Ecommerce SEO Case Study

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

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, product site search, and URL architectural optimization
  • A smart content strategy
  • An effective and scalable off-page link building strategy

If you (yes, you beautiful), want to get your website on the first page of Google for [insert desired keyword] then what I'm about to outline is the only strategy you need to follow.

Month 0: The Plan

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.

Month 0

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.

How long?

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.

Competitor analysis

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.

competitors referring domains

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, any real e-commerce brand needs 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 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.

The 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.

1. 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.

2. Directory Link Building

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 and naked URL placement. In month 2, I’ll cover this in greater detail.

3. 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!

Month 1: Link Building Starts

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

The discrepancy between my count and Ahref’s could have been dupe links or spam 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!

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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.

Month 2

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.

Rankings Update

Our rankings went from average of position 85 to position 39 for 133 keywords.

Month 2 Avg Rank

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.

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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.

Month 3

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.

Month 3 Avg Rank

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.

Month 3 Rankings

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.

That's what you can do too. After you set up your shop with one of ecommerce platforms or opt for a headless architecture for greater flexibility, you can start ranking pages in advance and add products after getting some success in organic search.

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.

Google Search Console Month 3

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!

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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.

Month 4 Ahrefs Metrics

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 and Groomsmen Gift Source.

Here are what my homepage percentages look like after 4 months (according to Linkio).

Homepage Percentages after 4 months

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.

Month 4 Avg Rank

Compared to last month, the average rank moved from to 32.60 to 28.42.

Month 4 Rankings

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 Month over Month 4 annotated

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!

table content iconMonth 5: Biggest Moves Upward

We’ve continued to see steady gains in rankings and traffic. Here are the month over month Ahrefs metrics gains.

Month 5 Ahrefs Metrics

The average ranking across all of our keywords being tracked now is 22, up from 28 last month.

Month 5 Avg rank

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.

groomsmen gift rankings mon5

And finally, lets look at organic traffic from Google Analytics.

Month 5 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.

Links After 5 months according to linkio

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.

Homepage links after 5 months

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!

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Month 6: So Far so Good

We’ve continued to see steady gains in rankings and traffic. Here are the month over month Ahrefs metrics gains.

Month 6 Ahrefs Metrics

The average ranking across all of our keywords being tracked now is 20, up from 22 last month.

Average Rankings Month 6

Some of the long-tails are started to cram up into the top half of page 1.

Month 6 Rankings

And finally, lets look at organic traffic from Google Analytics.

Month 6 Google Analytics

About 30-35 hits per day is the new normal. Keyword CPCs in this industry are $1.50-$2.00 per click so if you do that math, I’m getting around $1500 worth of free traffic monthly now.

So what did I do?

Basically just built 8 links. The campaign is pretty rinse and repeat at this point. I setup the pages 6 months ago. I put together a link building plan.

  • I would pitch local wedding vendors content
  • That content would be about groomsmen gifts, bridal party gifts or wedding resources
  •  I’d mostly build homepage links, and I’d diversity the anchor text the same way a high end brand would
anchor text diversity month 6

These anchor text choices are not an accident. We’re working off competitor data to build the percentage targets, and the mostly inexperienced freelance team I have working on this project, is effortlessly making the right choices using Linkio’s anchor text suggestion module.

How’s this translating to money? We’ve made a few sales. I’ve added Etsy affiliate links a few days ago and maDe our first commission there yesterday. Hopefully, I can focus more on monetization soon.

That’s about it for now – see you next month!

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Month 7: Upward Trend Continues

Almost like clockwork, we’ve continued to see steady gains in rankings and traffic. Here are the month over month Ahrefs metrics gains.

Month 7 Ahrefs Metrics

Here’s Ahrefs organic traffic graphs:

Month 7 Ahrefs Trends

The rest of this update will be a bit different than previous months. I’m going to aggregate and summarize our outreach stats to date, to help you learn what it takes to build links at this pace.

7 Month Stats According to Linkio: 136 Referring Domains (94% to homepage)

128 Referring Domains came from blog outreach (other 7 were spam and 1 from Linkio).

How many paid links? 0.

Here are the average and median SEO stats for these 128 links:

  • Average DR 24 (Median 20)
  • Average DA 20 (Median 20)
  • Average Ahrefs Traffic 4800 (Median 270)

This is how they break down by website type:

  • 103 Local Business Links
  • 15 Wedding Blogs
  • 12 National Wedding Companies with a Blog

On average, this works out to 18 links per month.

What kind of outreach do you need to do to get volumes like this?

We emailed 15 prospects per business day with 2 follow-ups every few days. Here are the total stats of the campaign so far:

  • 3837 Prospects Emailed
  • 754 Prospects Replied (20.28% response rate)
  • 123 bounced/136 unsubscribed (6.86%)
  • 17% success rate from people who replied
  • 0.034% success rate from overall prospects emailed
  • A 20% response rate is solid for cold email.

The success rate should be better but there are two factors that impacted this number:

  • Most of the targets were local businesses, and they’re sometimes really busy to follow-through on the interaction or not super sure about how to proceed
  • Lackadaisical oversight from me

The key takeaways:

  • Maintain high opportunity flow.
  • Build large prospecting lists of at least 300 per month
  • Keep investing in keeping this pipeline strong

That’s all for this month. Cheers.

Ajay Paghdal
Outreach Labs Founder
đź•’ 11 mins read
Last updated on
Dec 23, 2023

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Article by
Ajay Paghdal
Outreach Labs Founder
Ajay enjoys tinkering with new link building strategies, building teams and processes around it and in general, has enjoyed being a part of the industry for the past decade.

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