Month by Month Follow Along
Ranking a New Dropshipping E-commerce Site with Link Building
I’m starting my first e-commerce/dropshipping business and SEO will be my primary focus 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.
It’s in the groomsmen gifts space. The website is groomsmengiftsource.com.
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 content strategy
– An effective and scaleable off-page link building strategy
Video Recap of Months 0, 1 and 2
MONTH 0: MARCH 2020
Getting Things Setup
Let’s start with knowing exactly what we’re up against.
I have a brand new site that I just purchased in March of 2020. There are no backlinks yet.
Determining How Many Links I Need to Build
Since I’m going after a national ecommerce keyword where the main search term, groomsmen gifts, 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.
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 likely 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.
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 partial match domain, I chose the partial match settings and Linkio set my target percentages for me.
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.
End of Month Stats
You still with me? Good.
Then let’s talk baseline.
I’m going to officially publish the website early next month.
I am launching with about 70 category pages and just a handful of blog posts. There is a lot of unique content in these 70 category pages.
And I’ll be tracking an assortment of 133 short and long tail keywords.
That wraps up month 0. See you next month!
So in all of month 0, I shared my plan with you.
I hit the publish button on the website and started building links. Here are the stats after 1 month.
That’s Ahrefs stats. Doing my own tally, I calculated building 42 new links.
- 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.
They are all niche specific sites so I don’t mind the lower DA.
For outreach, 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. You can learn more about directory link building strategies here.
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.
SEO Rankings Update
The average ranking across 133 keywords went from nowhere to the average rank of 85 aka page 8.
The short tail high volume keywords did not reach the top 100 at all but many longer tail ones did.
I like looking at average rank across several keywords to measure progress instead of focusing on specific keywords.
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 through link building, all my relevant pages will rank better even without direct links.
That’s about all I’ve got for month 1. Across the next few months, I’ll basically just be rinse and repeating this process.
Until next month – cheers!
MONTH 2: Lots of Links, Small Gains
Recapping May 2020 activities: Ahrefs shows a backlink profile growth to 87 links. We continued the same activities outlined in the earlier months with most of the links coming from blogger outreach.
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 content with the ones that say yes – hopefully without attribution.
Our rankings went from average of position 85 to position 39 for 133 keywords.
My 3 “main” high volume keywords like groomsmen gifts, best groomsmen gifts, and groomsmen gift ideas moved from not top 100 to positions 50, 27 and 28 respectively. Two long tail keywords made it to the bottom of page 1 and most others are spread across pages 2-6.
MONTH 3: BIG RANKINGS GAINS
June 2020 actually was not a great link acquision month. We only were able to build 2 link this month. Mostly this was due to a lack of focus across several key team members, including myself.
Even with that said, We saw great rankings movement this month.
Let’s start with the Ahrefs metrics growth.
You can see Ahrefs starting to pick up more keywords as the numbers increase across the board. Here is the growth in the Average rankings chart next.
Compared to last month, which had an Average rank of 39, we’re seeing some great progress. This time, I’ll also provide a breakdown of the actual keywords and their rankings changes over the past 3 months.
Let’s be real for a second. I actually don’t have all of these products in the ecom shop. For example, I rank for groomsmen gift pocket watch. I don’t actually have any pocket watches.
As the site starts to rank and some pages get more visibility, I can source the products afterwards. In the meantime, I used just launched it like a category page but embeded a RoundupWiz pocket watch listicle that links out to Etsy and other places.
And one last screen grab I’ll share, is the growth in Google’s Search Console.
You can see the impressions and clicks count all going in the right direction. We’ve got a long long way to go, but early progress is looking good, it’s promising and I’m optimistic about this campaign.
Until next month!
MONTH 4: GROWTH CONTINUES
It’s the middle of the year and wedding season is in full effect. Well, it would have been if not for the pandemic. Regardless, we continue our hard work to rank our groomsmen gifts site in earnest.
You can see Ahrefs starting to pick up more keywords as the numbers increase across the board.
July 2020 saw 23 links being built. 19 of them were new guest posts and the other 4 were link insertions.
21 of these links went right to the homepage with mostly branded anchor text like groomsmengiftsource.com and Groomsmen Gift Source.
Here are what my homepage percentages look like after 4 months (according to Linkio).
These values are based on 65 referring domain links that are both dofollow and indexed in Google.
If you’re wondering why my keyword anchors are pretty high compared to what the ideal suggestion is, a part of it is just due to the unpredictable nature of custom outreach and not knowing what content will be accepted, but moreso, I’m OK with being a little more aggressive with keyword anchors on newer sites that don’t have many links yet.
It’s most important to have closer to ideal percentages as the link volume starts getting higher, because that’s when it becomes a pattern to Google. In the early days, there is a lot more leeway and you can get faster rankings by being a bit more aggressive (IMO).
Here is the growth in the Average rankings chart next.
Compared to last month, the average rank moved from to 32.60 to 28.42.
Scored our first featured snippet this month which is good news. These are all the keywords currently on page 1 of Google.
A lot of these pages are ranking because of my listicle strategy (see month 3) so I decided to try monetizing this traffic with Etsy affiliate links. They denied my initial affiliate application due to a form error but I think they’ll approve it soon so hopefully I can get the affiliate links added this following month.
And one last screen grab I’ll share, is the growth in Google’s Search Console performance month over month.
Google search console estimates 250 organic clicks this month. Progress is looking good so far.
My plan for month 5 is more of the same. Blog outreach for more homepage links from wedding blogs in articles talking about groomsmen gifts or more general wedding topics. Speak soon!
MONTH 5: BIG MOVES UPWARD
We’ve continued to see steady gains in rankings and traffic. Here are the month over month Ahrefs metrics gains.
The average ranking across all of our keywords being tracked now is 22, up from 28 last month.
And perhaps most excitingly, our big time keyword, groomsmen gifts, has made a big move – going from position 74 to 26 in the past month.
And finally, lets look at organic traffic from Google Analytics.
We’re starting to see 20+ organic visitors a day now – all related to some groomsmen gift searches.
So what did we do this month?
Basically just built 10 homepage links. But it’s the way we’ve built links these past 5 months which is really responsible for the gains you’re seeing now.
According to Linkio, of the 130 links that Ahrefs found, 75 of them are passing SEO value (dofollow and indexed).
Of those 75, 71 point to the homepage.
I’m keeping it really simple for this new site.
Branded homepage backlinks from relevant sites on relevant articles.
About 15 months per link over the past 5 months has done the trick so far.
That’s about it for now – see you next month!