The 17 Best (And Worst) eCommerce Marketing Strategies

The only thing harder than successfully marketing your eCommerce store is trying to do it with outdated, ineffective techniques. That’s why I’ve compiled a “hit list” of my favorite highly effective eCommerce marketing strategies.

Also included is a list of outdated/ineffective/dangerous/cancer-causing techniques that only spell trouble for your marketing efforts.

 

Killer, Effective Strategies

These techniques are my all-time favorite methods for eCommerce marketing and provide the most bang for the buck in terms of time spent vs. long-term SEO benefit.  If you’re only going to focus on a few strategies, make sure you pick from this list.

1. Write Articles for Individual Sites

This is my favorite technique for marketing an online store. The strategy involves approaching sites individually and offering them a unique article on a topic you’re an expert in.  You can cherry-pick sites with lots of PageRank link juice and, when done tactfully, you can include a handful of links to your site in the article. The site gets unique, helpful content for its visitors, and you get some SEO love. It’s a win-win.

2. Guest Post on Industry Blogs

Guest posting takes a similar approach to the strategy above, but focuses on the blogosphere. The great thing about bloggers is that they are ALWAYS looking for quality content. Convince the blogger you have something valuable to say that’s of interest to his or her audience, and you can include a few tasteful links in your post.

3. Donate Products for Review

Donating a product for review is a great way to get someone else to create information-rich content with natural backlinks to your site. This approach costs a bit more money, but can generate an incredible long-term return in sales and SEO benefits, especially if the product is positively reviewed.

4. Offer Testimonials to Other Companies

I’ve used this strategy to land a number of high-authority backlinks to my sites, including links from Rackspace and WPEngine, both PageRank 6 (that’s huge!) blogs. Here’s how it works: When there’s a service you use and love, get in contact with the business and offer to write a testimonial. If they decide to post it, they’ll almost certainly include a link back to your site.

IMPORTANT: Make sure you do this only for services you genuinely endorse. Even a backlink from a PR 6 page isn’t worth ruining your credibility and reputation over if the service is poor, or if you’re doing it for the wrong reasons.

5. Optimize Your On-Site SEO

All the link building in the world won’t do you any good if you aren’t ranking for the right terms! Invest time in keyword research so you understand what terms people are using to search for your products. Then, make sure to structure your internal linking and on-page content to match these commonly searched terms. Investing heavily up front in keyword research and optimization will pay massive dividends down the road as your site authority — and organic traffic — increase.

6. Create and Host Amazing Resources

Often referred to as “link bait,” creating great resources on your site will inevitably lead to people linking to you. This could be a comprehensive buyer’s guide or a detailed troubleshooting tutorial; the specifics will depend on your market. Additionally, the resource will brand you as an expert, increasing credibility and trust, which always results in more sales.

7. Ask for Links From the Manufacturer

Many manufacturers have a “Where to Buy” or “Retailers” section of their website, and getting them to list you is often as simple as asking. Before you do, make sure your website is on par (in terms of quality, design, etc.) with the others they list. It also helps to have a few testimonials on your site to increase their confidence that you’ll be a quality source for customers.

Apart from the SEO benefits of the links, you’ll find that traffic from a manufacturer’s site converts at a significantly higher rate and can be a great source of direct sales.

8. Build an Email Marketing List

It’s much easier to convince an existing customer to buy something than to try to sell to a brand-new prospect. Assuming you’ve taken care of your existing customers, there’s a level of trust established from previous transactions. With a list of buyer addresses, you can literally drive sales with the push of a button.

 

Worth Considering

These techniques aren’t quite as effective for link building, but are still worthy of consideration as you form your marketing plan of attack. Depending on your niche and market, some may fit well into your overall strategy (sombrero not required).

 

 

9. Get Involved in Forums

If your niche has a number of active forums, they can be a great place to engage with your target customers. When getting involved, it’s crucial to remember the #1 rule of marketing: nobody cares about your business! If you use forums as an advertising venue, you’re going to meet with some serious backlash and likely hurt your brand’s reputation. Instead, view the forums as a way to establish your expertise by helping others and answering questions. Once you establish yourself in the community, place a tactful signature link to your site.

Nearly all forum signature links are “nofollows,” so you won’t get any SEO benefit out of it. But if your answers are helpful and informative, you’ll likely see forum participants click through to your site. And as forum posts often pop up in search results, you’ll experience click-throughs from forum visitors as well.

10. Answer Questions on Q&A Sites

Like answering questions in industry forums, providing insightful answers on Q&A sites such as Quora and Yahoo! Answers can help establish you as an expert. If your answers are helpful enough, you’ll see a number of people click through to your site.

11. Build a Presence on Social Media Platforms

Social media can be a tremendously powerful platform to spread a message and build a fan base. But for driving early sales, your time is often better spent on long-term techniques to improve organic SEO rankings. (Sorry, Gary Vaynerchuk, but I’ve often seen too much effort for too little ROI in this area, at least in terms of driving sales and traffic.)

So do social media platforms have a place in your eCommerce marketing efforts? Absolutely! While they might not be the best direct driver of sales, I think social platforms can be a great way to interact with customers and build your reputation as a quality company. And taking a proactive approach to encourage social engagement from the get-go can help you slowly build a community of brand ambassadors and fans.

There are definitely exceptions to this. If you sell something unique or artistic that has the potential go viral, you may be able to get tremendous traction with social networks. That’s great, so long as you test and confirm it’s working. But too many people fall into the trap of thinking, “I HAVE to be marketing heavily on social networks!” even though they’re not seeing results themselves.

12. Directory Submissions

To be clear, I don’t advocate submitting your site to hundreds of directories in the hope of gaining an SEO boost — it likely won’t work. There are too many low-quality and spammy directories, many of which Google likely discounts entirely.

But submitting to quality, niche-specific directories can be a good idea when used with other marketing tactics. You’ll also want to submit your site to the DMOZ.org directory, one of the best-known on the web. It can take a LONG time to get listed in DMOZ, so make sure you submit your site as soon as you think it’s a quality resource.

 

Avoid Like the Plague


Most of these strategies have worked at some point in the past, but will be a waste of time now. Even worse, they could cause your site to be penalized by Google, negating all the legitimate work you’ve done!

My recommendation? Steer clear of these shady practices if you want to build a long-term business.

 

13. Article Marketing

“Traditional” article marketing consists of writing one article and distributing it to dozens — or even hundreds — of sites via an automated distribution service. While I admittedly dabbled with this technique early in my eCommerce career (and even saw some limited success with it), I’d strongly recommend against it as a strategy today.

Google is getting better and better at recognizing  spammy and low-value marketing techniques, and even if this strategy works now, it likely won’t work — or will even be penalized — in the future. Rand over at SEOMoz did a great video on why you should be very wary of using article marketing.

If you want to contribute a unique article or two to a decent article directory like EzineArticles, that’s fine. But I’d advise against making “traditional” article marketing a cornerstone of your marketing efforts.

14. Print Advertising

If you’re running an eCommerce store, there are few times when print advertising in a third-party publication would make sense. It’s expensive, hard to track and difficult for the customer to take immediate action. Instead, invest your money into SEO or, if you have to advertise, into online PPC campaigns.

15. Blog Commenting

Unless you’re leaving relevant comments on high-traffic blogs in your industry, blog commenting will be a poor way to promote your eCommerce store. If you’re thinking that you’ll get some SEO juice, think again. All links in blog comments are nofollowed, meaning they don’t pass any SEO benefit. So you’re solely dependent on people clicking through to your site, and then just happening to also want what you’re selling. Not great odds.

16. Reciprocal Linking

You’ve undoubtedly received those “let’s swap links!” emails, usually from people you’ve never met before. There’s nothing wrong with sites naturally linking to each other, but aggressive reciprocal linking is incredibly easy for Google to detect and discount. Don’t waste your time.

17. Hiring a Cheap SEO Firm

It’s tempting to hire a cheap SEO firm that promises you the moon, and you may see results in the short term. But the spammy and short-sighted tactics they’re almost certain to employ will eventually come back to haunt you. I hired an overseas SEO firm to do a lot of work on one of my websites, and for a while everything worked out great. It was only until the recent Penguin update, when I lost 80% of the site’s organic traffic, that I realized the mistake I’d made.

If you’re going to use an SEO firm, make sure it’s highly respected with a long track record of white-hat link building. Otherwise, you’re putting all the legitimate SEO work you do at stake.

 

Let Me Know What You Think!

Did I miss any great marketing and SEO strategies? Think I’ve unfairly demonized a technique? I’d love to hear your questions and comments in the section below!

Photos by Guesus, Toholio & ANDI2

 

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Comments

  1. Jack says:

    I would not hold too much important regarding DMOZ it is extremely difficult to get listed and generally a bit of a time sink. If resource and time is limited I recommend going for industry related directories instead.

    • Andrew says:

      Thanks for the reply, Jack! While I wouldn’t stress about it either, I think it’s definitely worth submitting once your site is at a level you’re comfortable / proud of as a quality resource. It doesn’t take much time (I did it yesterday for ECF in about 5 minutes), and it definitely is an authoritative link. May take a while to get approved, but there’s really no risk to submitting – only upside.

  2. Bookmarking this for sure. It definitely helps to have a list like this for those moments when you lose a little momentum and just think “What else can I do?”

    Right now I’m still working on creating some really valuable video content for my site (which is proving to be more-time consuming than I anticipated), so I hope that will make a few of these items come pretty naturally!

    • Andrew says:

      Video marketing should have made it as well in the “To Consider” category, although personally the direct traffic to work ratio I’ve seen has been a bit on the low end. On the plus side, videos rank VERY well in Google and you’re much more likely to get a video to the top of the search results than a single page – so it can be an effective strategy when done correctly.

      Best of luck with your videos!

      • Well, for my site the videos I’m currently creating are essential to the product I’m providing, so any SEO benefits are kind of an added bonus. Really enjoyed you 15 minute SEO email by the way!

        • Andrew says:

          Good! Glad it was helpful! There’s definitely always more to learn, but if you can remember everything in that post it will serve you well for 95% of the situations you’ll run into.

          • Justin says:

            Hey Andrew !

            I find it surprising that you’re so much into videos, I’ve been browsing your blog for a while and from what I gathered, the 2 key components to a successful store are SEO and the added value you provide your customers with.

            I can totally see how some interesting videos (that often appear high on the SERPs) would be great for both components. You appear higher on the search result (without having to compete so much often) and you can add value to your clients before they even know about your website. Plus you can re-use the same video in page (which I think increases ranking of the page as well but I’m not an expert) to give more information to visitors that are looking for more information.

            Anyway, great post anyway, really nice blog !

          • Andrew says:

            Hey Justin! You’re right – SEO and adding value are two of the most important things. And I think video is a really useful tool. Like you mentioned, it can be created onces and used for numerous purposes. I have videos on most of my product pages – at least for the higher-end, more expensive products.

            Glad you’re enjoying the blog and thanks for the comment!

  3. Sherrie Super says:

    Great article! I’ll be bookmarking this one for sure. I, for one, am glad to see an end to the Article-spinning era. It didn’t seem to add a lot of value to the web in general, just more noise.

    • Andrew says:

      Thanks! I agree – blasting out the same low-quality article to hundreds of different sites is a pretty spammy techniques, and Google is really cracking down on that. I think “noise” is the perfect word. ;-)

  4. Any good SEO companies that you can recommend? Im still starting out and our ecommerce shop is still a fledgling but I have a budget of $200/month.

    • Andrew says:

      Unfortunately, I think it’s going to be tough to hire a reputable SEO firm for $200 a month – you won’t get much for that amount. If you’re just getting started, I’d strongly recommend doing the SEO yourself. You’ll save the cash and, more importantly, you’ll get to understand how everything works. Then, when you do grow to the point where you can outsource it you’ll have a good idea of what they’re doing – and how to tell legitimate strategies from scammy ones.

      Best of luck!

  5. Archie says:

    Andrew, thanks for the article. What do you think about sites like Yahoo and Best of the Web, high Pagerank sites that charge money to be listed. Are these worth it?

    • Andrew says:

      Great question, Archie. Links from these directories can give you an authority boost, but of course, you do have to pay for them. If you’re really serious about doing a full-time eCommerce site I think a link from Yahoo!’s directory early on is worth the $299 investment – for the first few years. It establishes credibility and gets you some link juice, and I’ve bought it for all of my new eCommerce stores.

      However, as you grown and build natural authority, I’d recommend dropping the links. $299 / year isn’t cheap, and you can do some great creative things with that every year (give away products, run a contest, etc) that will pay SEO benefits WITHOUT the annual fee. I’ve dropped the link from many of my sites, and am phasing out my Yahoo! paid listings.

      People will have different opinions on this, so it really depends on your preference. I can tell you there are LOTS of people who have been successful without getting listed in the directories and simply hustled to get their SEO love instead.

      Hope this helps.

  6. Andy Cavallini says:

    Thanx for your valuable Post.
    Regarding social media, I personally get a lot of traffic from LikedIn.
    I give a wide berth to Facebook, while I have mixed feelings about Twitter.
    What do you think ?

    Andy Cavallini – Italy

    • Andrew says:

      Agree with you on Twitter – I think it’s great for building relationships, but haven’t yet seen it proven effective in building lots of traffic. I also haven’t had a ton of luck with LinkedIn, either. Again, I find it best for relationship building.

      Facebook seems to have the most traffic potential in my experience. I hope to have a social media expert on the blog in the future to discuss strategies for actually getting real, converting traffic from these networks.

  7. Mike says:

    Ask for Links From the Manufacturer – hard to achieve this, as a rule.

    • Andrew says:

      Respectfully disagree, Mike. I’d say at least a third – if not more – of manufacturers of popular products have a “Where to Buy” section on their site. When this is the case, we’re able to get a link(s) back to our site the vast majority of the time just by asking.

      • Shabbir says:

        I actually tried this with my store – I was turned down on the grounds of “we don’t care about small businesses like yours” – you may have run into a similar problem when starting out with your store – how did you overcome it?

        Thanks!
        (and sorry for the stalker comment – I tend to come back and refer to your blog for ideas every now and then!)

        • Andrew says:

          Hey Shabbir! Unfortunately, if a manufacturer won’t post your smaller shop there’s not a ton (apart from being persistent and/or growing) you can do about it. Best to focus on finding other linking opportunities and pursue them.

  8. Phil says:

    Strategies #1 and #2 are really great ideas. Is it more valuable in the early going to create great content for other sites & blogs, than content for your own site? What if you create great content for other sites and would like to have similar content on your own site down the road? Would google punish me for this?

    • Andrew says:

      Great questions, Phil.

      I think early-on, having quality information on both is important but I would would emphasize focusing on providing content for other sites to help get your marketing off to a strong start, as this is critical. Additionally, it takes time for marketing and SEO to kick-in, so doing that as early as possible will help.

      As long as the materials you’re providing to other 3rd party sites aren’t duplicate copies of what is on your website, you should be fine. Google only will penalize content that is identical – or very closely identical – to each other. But two independently written articles on, say, “SEO” will be just fine.

  9. Fast loading website helps too.

  10. Eliot says:

    Hello again Andrew,

    Thanks for another great post. Have you had any luck with Press release sites? Are some better than others?

    Also, apparently Google has been focusing a lot on local search – manta, merchantcircle, Google Places, etc… In your experiences, have any of these helped your link clout, traffic or conversions?

    • Andrew says:

      I haven’t used press releases much for my marketing, so I can’t speak to how well they work. I do know that PRWeb is one of the most well-known sites for releases, but apart from that, I won’t be able to offer much help.

      As my eCommerce stores don’t have a local brick-and-mortar presence, I also don’t optimize for Google Places.

  11. Steve says:

    Have you considered using retargeting advertising software (adroll etc.)? I have not used them but it looks like I would need to hire a designer for the ad blocks.

    From a fashion e-commerce standpoint I have seen Indochino.com use adroll heavily. Once you visit their site they use cookies to follow you around the web and post their ad on the various sites you visit. They may overuse it a bit but it does seem to keep them on the top of my mind.

    You can find the other retargeting software solutions on the bottom left hand side of this slide: http://www.lumapartners.com/resource-center/

    Interested to hear what you think.

    Thanks,
    Steve

    • Andrew says:

      Steve – I haven’t personally used retargeting, but I’ve definitely noticed it online and wondered about it, too. Sounds like I may need to do a case study on it and turn this into a blog post! Thanks for the comment.

  12. Anthony says:

    Andrew,

    Thanks for all the value. I am in the beginning phase of my IM career and I am starting to really tell apart people who know what they are talking about versus generic article/blog posters.

    Keep it up dude!

    Anthony

  13. Thanks for this. Its great that there is a dichotomy between really effective strategies, and strategies that are not for long-term but are worth considering.

  14. ZIBKI says:

    Dear Andrew,

    I am really impressed, you put very great information about eCommerce website Marketing Strategies. Your information is very valuable to me.

    Thanks for sharing the information keep updating, looking forward for more posts.

  15. Gen says:

    Very interesting blog post! Is there anything I can do if I made the mistake of hiring a cheap SEO firm in the past? I have a LOT of spammy links to my site. I’m far from being a SEO expert but from what I’m reading, spammy links can actually hurt my ranking in Google?

  16. Lukas says:

    Andrew,
    could you please explain what exactly you mean by “individual sites”? Thank you.

    • Andrew says:

      Hey Lukas! As it refers to the guest posting tip, by “individual sites” I mean uniquely owned, smaller niche authority sites. So find someone who has a popular blog in your niche and guest post for them instead of posting a dozen articles on ezinearticles.com.

      Hope this helps!

  17. sam says:

    Hello Andrew,
    From doing extensive research there is one thing that keeps coming up as number one in building a site.. high quality content. Most people suggest starting a company blog in this case but when it comes to producing high quality content and giving consumer value, I wanted to place an education section on the website. Would this suffice instead of starting a company blog or should I make one anyway to improve seo? I ask because educating seems to be the only way I can write about my niche because over time it will be quite difficult to consistently write articles 1-2x/week (sort of like writing about cb radios for a year).

  18. Martin says:

    Hi Andrew, I´m working in extremly competitive sector – consumer electronics. In my small country are 5 multinational webshops with almost unlimited budget for online marketing and tens of smaller, but very active ones.
    This competitive environment has resulted in uselessness of SEO, because most of webshops using Google Adwords for whole sections – like TV´s, but also with automated bids for each product name in section. Next bids comming from 2 price-products agregators.

    1. Is good strategy to ignore SEO in this situation?
    2. Is it better to focus on agregators and adwords bids and next channels – articles, reviews, FB etc?

    I look forward to your opinion and to opinion of everyone in similar situation. Thanks guys.

  19. DCL says:

    These are excellent recommendations for improving an eCommerce website. Furthermore pay-per-click ads will also be an interesting approach to build up traffic on the website.

  20. Yanira says:

    No matter if some one searches for his required thing, thus he/she desires to be available that in detail, so that thing is maintained over here.

  21. Baggio says:

    Hey Andrew,

    Wanna pop in and say – wonderful ideas and tactics as usual! Love the tip on guest blogging – I don’t use guest blogging as much with eCommerce as I do with affiliate marketing sites, but it’s no doubt hugely effective! One post on the right blog might be worth many many days or even weeks of off page SEO, which can be EXHAUSTING, especially after Panda and Penguin and Hummingbird. -_-”

    I just wanted to add a tip here: try posting useful “guides” of some kinds to high traffic forums – while forums are a bit old fashioned, the traffic is a lot more HQ than ordinary traffic sources, sometimes even better than PPC! This grabs a lot of attention and is sure to attract a good number of visitors back to your eCom site, which should help towards your monthly traffic / sales goals.

    Again, fantastic content as usual, thanks!

    Cheers,
    Baggio

  22. Raman says:

    One important point is Pricing of product. We at Lenabechna have made study over customer purchase to retention ratio

    Thanks
    Raman
    Lenabechna.com

  23. PawsShion says:

    Great post! Thank you for sharing! Hiring an SEO firm is a bit expensive for small businesses. But the rest of these tips are great and very informative!

  24. Yash says:

    Sir

    Thank you. The article really provides a deep insight into ecom mktng for newbies like us. I have a question :
    Whether maintaining a site blog really helps ? If yes, should blogs be related to our site per se or can they also be on general humour (completely unrealted to my product )you know stuffs which make an interesting read ?

    Regards

  25. webpage says:

    Greetings! Very useful advice in this particular post!
    It is the little changes which will make the greatest changes.
    Many thanks for sharing!

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