It’s true: Search engine optimization is not a perfect fit for every ecommerce business. SEO can drive strong organic search performance improvements due to ecommerce sites’ typically large size, hierarchical layout, and the ability to optimize at scale.
Sometimes, however, SEO cannot be successful due to limitations of the site and staffing and budgeting woes. A merchant should address those weaknesses first before pouring time and money into search improvements.
I’ve worked in SEO for 14 years. In my experience, the following five deficiencies will likely block efforts to improve organic search performance.
5 Obstacles to SEO
1. Outdated or poor-quality site. You know the type of sites I’m referring to: the kind you wouldn’t trust with your credit card information. They look like they were built and abandoned 10 years ago. They might represent prominent businesses, but they do not inspire trust. Frequently these businesses do not view their sites in this manner. But others do.
Searchers who visit an outdated site will likely immediately bounce back to the search results page, indicating to search engines that the page is lacking. Over time, with many searches, this behavior will result in lower rankings and traffic.
Low-quality sites — those with poor grammar, misspellings, broken images, and other problems — face similar issues. The search engines render the page in nearly the same way a browser does. Search engines thus detect these shortcomings, which result in lower rankings and traffic.
Attempting to improve organic rankings for an outdated or inferior site is like pouring water into a sieve.
Businesses should fix outdated sites before focusing on SEO.
2. Lack of development resources. Technical SEO recommendations such as content and link authority typically make up about half of an organic search program.
For example, a disallow command in a robots.txt file or uncrawlable navigation links can limit search engines’ ability to crawl a site, preventing any content optimization. Businesses without in-house or outsourced development teams for SEO projects will struggle to generate scalable results.
SEO isn’t necessarily impossible without developer support. But the resulting performance tends to be weaker than it otherwise could be.
3. Aversion to change. Optimization requires change. However, sometimes management is unreasonably attached to the words or elements on the site and resists change, preventing SEO gains.
Few businesses implement every SEO recommendation. Either it doesn’t suit their model or there are other higher priorities. However, a broad refusal to implement reasonable and realistic recommendations makes on-page SEO impossible.
4. Inadequate staffing. SEO involves marshaling resources across multiple teams. It requires a combined project manager and subject matter expert. I’ve never seen an SEO program succeed without such a point person. Often there are too many people trying to lead, or no one
Without one person in charge, SEO recommendations are usually not implemented or done incorrectly.
The point person can be an SEO specialist, a webmaster, an interested developer, or someone in operations. It doesn’t matter where they sit, as long as they know who to talk to and how to get things done within the marketing, digital, and IT teams.
5. Need for immediate results. SEO takes time. Changes must be implemented and then indexed by the search engines to impact rankings. If a business needs an immediate sales boost, SEO is not the best marketing channel.
Typically, the timeline for SEO is months, not days. There are ways to achieve quicker results. But it depends heavily on a site’s current SEO program, as well as available resources.
If you need performance increases today, advertising on search engines, social media, or target websites is likely a better option.