As a Seattle area resident, I get to boast that I live very close to the headquarters of both the biggest online retail giant in the world (Amazon) and the largest offline warehouse store for both consumers and businesses (Costco).  If you love “getting a deal” on bulk consumer (& business) products, you probably know the latter brand that drove out all its competitors over the years to remain #1.  Not only do I live close to both, the popular retail brand where you can still get a hotdog and soda for $1.50 and a rotisserie chicken for less than $5, is literally in my backyard: Issaquah.  My sons started their schooling experience here and are finishing it later this year graduating from Issaquah High School (at least my older one since the younger twin decided a career in Kpop was a more attractive option and dropped out [with my full support to follow his dreams & leverage this rare opportunity – he was scouted by one of the top companies – I digress]).  

Amazon’s been very successful in growing its company value.  So much so, it’s close to a trillion dollars in market cap.  This explosive growth has not only made its founder the richest man on the planet, it has done it very efficiently with what I believe is one of the most efficient marketing methods in the world: SEO.  I’ve regularly evangelized to deaf ears that this form of digital marketing is one of the most effective means for any company — including the offline retail giant.

Despite Amazon being the 3rd most organically optimized website in the world here in early 2020, Costco.com has been able to retain the 83rd top position.

Costcos SEO Ranking in the Top 100 - Jan 24 2020

It frankly outdoes two other traditionally large brands: Walgreens and Kohls in terms of their online presences.

2020 Top e-commerce websites (organic search marketing rankings):

  • Amazon.com (#3 overall)
  • Walmart.com (#14 overall)
  • Homedepot.com (#24 overall)
  • Ebay.com (#29 overall)
  • BestBuy.com (#43 overall)
  • Macys.com (#48 overall)
  • Wayfair.com (#51 overall)
  • Lowes.com (#58 overall)
  • Nike.com (#64 overall)
  • Microsoft.com (#66 overall)
  • Drugs.com (#68 overall)
  • Costco.com (#83 overall)
  • Walgreens.com (#95 overall)
  • Kohls.com (#97 overall)

However, you can see they are behind MANY other brands including stores that sell only segments of products like HomeDepot.com or Lowes.com.  Clothing retailer Macy’s or Electronics retailer Best Buy also outdo this behemoth by a large margin.

The management at the company might consider this a proud achievement because honestly, from what I know, they have a very small team of SEOs.  So small is this set of SEO experts, you can can count them on one hand — a hand that lost 3 fingers.  I’ll let you do the math, but I frankly this company which TRULY takes the offline business as seriously as it does has one of the tiniest staffs out there focusing on one of the most efficient sources of traffic to their websites.

Costco.com & MANY MANY Others Failing to take SEO seriously

Is it surprising?  Well, let’s say I have insider knowledge that a VERY large educational brand locally also has a similar problem.  The institution, which is considered the best collegiate program in all of the northwest and is regularly ranked nationally and in the world has literally just 1 (yes ONE) SEO for the entire University.  They doubled the size of their team by hiring one an additional expert for their medical division — which is also ranked as one of the best programs nationally, if not the world as far as medical schools.

If you read any of my rants about how Jeff Bezos became the richest in the world by leveraging SEO or Rich Barton feeding Expedia, Zillow and GlassDoor to become 3 of the largest disruptors in modern history or CarMax overtaking the Automotive world (& the auto giants considered the top groups in the world), you’ll know that I feel MANY executives and companies out there are TRULY failing to leverage one of the most efficient means to achieve brand exposure (and sales frankly).

Sure, both Costco.com and the UW still remain “tops” in their fields, but just like all the many companies that used to sit on their perches confidently, can Costco continue to leverage their competing strategies and survive?

Failing in the unbranded searches online

While Costco can claim organic search benefits from 4.4 million keywords, MANY of them are actually branded.

83 Costcos Current Organic Benefits - Jan 24 2020

Using the affordable SEO tool SEMRush, you can see that if you filter out the brand searches, the 4,351,800 overall search terms includes 260,100 branded terms.  Sure, it does mean that conversely, Costco.com is doing INCREDIBLY well (in their minds at least) with the 4+ million unbranded phrases.  However, have they bothered to see that their neighbor to the west past the two bodies of water (Lake Sammamish & Lake Washington) are actually trouncing them by 14,415%+ in terms of organic traffic and 2000%+ with 85.6 million keywords.

3 Amazons Organic Traction - Jan 24 2020

Sure.  Amazon’s branded search terms are over 500,000+ but guess what?  Why do you think their brand is recognized so well?  They actually show up for unbranded searches like one which is searched over 4 million+ a month.

airpods seo traffic

Sure, Costco might be able to claim they’re succeeding with it’s #1 unbranded source of organic traffic:

costco top phrases

However, Amazon again trounces all over Costco.com (and 3 other retailing giants with even Best Buy claiming 2 spots in the SERP).  More importantly, these positions are MUCH higher in the SERP (search engine results page) which provides it much higher click throughs vs. the lower positions that get very little.

airpods costco.com vs. amazon.com and other dotcoms

This is just ONE opportunity out of MILLIONS.  And if you know anything about SEO, it’s not easy to “win.”

SO MUCH SEO Opportunity for Costco.com

I realize Mr. W. Craig Jelinek that your stock has also done well (like Amazon’s):

Costco 100 billion dollar valuation

However, wouldn’t you want this chart (that’s 900%+ larger that your company’s in terms of value) representing your market cap?

amazons trillion dollar market cap

I know Costco likes to do business the “old fashioned” way.  However, I also know that Costco likes to do business with cutting edge practices including the 9 different ones profiled by the click baity site BusinessInsider:

  1. It is known for having an excellent private-label collection
  2. It has a generous return policy
  3. You can buy in bulk and save money
  4. The deals are consistent
  5. It offers a treasure-hunt shopping experience
  6. It offers cheap gas
  7. Deals on vacations
  8. Meat selection
  9. Free samples!

So, if Costco.com likes to do business “the right way,” I encourage you hire the appropriate number of people to help you grow you brand online

As you know with the millions of people you employ to deal with simple transactions like checking out, it’s not easy.  It’s actually EVEN MORE COMPLICATED and needs even MORE HUMAN RESOURCES to tackle these online visibility issues.  Beating Google is no easy feat even though I’ve been doing a pretty good job of it since 2010 (and if you want to argue my first foray into the field and leveraging it for my real estate practice, it’s been since 2004).

In a few months, I’ll be available.  🙂

p.s. Just for reference, here are the many brands that are above Costco.com and a couple that are nipping at its toes:

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