SEO Best Practices for eCommerce Blog Networks
Creating a blog network to drive traffic to your ecommerce site is still be a viable strategy, even post Panda and Penguin updates, as long as its purpose is not to build backlinks but to drive traffic, by providing great content. As a “side effect”, the network could also provide limited PR juice.
However, let’s be clear from the beginning. If your goal is to increase the number of backlinks to your site with a blog network, stay away from this strategy. Don’t create splogs. Just like any other type of link spam going after the links will yield to negative ROI, on a long term.
Also, remember that the most important factor when creating a blog network for ecommerce (or other purposes) is - you guessed - quality content.
Several things to consider before technicalities:
- The entire network should focus on your niche or adjacent industries. If you sell car accessories, do not start a blog about oil paintings
- For each blog in the network you need to create great, useful content. Do not copy from other websites, PLR (private label rights) articles or automatically spin articles. Remember, paying attention to content is the key to avoid Panda-like penalties
- Each blog in your network should focus on a single topic, usually targeting subcategory or category keywords
- Start small, with 2-3 blogs to warm up and understand the challenges of maintaining such a network
- Choose WordPress as your CMS platform (you may even want to consider WP multiple install version)
- 20 blogs in your network will not raise any spam flags if you interlink them. More than 50 will surely do
- It is important to also have a blog on your ecommerce site too, where you write the best articles and link internally to homepage, categories and product pages with the correct anchor texts
- Don’t stuff the blogs within your network with ads. Remember, the purpose of the network is to educate and impress with quality content
Stay away from other networks. Build your own!
There are lots of companies (or should I call them “entities”?) out there that created networks for the sole purpose of selling links to clients and SEO agencies. Since we are a white hat SEO company we don’t get involved in such practices and we advise against the use of such.
The problem with such networks is that they are not able to sustain quality content creation and most of the times their blogs will not focus on a single niche. You will find the same blog (or even worse, the same article) linking to adult or gambling sites and rogue pharmacies.
And, did you know that once you stop paying them, your links will be removed? Considering only this, you’re better with AdWords than with paid links.
We recommend staying away from such blog farms and do your work (content). It will pay off.
Another piece of advice is to ask your SEO services provider if they use networks to build links to your ecommerce site. If they do, take a deep breath make, make the sign of the cross, cross your fingers and login to your Google Webmaster Tools.
Now, the technicalities:
Partial match or exact match domains? Most likely, EDM run their course and won’t even be available. PMD are a better choice, but don’t get stuck on it. However, your domain names should have a .com TLD.
- Prioritize domain names the same way you prioritized your site architecture:
- Your ecommerce home page should target the single most important keyword for your industry; don’t target that keyword with a blog within your network.
- Blogs targeting your ecommerce categories, sub categories and even products can also have other TLD than dot com
- If you don’t find the exact match for a keyword and domain name, you can try to add suffixes or prefixes, whichever sounds better for you target language, i.e. for car accessories you can try the domain name interiorcaraccessories.com – use Google Keyword tool to find some of the most search phrases
- Register each domain with different names, on different dates and make them private (Google is a registrar and has access to your names even if you put them on private). You can use the same credit card, no one (ideally) will not have access to it.
It is much easier to handle the entire network within the same hosting account/company. By doing so it will allow one update for all plug-ins and for the CMS platform, easy access to all domain names hosted there. But if PageRank is what you’re after, there’s very less of it if you host everything on the same account (the only exception is if you can buy different C class IPs).
If you want to see some backlinking benefits you need to consider the following:
- go with a different hosting for each domain name so you get different class-C IP addresses for each blog
- buy dedicated IP addresses for each blog, don’t go with shared IPs
Sometimes you can negotiate with the hosting company, and if they can offer different C-class IPs , you can host on the same account.
You may be tempted to go with hosts that offer pre installed WP blogs, but that will not serve you well if you plan on customizing each blog.
Also, starting on different hosting account is a good idea since you will be able to test the performance and stability of their systems, then choose the best one.
There’s no other platform I would recommend for a blog network, than WordPress. There are a good number of SEO plugins that can help you with onsite SEO and there’s a huge community around it, making troubleshooting issues quite easy.
Additionally, you could consider WordPress Multisite, but that will not serve you well if you want to get some PR juice from your blog network.
Choose a unique (preferably professional ones) theme for each blog in the network and work on unique, original About Us pages. If you don’t care about hiding from search engine, your contact details can be same as the ones on your ecommerce website, but on the About Us page you should focus more on the author (even if you use a “stage name” for your authors).
The interlinking architecture should be conceptualized based on the blog network’s goal. If your goal is to generate traffic and awareness about the products you sell with the ecommerce site then you can interlink the blogs in any way you like. In case your goal is just Pagerank flow (which I don’t recommend) then you have to think of a flat architecture, similarly to how a website architecture will look like, only that you will link from bottom to top.
If you’re going after PR and try to hide your network from the search engines, your product blogs should link to subcategory blogs only, then subcategory blogs should link to categories blog, categories blog should link to categories pages on your ecommerce website.
Keep in mind that if you think that search engines are not able to map out linking schemes, you are wrong.
For black hat aspirers
If you want to stay under the Google’s radar you will need to:
- Use unique data for everything related to your blog network: whois data for domain names, hosting, IP addresses but also contact info on your blog. Never share the same AdWords, AdSense, Google Analytics or any other Google properties on websites.
- Uninstall Google toolbar and other software from Google or Google’s partners
- Access your blogs only using transparent proxies
- Don’t use Google Chrome as your browser
- Hide yourself from search engines, which probably mean not accepting or blocking cookies.
Lastly, but not less important, you have to balance the efforts and budget for managing tens of blogs and weight against other opportunities (such as guest blogging, sponsored posts) for getting backlinks for your ecommerce site.
One final caution, would you rather get 1000 links pointing to you main ecommerce site or have 50 links pointing to 20 different domains names? I would choose the first option.
Pitstop Media offers ROI focused SEO services. If you need a SEO company to help you rank #1 please contact us for a free, no obligation quote. We’ve helped companies rank first on Google in short periods of time, for highly competitive terms.