Your online store has a few different objectives, like telling your story, supporting your brand and engaging your audience, but at the centre of it all is of course - sales.
In order to achieve more sales, you don’t just need visitors to the site; you need buyers. In SEO terms, this requires a much more targeted approach than just going for broke on high volume / high competition keyphrases.
Below, in this first part of my guide to Ecommerce Keyword Research Guide, I will outline the importance of targeting the right phrases and how to find a goldmine of phrases that can be included in the research.
The importance of keyphrases
When someone wants to find your products online, they’ll typically type a specific word or phrase into a search engine. This then lists the sites that most closely match what they’re searching for.
For example, Google’s bots look for particular ‘signals’ from sites, and matching keywords are one of these signals. The more signals, the higher the ranking, and the higher the rank, the more attention the site will get. One recent study found that URLs that appeared at the top of the SERPs got the lion’s share of click-throughs – around 60% in total.
That’s why keyphrase research matters. If you know what phrases your customers are using to find the products you sell, you can use this information to optimise your site for those phrases and improve your rankings. That means more online visibility and more sales.
Without a real understanding of the keyphrases in your marketplace you can easily miss the opportunity to optimise for them, or make assumptions on which keyphrases to optimise for and get the whole process wrong.
What keywords matter?
Not all keywords are created equal. There are two types - head keywords and long tail keywords; and here’s some information about how they differ.
Head keywords are short (often just one or two words) and generalised. They usually gain a lot of traffic but aren’t very targeted. For example, ‘dining table’ might bring up a website selling dining tables but is also likely to bring up other sites too; such as one outlining the history of dining tables, or the different types of dining tables around the world, or wood dining tables when you might only sell metal and glass ones.
Serious buyers are unlikely to use head keywords to source what they want to purchase.
Long tail keywords
Long tail keywords are far more specific. They’re called ‘long tail’ because they’re usually longer in length; a partial or complete phrase, rather than just a couple of words.
Buyers often use long tail keywords when they intend to buy something. To continue with the example above, they might search for ‘glass and steel dining tables’ or ‘large glass dining tables’ when seeking the right table for their needs.
If you incorporate long tail keywords into your site that match their search, you’re more likely to appear in the search engine results. That’s why it’s important to identify what phrases your customers are using to find your products or services.
Finding the keywords to include in your research
Long tail keywords are specifically tailored to your products and services, and your website will rise fairly quickly in the SERPs if you work on these first. It’s far harder to bag the top spots with head keywords, which is why SEO experts tend to adopt a ‘slow and steady’ approach with these.
There are several ways to find out what keywords your customers might be using to search for companies like yours. Here are a few suggestions:
Google’s Search Bar
Google’s search bar is a good place to start. If you type your product or service (for example, ‘costume jewellery’), Google presents you with a list of suggested search terms. In this instance the following:
Obviously, some of the keywords Google shows won’t be relevant. However, it’s clear to see that specifics matter and should be considered when identifying long tail keywords.
Amazon is the giant of online retailing and is ideal for continuing your research. As with Google, type in your product in the site’s search bar. For example, if you sell personalised mugs, as soon as you type the phrase ‘personalised mug’, Amazon will offer you a list of suggested search terms. In this case, Amazon came up with the following:
personalised mug name
personalised mug text
personalised mug photo
personalised mug gifts
personalised mug black
and many more
These terms provide invaluable insight into what keywords people use when looking for your products. We also know that these searches are powered by a genuine intent to buy, as they’re on a retail site.
The Amazon Bestsellers page is also useful (https://www.amazon.co.uk/bestsellers). Use this page to find products that are similar to yours, then click through to their product pages.
Their product title and description will undoubtedly feature some popular long tail keywords.
Once you’ve got your list of keywords, it’s time to start getting more in-depth with the research. That’s where keyword tools come in handy.
This is great tool for seeing how a site performs already and gaining insight into words that might already be driving valuable traffic.
Checking out what your competition are doing
Finding out organic search volume per keyword
Getting a sense of organic traffic over time
The number of backlinks a competitor has
Where the traffic is coming from
Undertaking regional searches (useful if you only cover a certain area)
Google Keyword Planner
Of course, this is also worth using, especially as it’s free. However, bear in mind that it only provides precise estimates if you’ve got an active ad campaign running with them. Otherwise, you’ll only be able to see the broader ranges.
To access Google Keyword Planner, you’ll need to have a Google account. Be warned, when you first try to use the keyword planner tool, Google will encourage you to sign up for one of their ad campaigns. When presented with a screen asking, “What’s your main advertising goal?”, select “Experienced with Google Ads” at the bottom (in smaller blue fonts). This allows you to set up an account without paying for a campaign.
Google Keyword Planner is great for:
Finding relevant keywords for your site
Getting an idea of search volume for each keyword
Finding out the level of competition for each keyword
Identifying what you’ll have to pay if you decide to take out a paid Google Ad
Viewing historical metrics, showing how the search volumes have changed over a 12-month period
Although copying competitor content is never recommended, it’s a good idea to see what keywords they’re using if they are in the same niche as you.
Search for your product or service on Google, then see which companies appear at the top of the search results. These are the ones to watch, as they’re obviously doing something right. Don’t just look at the competitors you compete with in the ‘real world’; you want to research the ones that do well in Google. Ignore the multinational businesses too, as realistically, you won’t be able to compete with them. Also, they have SEO attributes like inbound link value, which sometimes mean they don’t do keyword optimisation. Focus on the smaller companies instead.
Copy and paste their URL into SEMRush’s ‘domain analytics – organic search’. This will tell you exactly what keywords the competitor is ranking highly in.
This can be a secret weapon when looking at both competitor sites and your own. It involves using a specialist SEO tool to ‘crawl’ a site, gleaning information such as:
What phrase are used in the title tags the sites
What keywords appear in the page headings
What language is being used in the meta descriptions of the site
The frequency of certain keywords throughout the site
Scrapping Your Own Website
You might not be aware that your website already holds lots of keyword info, which helps define your brand, product niches, product quality, and product sets.
With a tool like Screaming Frog you can crawl your website and get text from your title tags, meta descriptions, and page headings. These can be deduplicated in Excel and then fed into a word cloud tool like https://www.wordclouds.com/ - a Wordlist tool which will tell you the frequency of the word used on the site. Product descriptions can also be fed into the tool in the same way. This highlights which words are most important, and also if you’re actually using the wrong words too frequently!
Scrapping Your Competitors Site
Using exactly the same process outlined above, but applying it to your competitors' sites, you can get a goldmine of possible keywords. If these also match against what their site ranks for (as seen through SEMRush), and if they're relevant to your products and have search volume, they should be added to your list.
That’s the first part of the guide. Now you should have a large selection of words and phrases in one list which has been de-duplicated, so each word and phrase is unique. They will include lots of the same words, but should all be unique.
In the next part of the guide I will explain how we use these phrases and words to continue the research to actionable insights.