Practical Ecommerce

SEO as Stand-alone Tactic Is Dead

Stop doing search engine optimization as a separate discipline. Instead, make sure all aspects of your online business — content, marketing, site design, architecture — are naturally optimized for search engines.

SEO as a stand-alone tactic is dead. Years ago, SEO was all about putting the right keywords in the right places in a title tag and the content, and building some links. You did it, it worked, and free traffic came.

Today, treating SEO as a stand-alone project or even an ongoing function is doomed to failure. The days of beating the competition with a quick burst of optimization are over, because enough of the competition has done it that the baseline for optimization is much higher than it was five years ago.

Today, treating SEO as a stand-alone project or even an ongoing function is doomed to failure.

Today, a modicum of SEO built into everything you do online is an accepted cost of doing business.

To win with organic search today, you have to start optimizing every channel, every campaign, every site project, and every redesign to drive the maximum number of eyeballs to your content through organic search. If it touches content that a web surfer can get to without a password, it needs to be optimized for organic search.

Searching on a Whim

Search is a ubiquitous navigational tool. In some browsers, even direct traffic is registered as natural search because the address field is also the search field. People are becoming more accustomed to searching for answers to every little whim that crosses their mind. To take advantage of these myriad whims, you need to build SEO into virtually all aspects of your ecommerce business.

It starts with keyword research. The only way to understand how real people search for the products you offer is to do the keyword research. No matter how long you’ve been an expert in your industry, keyword research will likely find at least one way to surprise you.

Use keyword research to influence everything from the ever-important title tags to the content you produce to the very architecture of the site. Keyword research tells you what people want to find and how they want to find it. Give it to them. I addressed keyword research previously, at “SEO: Using Google’s New Keyword Planner.”

Architecture Is Key

In addition to keyword research, the architecture of the site is critically important. Architecture determines which pages exist to be optimized, how they’re linked, and which templates each page utilizes. Keyword relevance and link authority both hinge on architecture. Therefore, whenever a new section of content, redesign, or other architecture-impacting project is in the works, SEO should be a key element of that project. For more on architecture and SEO, see “SEO: Impact of Ecommerce Catalog Structure.”

Naturally, the content itself has an impact on SEO. Textual content should always be written first for the visitors, and then optimized for SEO. This helps avoid having so-called SEO copy on your site — i.e., content written solely for SEO benefit with little customer value.

What’s the Purpose?

The best content for SEO has an actual purpose. It describes, informs, presents a call to action, and uses the language customers use. That ties back to the keyword research. When planning the content strategy, make sure to consult keyword research. It’s a fantastic and free source of customer insights. How do I use your product? How to clean it? How to buy it? Which is the best? Reviews? Colors? Prices? These are all questions searchers may ask, which translate to data that can be used to plan, create, and optimize content on your site.

Effective SEO cannot be done in hindsight. The “O” in SEO is “optimization” — the act of making something as close to perfect as it can be. When slapped on after the fact, SEO is never as perfect as it can be. Work SEO into everything that touches your website to drive natural search traffic and conversions.


Jill Kocher
Jill Kocher
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Comments ( 8 )

  1. chandra February 4, 2014 Reply

    Excellent article

  2. Michelle February 4, 2014 Reply

    Couldn’t agree more. I think this article really explains it the reasoning well and I can send it to clients to help explain why SEO isn’t done in a silo.

  3. Chris Uschan February 4, 2014 Reply

    Hi Jill – All very valid points. I agree 100% that SEO is no long a one dimensional tactic to gain high rankings in the SERPs.

    You mention that “the competition has done it…” Meaning… they have already optimized their website (KW, meta fields, etc.).

    I am reading your article as get your on-page/technical/website SEO in order, but don’t stop here. SEO is holistic and needs to be a part of your everyday content strategy and other marketing initiatives.

    Are you recommending companies still address their on-page, technical, and website SEO?

    • Ed Klopfenstein February 4, 2014 Reply

      I think she is saying that technical, on-page and website SEO is all still valid but now should be considered in the wider spectrum of marketing. No more standalone SEO that is separate from both marketing and the website. Those companies that do short burst SEO programs to see bigger results will probably be dinged downwards by Google and Bing. And it makes sense right? Good content has constant updates and Google and Bing want to bring the good content up so they can serve their customers better. A natural evolution, I would say.

  4. Justin McGill @ Workado February 4, 2014 Reply

    Completely agree. We are in the education process with people to get them to realize that you can’t just say you do “SEO” and then feel your digital marketing strategy is complete.

  5. Jill Kocher February 5, 2014 Reply

    @Michelle: YES! Agreed, you can’t do effective SEO in a silo.

    @Chris: YES, you still have to address on-page SEO, do keyword research, optimize architecture, etc., etc. If you don’t, you fall behind. But instead of a hands-down WIN, SEO has become something you have to do to stay even with the competition. And you can’t do it alone in a silo. SEO has to become a part of everything that touches digital marketing. So as a standalone element, SEO is dead. As an integrated part of everything digital, SEO is very much alive and necessary.

    @Ed: BINGO! Thanks for summarizing it so well.

    @Justin: Right, saying you do SEO is like buying the exercise tape and expecting to get thin :)

    @Chandra: Thanks!

  6. Krish Inc February 6, 2014 Reply

    SEO is for increase’s visibility of the website at Search engine but now the trend changes its only for about putting the correct keywords in the exact places in a title tag and the content, and building some links. You did it, it worked, and free traffic came.

  7. Ron @ Websiteop May 6, 2014 Reply

    I agree Jill, SEO today is more of an optimization tactic, and building links is leaning more towards the marketing content and the PR end of the spectrum. So it is becoming more and more like traditional marketing tactics, but the online version with the addition of web code optimization and design.

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