Why Ecommerce SEO Is Mostly Dead (And That’s A Good Thing)

When I first got started in internet marketing in 2007, a #1 ranking in Google was the holy grail. Pick the right keywords, throw up an optimized page and some decent links and you could rank for all kinds of money search terms.

Driving new business or new sales was simply a matter of doing SEO better and longer than your competitors. Well, that and knowing the latest link gimmicks to give you or your client an unfair advantage.

I probably tested or studied a hundred link gimmicks over the years. I remember one time in particular when I heard of people spending tens of thousands of dollars every month to links from Russian hackers who would force install the links of your choice on hacked websites all over the world. The people doing this were making big money from these fake links. So worth it, right?

Not really.

The reality is, some of these gimmicks worked incredibly well. Until they didn’t anymore, of course, and their sites were then buried under a Google penalty.

I steered clear of most link gimmicks, preferring instead to focus on legitimate link building. The reason why was simple: I knew any link gimmick would never result in a long-term successful business for me or my clients.

I also knew another far more important secret: Google would eventually kill SEO.

That may sound counter intuitive but think about it from Google’s perspective. They make zilch from organic rankings. Businesses were paying people like me (or Russian hackers) HUGE sums of money to drive traffic via organic results. That’s money that COULD have gone instead to Google’s ad platform.

So if you were Google, wouldn’t you make it a top priority to kill SEO to a point that a business would make more money from buying ads instead? Of course you would.

And that’s exactly what has happened. Google has made SEO so costly and such a long, uncertain endeavor that smart businesses are redirecting that spend to ads instead.

Yes, smart businesses are doing that. Because making money from ads is much easier than making money from SEO.

The Privacy Lie

A few years back Google made an announcement that had huge SEO implications, although few people realized it at the time. Google announced that organic search term data would no longer be displayed within the Google Analytics platform. With only a few exceptions, all search term data would be lumped into the dreaded “not provided” category.

For most websites this will block about 95% of all organic search data. This meant there was no way to tell what search phrases were driving specific actions on your website. The reason Google gave for the change was to protect the privacy of their users. You know, "don’t be evil" and all that. Google was watching out for the poor American consumer who couldn’t protect his privacy on his own. Right?

Lol. Wrong! It had nothing to do with privacy. If it did, then Google would have also removed keyword data from Adwords, too. But obviously they can’t do that because it would make Adwords basically worthless to advertisers.

Google was concerned with the privacy of users who click on organic results but not the privacy of users who click on ads? Again, excuse me while I laugh out loud.

No, Google was concerned with one thing: killing SEO to boost its bottom line.

As I said above, I can’t blame them for maximizing revenue. That’s what businesses do.

So Is Ecommerce SEO Really Dead?

Despite this, it’s not completely true that e-commerce SEO is dead. It’s just something that has fundamentally changed. The reality is, ecommerce SEO should not come before or in place of a good Adwords effort. Adwords should pretty much always come first.

Why? Because by using Adwords, you can figure out what search phrases actually make you money and then target only those phrases using SEO.

That process takes SEO from being costly with uncertain results to being affordable with known outcomes.

So don’t eliminate your entire SEO budget just yet. But if you’re not letting Adwords drive your e-commerce SEO, you’re almost certainly losing a ton of money on searches that don’t make you any money.

Why This Is Good For Internet Marketers

You might be feeling a bit of anger at Google’s dogged pursuit of every dollar. But don’t waste your time on that kind of negative energy.

You may hate to give in to the Google machine but it really is their world (for now) and they get to make the rules. So let’s adapt and make it work for our own businesses.

Besides, this is actually a good thing for e-commerce businesses who are smart. SEO was always uncertain, unpredictable, hard to duplicate, hard to track, and requires long payback periods. But Adwords is immediate, trackable, scalable, and when done right, profitable.

Adwords is also more and more complex which means you really need a smart approach that minimizes the learning curve.

If you haven't already, check out my free DIY training to learn how to build evergreen e-commerce marketing campaigns in Adwords, Facebook, Bing, & More.

Or for a managed solution, book a Strategy Session to discuss your e-commerce advertising.

    Leo Ebbert

    Leo Ebbert is a 10-year internet marketing veteran who has helped dozens of E-commerce businesses dominate their space online.