Why SEO Is Difficult for Startup Retailers and Online Merchants

April 3, 2016

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You just started an eCommerce website recently and want to get traffic to your store. It is the natural progression. But is SEO a good fit for you and a way to get traffic to your website? In our experience SEO is very difficult to accomplish for startup retailers or merchants. Here is why:

You have nothing to optimize yet.

SEO does, in fact, stand for search engine optimization, so you need something to optimize. Generally, a newly built website such as Shopify or BigCommerce is very good for SEO right out of the box. When you are a smaller merchant your products and categories are limited, so it makes it more difficult. Yes, we can identify new opportunities for categories and optimize your meta information and on page content, but, if you do not have a large selection of products and categories, it can be very difficult.

You have no links or authority.

Starting out as a store, you do not have a lot of sites linking to you or a high social media following. So why should Google trust you will deliver good content to searchers? Plus, your competitors have been doing SEO for 15+ years now; why would Google rank you over them when they have thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of links and trust built up with Google? In short, you have a long uphill battle to get links, social signals, authority, brand recognition, and overall trust with Google to be able to get the highly sought-after organic search traffic.

You have no scars from past experience.

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Online retailers and merchants are some of the most brilliant and technically savvy individuals. Throughout the years they are able to make lots of learning lessons with their industry through PPC spend, Google Shopping, content creation and promotion, and just a general know-how of their business and operations. So, for a startup merchant coming into the space, it is difficult. You do not know what converts yet, you do not know what is wasted traffic, and you do not have the data that other merchants have from being in the space and operating.

You have no other sources of traffic.

It goes without saying that other sources of traffic help each other out. When you get direct hits, they could become searchers later, PPC traffic could turn into organic search, and so on. There are usually multiple steps until you are able to convert a customer. Since you do not have the thousands of links, brand awareness, affiliate marketing, PPC channels, among other connections, you will be at a disadvantage. A PPC team, like Visiture’s PPC team, can help SEO by providing valuable conversion data on what keywords work.

You have smaller click through rates.

This one is similar to the other points, but, because your brand is smaller, even if you get the highly sought-after rankings, your click through rates will go down. We see this a lot when we get our clients on the first page for highly sought-after phrases, and eBay or Amazon rank in a very similar position. Your CTR (click through rate) goes down because, simply, people have a greater trust of those businesses and the products/goods they are selling.

You have a lower conversion rate.

For smaller merchants, it is much more difficult to convert a customer, which is why a lot of merchants sell on eBay, Amazon, and other market places. Consumers trust these sources and trust they will receive their product with the utmost quality. Unless you are able to achieve a Google Trusted Stores badge quickly, you will have an uphill battle, and, for an SEO company, it is more difficult to get you a positive return on your investment because the traffic we can get you converts lower.

You have no brand notoriety.

Again, because you do not have an online brand yet, it is much more difficult. When we perform outreach and build relationships with publications, it is much easier for a large online merchant compared to a startup. There is more trust, when it is a large merchant, and it is easier to build a relationship to get the highly sought-after editorial content, social shares, or links. Being a big brand helps SEO exponentially, especially when using a white hat SEO strategy.

In Conclusion

As you can see, and from our experiences, it is much more difficult for a start-up retailer or online merchant to use SEO as a tool to gain new traffic quickly. It is usually a long uphill battle, with many lessons learned along the way. However, it is not impossible—just difficult.

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