In the world of e-commerce, there’s an ongoing debate about the significance of search engine optimization (SEO). For years, conventional wisdom has held that SEO is a must-have for e-commerce businesses, a cornerstone of online success.
I say, “that’s false”. Ecommerce businesses should be built to thrive without SEO. Acquiring customers through paid advertising and building a brand should be the priority for ecommerce businesses because it is scalable and stable. SEO on the other hand, among other reasons below, is not scalable and it’s not stable.
I apply the concept of thriving without SEO in my own ecommerce business and also in other offline businesses I own.
The Case Against SEO in E-Commerce
Let’s begin by challenging the conventional wisdom. While SEO certainly has its merits and can be an effective tool, it’s not an absolute necessity for e-commerce success. Here’s why:
1. Customers May Not Be Searching For Your Products
This one is tough for the SEO disciplines to come to terms with.
SEO only works for businesses that provide a solution to something a lot of people are searching for.
Consider a swimwear brand. People aren’t search for a swimwear brand that provides a solution, they simply want what is in-style and ‘cool’ (sorry but you’re not outranking anyone for ‘cool swimwear’). This type of business will only waste money on SEO. To acquire customers a swimwear brand needs to engage heavily in branding and market positioning.
An example of an Ecommerce business that would do well with SEO… would be a business that sells sleep masks. There is a HUGE audience of people searching for ways to sleep better online and this business provides a solution. If this business got into blogging, they could get in front of an actively searching audience with a problem and introduce their product as a solution.
2. SEO is A Crapshoot
The exact results of an SEO campaign are an unknown from the beginning. You can target keywords all you want, but you may never rank for them and if you do, you may discover they don’t lead to business. With paid advertising, you can get measurable data quickly to decide if the campaign is worth it — and if not cut your losses.
3. Speed of Results
One of the primary drawbacks of SEO is the time it takes to see significant results. SEO is a long-term strategy, and it can take months or even years to achieve top rankings in search results. For e-commerce businesses that need to pull in revenue and move inventory, this delay can be a major drawback. In contrast, paid advertising campaigns can drive traffic and sales almost instantly, offering a more direct path to ROI.
4. Stability Of SEO
As we’ve seen with the Helpful Content Update of 2023, organic SEO rankings can be taken away from you at any time — even if you’re doing everything right. Many site owners that have invested substantially in SEO have been devastated.
While the ‘free’ organic Google traffic is nice to have, it isn’t something that can be relied on. Personally speaking I would never hold inventory for an ecommerce business that derives its revenue from SEO
5. The ROI Showdown
Paid advertising often provides a more immediate and measurable return on investment (ROI). With paid ads, businesses can allocate a budget, track results, and adjust their strategies in real-time. The results are transparent, allowing businesses to determine which campaigns are most effective and where to invest more. Measuring the ROI of SEO, on the other hand, can be challenging, as it involves various factors, algorithms, and long-term efforts.
6. Sustainable Growth Through Paid Advertising
Sustainability in e-commerce is a key goal for any business. Paid advertising can contribute significantly to sustainable growth. By strategically investing in paid advertising, businesses can control and scale their growth. Smart and well-planned ad campaigns can drive consistent revenue, making them a viable approach for achieving sustainability in the e-commerce landscape.
7. Strategies for Scalability
With SEO you can’t determine the results, yet alone scale them. With paid advertising, if it works you can increase your adspend and get more of it! On the flip side if you’re having fulfillment issues, you can instantly scale it back by turning off the campaign…
..or even better reducing your adspend so you scale down the volume to a management amount AND get a better ROI on those conversions!
7. Diversifying Marketing Efforts
Successful e-commerce businesses often rely on diversified marketing efforts. Relying solely on SEO may limit a business’s marketing channels. A balanced approach that includes paid advertising as a central component allows businesses to diversify their marketing efforts, reducing dependency on a single channel. This approach can lead to more robust and resilient marketing strategies.
On that note;
If your e-commerce business is looking for rapid results, transparent ROI, and the ability to scale quickly, it might be time to reevaluate the myth that SEO is a must-have. Remember that the key to success in e-commerce is adaptability and a strategy that aligns with your business objectives. While SEO certainly has its place, the myth that it’s a necessay path to success needs to be dispelled, making way for a more nuanced and balanced approach to online growth.