E-cigarette SEO is an uphill battle. If you own any type of vaping website — whether it’s an affiliate site, a direct online sales website or a website for a local vape shop — you know exactly what we’re talking about.
Most advertising networks don’t want your business because they lump you in with tobacco companies.
That means no search engine advertising and no paid social media marketing.
If you want your vaping website to get a leg up on Google, you’re got just one way to do it: SEO — and a major part of SEO is gaining links that point to your website from other websites. If most of the potential results for a search look more or less the same to Google, inbound links are the difference makers that determine rankings.
Here’s the problem…
You have a long list of competitors who are all in the same boat as you — and since their websites have backlinks, you’ll need to do some link earning of your own if you want to catch up.
How are those e-cigarette websites getting all of their links, anyway?
We’re about to give you the answer. But first…
The Problem With E-Cigarette Link Building
We’ve been in this industry a long time, and we know how hard link building for e-cigarette websites can be. Right off the bat, a lot of writers and website owners make snap judgments about vaping websites and refuse to link to them.
A lot of vaping website owners become frustrated by the inability to use the traditional methods of digital marketing, so they try to find an easy link building solution. In short, they cheat. They buy links.
There’s a big problem with buying links…
Google knows that analyzing a website’s inbound links is one of the best ways to determine the website’s authority and trustworthiness. Natural links are hard to get, and they have real value. Google sees paid links as attempts to game the system and expressly forbids paid links in their webmaster guidelines.
You’re free to do what you want with your website. If you buy links, though — and Google catches you — you’ll face a penalty. Your website may drop in rank. Google may even remove your website from its index completely.
So don’t buy links. Google is very good at catching manipulative links. Over the years, we’ve seen one e-cigarette website after another attempt to get mediocre content ranked by buying links. Eventually, they all face the consequences.
Besides, earning links legitimately really isn’t that hard. You just have to do a little work.
Great Content Trumps Everything Else
The most important aspect of link earning for an e-cigarette website is that you must have truly great content. We’re going to share a few specialized link building ideas in this article. If people see mediocre content when they visit your website, though, none of those ideas are actually going to work for you.
If your vaping website is fairly new, it’s likely that you built your initial library of content with articles explaining what e-cigarettes are and how they work. It’s also likely that those articles receive exactly zero visitors from Google. Those articles might be useful to people who are on your website already, but they aren’t going to receive search engine traffic because too many websites already have the answers to those questions.
How can you make your website more helpful than the competition? If you answer questions that are already answered elsewhere, how can you make your answers more thorough? Can you do a better job of explaining complex terms that new e-cigarette users may not understand? Do you have the solutions to the everyday problems that people face when vaping?
Having trouble coming up with a good content marketing strategy? Learn about our content writing service for e-cigarette websites.
Original Research Attracts Links
One way to create great content is to start with a topic that’s already been covered elsewhere and cover it in a way that’s more helpful than what’s available anywhere else. Another way is to create something that didn’t exist until you wrote it — and the best way to do that is with original research.
We believe that our list of e-cigarette explosions represents a perfect example of the value that original research can bring to an e-cigarette website. The work involved in building the list now spans nearly two years. There is no other resource like it, and we feel strongly about its potential to help people vape more safely. The list has received links from websites around the world.
That topic is taken, but we bet that you could come up with one of your own if you really tried.
Create Resources and Give Them Away
Do you have the ability to create a resource that other website owners need? You could give that resource away and provide usage rights in exchange for links to your website. You’ll see several examples of this technique if you search the Creative Commons library on Flickr for pictures relating to vaping — and the technique works. We’ve seen major news agencies use images from Flickr as stock photos and link willingly to e-cigarette affiliate websites per the usage terms of those photos.
The usage of Flickr as a means of link building for e-cigarette websites hasn’t even reached the saturation point yet. If you’re a good photographer, you can get in there right now and start earning links. If you can think of a growth hacking platform that other vaping websites haven’t used yet, though, you could start to gain backlinks very quickly.
The method is very simple:
- Create a resource that every website needs
- Upload your resource to a platform that many people use to find that type of resource
- Give the resource away for free
- Specify in your license terms that anyone using the resource must credit your work with a link to your website
Highlight Your Specialized Knowledge
Do you have unique technical knowledge that other vaping hobbyists and business owners lack? If you deeply understand a topic such as batteries, wicks, coils, tank design or electronics — and can explain that topic in a way that’s easy for laypeople to understand — you can create a unique resource that isn’t available elsewhere.
A great example is the blog of ECF member Mooch. Mooch understands batteries more deeply than the average e-cigarette user. He has also built a platform that allows him to test the capabilities and safety of any vaping battery. Mooch has probably tested hundreds of different batteries. He has helped to identify the safest batteries for vaping. He has also been instrumental in identifying battery companies that exaggerate the specifications of their products.
Most importantly, Mooch has a talent for making complex terms easy to understand without talking down to his audience. Content such as his would be an asset for any website, and Mooch’s blog has attracted links from many sources.
Start a Scholarship
Attending a college or university is very expensive. Most students are happy to accept financial aid any way they can get it, so some companies have taken to offering scholarships as a means of getting backlinks from high-value .edu domains. As the owner of a vaping website, for example, you could offer a few $1,000 scholarships each year to students who submit essays about the importance of remaining smoke free on campus.
If you think that colleges and universities will hesitate to link to your website because you promote vaping, think again. There are some e-cigarette websites that are absolutely killing it right now with this link building technique — but that doesn’t mean that you can’t jump in any time. Students always need more scholarships. It’s also likely that you can deduct your scholarship donations from your taxes.
Build Local Relationships
If you run a local vape shop, you benefit your community by creating jobs. The fact that you’re an asset to the local economy trumps any negative feelings that your local news agencies might have about e-cigarettes and vaping. If you hire additional staff, report that fact to the local newspapers and TV stations. Sponsor a community improvement project such as a trash pickup day or a walk for heart health. You’ll build relationships with local media and other business owners, and you’ll increase awareness of your brand. You’ll also pick up plenty of inbound links for your vaping website.
Remember that local newspapers and television stations don’t have a lot of money to spend on finding local news stories. Your vape shop will get attention for the things it does for the community — but you’ll need to do some outreach to make sure that it happens. Eventually, you’ll build relationships with some local reporters. It’s also a good idea to send out press releases occasionally.
Become a Member of the Vaping Community
If your vaping business only exists online, the entire Internet is your local community. Some e-cigarette websites try to exist as islands. They avoid linking to other vaping websites because they don’t want to help their competitors.
We believe that if your website truly has something unique to offer — whether it’s your products or your excellent content — there is no reason not to link to other websites if doing so would benefit your readers. Outbound linking to high-quality websites is an important part of creating a good user experience. Google looks for websites that provide a good user experience, so it stands to reason that outbound linking is an important part of a solid SEO strategy.
Think about things the other way…
If you actively avoid linking to other vaping websites, what does that say about your confidence in your own website’s content? Why are you so afraid of sending users elsewhere — are you nervous that they won’t come back?
If your website really has something unique to offer, you lose nothing by linking out. Still don’t believe us? Take a look at this 2016 study from Reboot Online Marketing. It proves fairly conclusively that an open linking policy can have a positive effect on your website’s rankings.
Ashtray Blog is a good example of a vaping website with an open linking policy. In fact, they link to us in their posts about throat hit and vaping terms. Does it hurt them? Not at all. Ashtray Blog ranks above the fold on Google’s first page for both keyword phrases — and linking to related websites is one of the best ways to earn links from those websites.