Business man at computer looking at SEO and ecommerce

A Primer on SEO, and Why Ecommerce is Different

Photo by Luca Bravo on Unsplash

SEO Basics

SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, has been the bane of many companies’ existence. It’s also become a breeding ground for some very sketchy business practices, so let’s start with the basics:

  1. Google (and other search engines, but mostly Google), set the rules from start to finish. The game changes every time Google makes a change

  2. Original content, frequent updates, and backlinks (links to other pages on the internet) are your best friends.

  3. Speed, user experience, and doing “legal” SEO are a close second.

From this list, it’s easy to see where things can go awry. Here are some examples:

  • Google sets all the rules – If can just figure out their rules, I can beat them at their own game!

  • I need backlinks – why don’t I just hire someone to spam my website across chat forums and blog chats??

  • I need frequent updates. I can just copy/paste someone else’s blog to my site!

Depending on who you hire (internally or externally), they may think that these are acceptable practices. Sure, they might help you in the short run, but Google will find you and will de-list or de-rank your site permanently. The rewards are NOT outweighed by the risks.

SEO Factors

In good SEO practice, and in good faith, I willfully declare that I stole this from Why? Because I haven’t found a more concise way to represent all of the SEO factors, and because they really do encourage people to borrow their stuff (as long as you backlink)!

Why Ecommerce is Different

When it comes to ecommerce, the focus of a website shifts from “just tell me about your company” to “tell me about your products.” This means that basic SEO is the same, but SEO is no longer the only factor. You will care about User Experience (UX) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM) just as much, if not more! Let’s quickly define these better, but we’re going to stay on-task with SEO.

  • SEM – Search Engine Marketing, or how you buy advertising space on Google or Facebook to get people to come to your site in a way that increases their User Experience (UX).

  • UX – The experience had by the user over the duration of their visit, even before they get to your site. Was it hard to find the info? Were products organized in an intuitive way? Does everything make sense? Is it easy to buy, from start to finish? These are the fundamental questions we ask.

When we add these very difficult factors the the equation, we find that each realm – SEO, SEM, and UX – are microcosms of chaos, each as challenging as the last. They do matter somewhat if you have a brochure website (information only), but most people don’t spend enough time on a brochure website to care about the UX. As a result, ecommerce companies start to look for answers in pre-packaged products!

Enter the Shopping Cart Websites

With all of this to think about, most everyone will turn to something of the following:

  1. Custom Website Developer

  2. Shopify

  3. BigCommerce

  4. Magento 1.0 or 2.0

  5. WooCommerce

  6. WordPress

  7. SquareSpace

  8. Wix

  9. Weebly

  10. GoDaddy

  11. many, many others

In short, #1 – a Custom Website Developer will give you the best SEO, but takes the most time to get right, and is frequently the most expensive. Shopify and BigCommerce will often allow a nice mix of SEO, SEM, and UX, but you will find tradeoffs across the board. Magento, WordPress, and WooCommerce and be used in certain combinations, but will take a lot of configuration. By the time we get to SquareSpace and the others, your best bet is to move up the list (GoDaddy and Wix will actively destroy your SEO game, and their UX is terrible).

So What Now?

Now that you understand how complex SEO can get, and that ecommerce companies will care about SEM and UX as much or more than SEO, you need to think about a change in your technology. In order to make that change, you’ll want to:

  • Start with your budget. Can you afford a $30,000 custom website and recurring SEO for $2,000/month? If not, figure out what your project budget and your recurring costs can be.

  • Shop for a Pro. Start with the elite-level guys who will educate you, and then work down. For the perfect full-custom website, I can only recommend Direct Line Development for their product and their ethical SEO practices. If you’d like something simpler and still want SEO, start with Nuclear Networking.

  • I strongly advise against “Oh, my [family]/[friend]/[acquaintance] can do SEO, I’ll just let [pronoun] do it!” Hire someone who does this full-time, and preferably can collect data to show how much of an impact they’ve made!