But… is it really true?
We’ve spent hundreds of hours diving into the marketing practices of e-commerce companies, and there’s a common thread:
Most of them don’t rely on SEO.
In fact, most great e-commerce companies don’t create SEO-focused content at all.
Here are the main three reasons why:
SEO is a slow channel
SEO takes time, and startup e-commerce brands usually don’t have 6 months or a year to spend sitting around waiting for results.
Budget usually gets allocated into things that can give instant results, like social ads.
SEO is very competitive
Most e-commerce brands are in competitive spaces.
Selling merch or watches, for example, is hard to do. And most of those niches are dominated by big authority sites that are hard to beat in the SERPs.
Most competitive spaces are hard to break into with organic content.
So most e-commerce brands decide not to do it altogether. Many e-commerce sites don’t even have a blog.
SEO is usually higher up in the funnel
Most people finding your site organically won’t be searching for your products.
This means it will take longer for an SEO-discovered customer to buy than someone who found you via social ads.
Also, it’s hard to get leads and customers from SEO because most stuff that ranks high in the SERPs has lots of words on it.
That’s good for information and awareness, but not anywhere near as good as sending targeted traffic directly to a sales or landing page.
Common trends in e-commerce
Most e-commerce brands do one thing incredibly well, and other things badly.
It’s true for many successful brands:
– Goli, a multimillion-dollar supplement brand, works magic on Facebook Ads. But their landing page and buy page are swimming in issues (bad formatting, unclear image placements, and no real product pages).
– SIMULATE, the world’s most-hyped vegan chicken brand, kills it with copy and branding. But their old site, Nuggs (which is now defunct) was very difficult to navigate on mobile.
– Snow, an oral care brand, kills it with influencer deals and runs successful ads. But their SEO is lacking, and some of their marketing channels are filled with dark patterns and overly-aggressive messaging.
– PEEL, a phone case brand, relies heavily on social ads. But their SEO and SMS marketing are almost nonexistent.
Nobody’s perfect. But when you talk to many e-commerce owners or marketers, they’ll be hyper-focused on excelling in every area. “We need SEO, we need ads, we need influencers…”
Remember that many modern companies worth more than $100 million don’t have any SEO, or have ugly product pages.
It’s because they figure out what’ll make money and they zero in on that channel.
Get really good at something first, then work on other channels.
This tends to be spreading yourself everywhere and not mastering anything.
The bottom line
If you’re in e-commerce (especially a competitive space), don’t focus on SEO as your primary growth channel.
Scale with ads or otherwise, create a system, and expand to SEO once you’ve built that foundation.
SEO can be rewarding because it’s such a stable traffic source and it’s free once it’s set up.
But because it’s slow, competitive, and doesn’t easily convert visitors into customers, it’s less valuable for an e-commerce brand.