decade means it’s time for a few things.
Self reflection. Pondering humanity. And of course…
Starting a new business.
My first e-commerce/dropshipping business in fact, and SEO will be my primary (only) traffic generation strategy for the first year.
And guess what?
I’ll be documenting my entire strategy for you right on this page month over month as the brand goes from a zero-authority/no-traffic website to a page 1 ranking money making machine in under a year.
Let me get a few housekeeping items out of the way first.
#1 I will not be revealing the specific website or niche.
I wish I could but after a mixed experience with fully documenting my authority site building methodology for OutreachMama, I’m keeping the website details hidden to keep copycats at bay.
#2 I’m going to be sharing everything else in great detail. My exact strategy, how many links I built, and rankings movements over time.
With the pre-amble out of the way, let’s dive in.
To launch a successful e-commerce brand with SEO, you need the following:
– A relevant domain name
– A site with good homepage, category page, product page, and URL architectural optimization
– A smart blog content strategy
– An effective and scaleable off-page link building strategy
Last month, I partnered with someone who already had a site with category and product pages established.
He had domain name and website up and running but no established blog content strategy or off-page link building strategy in place.
It was basically a dormant site that was sitting there, aging for about 6 months.
MONTH 1: December 2019
Getting Things Setup
Before I start blasting you with strategies, you want to start with knowing exactly what you’re up against.
That means checking who ranks for your target keywords and determining if you have the skill and budget to take out your competitors.
This is where my website was starting.
Determining How Many Links I Need to Build
Since I’m going after a national ecommerce keyword where the main search term has about 100,000 month searches, I know I have a long way ahead of me.
Let me show me you a breakdown of how I evaluate the competition to estimate many links I need to build.
First I go to Ahrefs Keyword Explorer or Linkio’s Competition Analyzer to check how much raw power the top ranked results.
Most competitive searches in Google return a mixture of big authority sites and small specialty sites.
In my case, there were 4 big authority site that I’ll never be able to compete with, 3 specialty sites that I can target, and 1 site in between that I may eventually match.
I’m encouraged by these results. I will pursue this niche and focus on the DR 44, 37 and 32 sites as websites to further analyze.
Here are the overall referring domains for those sites from Ahrefs.
Just a heads-up.
I don’t take Ahrefs referring domain counts at face value.
- How many of these links actually matter?
- Which links are indexed in Google?
- Should I copy their anchor text percentages?
- What type of backlinks do I need?
- What topics should my guest blogs be about?
You can go way deeper to get the real picture. So it’s time to fire up Linkio.
I added these 3 domains as homepage competitors and figure out what their real numbers look like.
Let me pause for a second.
Things are about to get a bit heavy now for a few paragraphs.
Stay with me though.
The steps I showed above – everyone does that.
The steps I’m about to outline is what makes the difference.
When I start a link building campaign, my first priority is always establishing the homepage branded profile.
In today’s SEO, you can’t rank long-term without a powerful homepage. This is a signal to Google that you market your business and people care about it.
For the first few months of link building, I will target only my homepage.
How many links do I need? Let’s use Linkio to figure that out.
Ahrefs said the homepages of my competitors had 302, 332 and 229 homepage referring domains. However, Linkio did it’s crawling and determined the real numbers which were 198, 281 and 187 homepage referring domains. The rest of the links are probably dead.
Of those numbers, 96, 192 and 99 are dofollow and indexed in Google.
This becomes my goal.
Did you see what I just did there and why I only care about dofollow and indexed referring domains count?
If Google didn’t care enough to put an article into it’s index, you can bet it doesn’t care about all about the links coming from that page.
Backlink provider’s number are bloating with tons of links that are either nofollow or not indexed. We don’t need to worry about them.
Powering ahead, I think I can accomplish 100 dofollow and indexed referring domains to the homepage in about 3 months, which works out to 33 links per month.
Next, real brands need other stuff too. Directory links, social media links, and in the case of ecommerce sites, coupon site links.
I need to make sure I add these links too, otherwise having 100-200 links that are all dofollow on blog posts doesn’t look natural either.
In month 2, I’ll work on finding some directory and coupon site targets.
Now that I have my number: 100 links pointing to my homepage, I need to think about the details.
After 100 links, what should my anchor text percentages be?
What should those 100 articles be written about?
What My Anchor Text Percentages Should Be After 100 Links
100 links to my homepage. At the end of this campaign, I want to have a perfectly natural anchor text profile.
The type of profile that big budget brands who don’t care about SEO have.
So I went into Linkio to add my brand.
Since my domain is an exact match domain, I chose the above settings and this how Linkio set my ideal target percentages.
Take a closer look at the photo. Brand Name is set to 0% and websitename.com is set to a whopping 44%.
For exact match domains, you need to be really careful with using your exact keyword as the brand. Using your websitename.com as the brand is a much safer signal.
To balance this, the percentage distribution of keyword anchors is at 13%, which is higher than non-EMD domains.
I also had the option in Linkio to copy my high ranking competitors percentages but none of them were exact match domains. Two are partial match and 1 was a non-match.
I’d only copy their percentages if our domain types were the same.
Now that I had my percentage targets, Linkio gave me 100 anchors to use ranked by priority, so I had no questions there.
Next, I needed to start writing guest posting articles that include these anchors, but planning for 100 articles is no easy task.
What should the articles be able? Should they all be the same topic? Different topics? Does it matter?
What Topics Should My 100 Guest Posts Be Written About?
To be real, this isn’t really a problem most people have when doing SEO. They don’t ask themselves, “I know I have 100 links to build, what should I write about”.
They’re asking more along the lines of how the heck do I build 10 good links, regardless of the topic.
Still, whether it’s 10 links or 100 – more than a backlink’s anchor text and quality matters these days.
Th topical relevance of the article matters too.
And just like you shouldn’t go out there and build 100 exact match keywords, you shouldn’t guest blog 100 articles that all have your main keyword in the title tag.
I recorded a video on my process for determining backlinking topics. Check it out.
Here’s the link for the backlink relevance checker I mention in the video.
So I covered competitive analysis, anchor text planning and topical optimization. At the mid-month mark, I was ready to launch my link building strategy.
My 3 Step Link Building Strategy
In general, my 3 month goal is to build 100 dofollow contextual links and as many resource and niche-relevant directory links I can.
Custom Blogger Outreach Guest Posting
Link building via blogger outreach is what we do at OutreachMama so I’m definitely going to go with my strength here.
What’s different with my approach compared to what most people look for is I don’t really care about the metrics of the site I’m getting links from. DR 60, DR 8, DR 20. Ahrefs traffic 10,000, 500, 50 – it doesn’t matter to me.
What does matter to me is that the site is run by a real person. If it’s low authority or low traffic site, but in my niche, I’m happy with it.
Directories are also quite big in the industry I’m in. As long as I don’t have to pay for it, and the directory site is niche, I’ll try to get websitename.com and naked URL placement. In month 2, I’ll cover this in greater detail.
Resource Page Link Building
Resource page links are great. They’re niche relevant, usually contribute to my branded or URL anchor needs and the pages already have some age to them. I’ll share more about this strategy month 2.
The last thing I want to cover before wrapping up month 1 is my blog content strategy.
Listicle Blog Content Strategy
With OutreachMama, I did long form guides. With Linkio I did the same plus free tools. They both work well, but for this ecommerce site, I’m going to do something different.
- I’m launching 75 blog posts at once.
- I’m not having a single article written the traditional way.
- It only took me a couple of hours to come up with 75 laser targeted buyer keyword-based topic ideas.
- The content is going to update frequently.
- I’m going to be able to use affordable writers and still have amazing content.
Does that sound interesting? Then check out my video on how I’m going to do it!
End of Month Stats
You still with me? Good.
Then let’s talk results.
I’m tracking an assortment of 139 short and long tail keywords.
The average ranking of the keywords is 62 at the end of the month.
Yep. I’ve got a long way to go.
And here are the backlink growth metrics.
Basically, I’ve gone from 2 links up to 11 at the end of the month, 6 of which are dofollow and indexed.
That wraps up month 1. See you month 2!
So in all of month 1, I shared my plan with you on how I’d use a mixture of Linkio, blogger outreach, and blog content listicles to get this new site moving in the right direction.
Here’s the backlink numbers at the end of month 2.
Doing my own tally, I calculated building 42 new links in January 2020.
- 26 Guest Posts
- 3 Content Link Insertions
- 9 Directory Links
- 4 Resource Links
How I Built The 26 Guest Post Links
26 guest posts works out to about 1 a day. I asked the publishers to skip attribution where possible and most did. These were mostly low authority niche specific sites.
Only 3 of the sites had a DR above 50. Only 4 were 30 or 40.
The rest of the 22 links? DR 10s and 20s.
It doesn’t bother me at all. They are all niche specific sites and not link farms.
I didn’t do anything special here besides building bulk prospecting lists > bulk finding email > bulk sending emails > bulk sending follow-ups and working with whoever shows interest.
How I Built the 9 Directory Links
I scraped Google’s search results with 2 search operators.
– (Keyword) + directory
– (Keyword) listing inurl:advertise
I also exported competitor directory links from Ahrefs.
This turned into a list of about 400 opportunities and I hired someone to go through the list one by one to submit to sites where I could get a free listing.
We scored 9 links in January and hoping for a few more in February.
How I Built The 4 Resource Links
I scraped Google’s search results with 2 search operators.
– (Keyword) inurl:resources
– (Keyword) inurl:links
That yielded 238 opportunities. We found the emails and sent them a pitch for inclusion.
30 people replied and got 4 links out of it. Maybe some more will arrive next month, not sure.
Listicle Blog Content Strategy
Using RoundupWiz, I got the 75 new blog pages posted up on the site in a silo.
For example, if I was selling wine kits, the structure would be yaywine[dot]com/best-wine-kits/red/.
This silo launched with 250 listicle items spread across the 75 pages and my goal is to add new items to the content each month.
To power up the silo, I’ll start with building links to the main silo page, probably in month 3 or 4, after I’m happy with the home authority.
SEO Rankings Update
The average ranking went from 66 at the start of the month to 60 across 139 keywords and 70 pages.
Both short and long tail keywords.
I like looking at average rank across several keywords to measure progress instead of focusing on specific keywords.
In contrast, most people are hyper focused on specific keywords.
Personally, I’ve seem much more success with link building campaigns when I don’t focus on a specific keyword and page, but instead focus on page clusters and topics.
If I can gain topical authority with my link building, all my relevant pages will rank better even without direct links.
That’s about all I’ve got for month 2. Across the next few months, I’ll basically just be rinse and repeating this process.
Also, thinking about investing in a small social media presence either month 3 or 4 to boost more branded signals.
Until next month – cheers!
MONTH 3: Lots of Links, Small Gains but Doubts Creeping In
Recapping February 2019 activities: Ahrefs shows a backlink profile growth of 41 links. We continued the same activities outlined in the earlier months with most of the links coming from guest posting.
Here’s a more granular look at the backlink growth in February from Linkio’s charts.
The process here is very straight forward.
Prospect blogs in my niche, email 5 websites a day, follow-up with them up to 4 times, and publish guest posts with the ones that say yes – hopefully without attribution.
Our rankings went from average of position 60.82 to position 53.33 for 139 keywords.
I’m grateful for the traction, but honestly I’m starting to have doubts about this campaign.
Why I'm Having Doubts About This Campaign
I grew the homepage backlinks by 80 links and the various internal pages by 10 links, but only the inner pages are starting to rank on page 1.
When I started this campaign 4 months ago, the brand name of the homepage wasn’t even in the top 200 of Google.
Originally, I figured it was because the domain was an exact match domain and the keyword was a competitive one but now I’m starting to wonder.
I’ll give the domain one more month and if the homepage doesn’t show any progress, I’m probably going to ditch this domain and restart with a new domain.
Until then, Cheers.